It goes without saying that buying holiday gifts for everyone on your list can add up... really fast. And this season, you're probably feeling even more pinched. If you have credit card debt and are concerned about losing your job or even your home, you've probably already cut back. Why rack up more debt buying holiday gifts?

This year, a lot of people are in the same boat so it's time to get creative: How about giving the gift of your time or services to family and friends?

For example, give elderly relatives who live nearby a gift certficate for a homecooked meal or two, assistance with a time-consuming or otherwise overwhelming (at least to them) domestic chore like cleaning out the garage, offer to wash their car or give lessons in how to use a computer and the Internet. For friends and family with kids, offer your babysitting services; it could be a one-time only offer or a series of three childcare sessions spread throughout the year. If you both have kids, do an "even" swap and call it the gift of childcare.
If you live far away from the friends and family you would normally give gifts to, think about skills and talents you have that they've complimented you on in the past. These can range from exquisite dried flower arrangements and art photography, to handmade jewelery, clothing, quilts and other types of crafts. If you're a writer, software coder, attorney or teacher, there are probably instances in which your services would be welcomed by friends and family. When it comes to your services, you'll know when it feels right to offer them and chances are, those closest to you have mentioned something in the past like, "Gosh, I could really use your help with that. Can you look that over for me? Would you handle that for me?"

Create a homemade gift certificate or voucher for your "gift" and slip it into a holiday card for a personal touch. Ship the homemade gifts or hold onto them until your next visit.

The thing about giving the gift of time and services is that you can think about what's right for each person all year long and offer to swap these types of "gifts" with friends and family ahead of time. You can also volunteer time to a friend or family member's favorite charity or community organization. If you don't live in the same town, chances are there's a group or agency that does similar work. This is an awesome opportunity to give back! You don't need money for that...

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