Holiday Gift Ideas That’ll Last a Lifetime

Put your holiday shopping to good use and get the special people in your life gifts that will have a lasting impact.

Black Friday is around the corner, and with it comes fancy holiday purchases for you and your loved ones. Before you go out and hit the shops, though, let’s do some introspection. 

How many things you own now came from holidays past? How often have you picked up that art easel your mom gave you five years ago? Is she really going to find value in the 24-pack nail polish set you’re thinking of giving her?

girl looking sadly at christmas present

Holiday or not, you never really want to imagine any present ending up in the waste bin. Gift giving is a special, mindful practice, and gifts should always bring value to the lives of people receiving them. 

Christopher Rosen reports that at least 5 billion pounds of unwanted gifts go directly from receiver to landfill. This figure doesn’t include gifts that people open, don’t want, and return to stores, which still has an environmental impact

Standford University reports an even higher number when including wasteful gift-associated purchases like wrapping paper, boxes, and tissue. “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!”

And even if you ignore the environmental harm, no one wants to throw money away! In 2017, Americans discarded some $16 billion worth of Christmas gifts. I mean, what would you do with that kind of money? Still not buy frivolous gifts, I hope! 

young girls disappointed at present gift

So, how can you make this holiday season worth it? And how can you feel good about the gifts you’re giving out? Well, the bottom line is that you can forgo gift-giving entirely and go back to what the holidays are really about: being present, pouring in love, and being grateful for the special people in your life. 

But if that doesn’t float your boat, and you have to give a gift, why not go for a cost-effective option that you know won’t end up in a landfill? We’ve compiled a list of presents that don’t feature a product or object. Money will go back into your community, friends and family will sharpen their skills, experiences will be had, and houses (and trash piles) will be less cluttered, all thanks to your gift-giving expertise. 

1. Event Tickets 

Give the gift of experience this holiday season. By going out and trying something new for the first time or doing a favored activity, your event tickets recipient will create lasting memories they can hold onto forever. This idea is an excellent display of how well you know the person who’s receiving this gift. Really think about them and get crafty!

Are they creative? Maybe Sip and Paint passes would make them smile. What about a grand opening to an art exhibit? Or maybe their favorite band/performing artist is coming to a venue near you. More athletic adventurers would be thrilled with guided tours through the mountains or local waters. Check out your city’s local website, or try Groupon for discounted events if you need more ideas. 

woman teaching young girl to play guitar

2. Lessons 

Got a sister who’s been saying for years that she wants to learn how to play the piano? Invest in her passion by buying her lessons with a local music teacher. The gift of knowledge can go a long way. With a gift like this, you’re lighting a spark that will only grow into full-on flames the more your gift recipient learns and works at their desired talents. 

Skillshare is an online learning platform with classes that teach how to sharpen creativity, build business practices, and refine life habits. Experts host workshops and courses for video editing, painting, writing, e-commerce, gardening, sewing, self-care, and more. There’s usually a deal to get your first month of learning for free. See if you can catch it. 

3. Your Service 

Maybe you’re an excellent hairdresser or have an eye for style. Why not offer up some of your time and care by gifting your loved one a service like a hair makeover or styling session? Not as crafty in fashion and beauty? That’s okay because the gift of service can go in many directions. 

Think about what you’re good at and find the overlap between that and what the person wants or needs. You could babysit for them, cook a meal, help with a home improvement project, or reorganize their filing system. Enhance their lives with your expertise, and this gift will last. 

4. Donation in Their Name 

Have anyone in your life who’s adamant about not exchanging holiday gifts this year? Maybe they don’t want or need anything. How about using the funds to give to someone who could really use it instead? Consider the gift that keeps giving: a charity donation. 

Vox has a guide for donating to charities, including where to donate and tips on what to look for. It recommends GiveWell, a platform that lists high-impact, cost-effective charities from all over the world. If you’d like to do your own research but don’t know where to start, consider a website like 

mom and son on road trip in car

5. Road Trip/Travel Tickets 

Speaking of experiences — what gets the senses going more than a road trip or destination vacation? Invite your loved one to see new sights, taste local cuisine, and feel the excitement of being immersed in a new environment. 

This is a gift that will create a lasting impression. The recipient will boast with new photos to cherish forever, memories to add to their scrapbooks, and ideas that will expand their way of thinking. Travel a few hours upstate, across the country, or into foreign territory altogether. 

6. Bills 

Give your friends and family one less thing to worry about going into the new year by paying a bill for them. How this looks is entirely up to you. You could fund one bill or a few, and you could pay one month’s worth or as many you’d like to help with.

During the holiday season, it’s easy to get distracted or overwhelmed with this party or that gift exchange. Without proper planning and staying on top of things, who knows what could happen? Help someone avoid stress by taking care of a bill. 

woman at museum curious

7. Memberships 

Want to ensure that your gift literally lasts all year? Give a membership pass, another present that could double as an investment. Many memberships come with a price tag in exchange for community contacts, events, workshops, and discounts on future purchases. 

There are also special interest associations that have benefits for members, like your local film society, swim club, or yoga studio. Even your local venues, like museums, botanical gardens, or amusement parks, offer memberships that allow unlimited visits for some time. 

8. Subscriptions 

Another year-long gift is subscriptions for either products or services. Nowadays, many companies offer the subscription model to ensure they keep their customers around. Rideshare services offer passes with monthly discounts, and who could forget streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, or Spotify? 

There are also subscriptions to products, like his or her favorite magazine. Tasty subscription boxes can come in the form of grillable meals, artesian hot sauces, and more. For your beauty friends, check out Birchbox or Hello! for make-up samples delivered right to the door. 

9. Money 

Okay, like gift cards, money can be a controversial gift for the holidays. It could go a long way, but there are pros and cons. On the one hand, you’re letting the recipient decide what they’d like to get themselves for the holidays. On the other hand, it could feel somewhat thoughtless and insincere. 

You could make a case for both. If you’re not confident in your gift-giving skills, this is a pretty safe bet. Now, whoever you’re giving the money to can buy all the event tickets, memberships, and lessons they want. I suppose we could spin it as “the gift of choice.” Nice, right? 

two women at the spa

10. Services From Others 

Maybe you read the “your service” gift idea, made it all the way to the bottom of this list, and are still trying to figure out what talent you can offer up. Maybe you’re starting to give up because you can’t seem to think of one. That’s okay. Luckily, there are plenty of skilled people out there who can take over for you. 

Sift through the internet to see if anyone’s offering lawn care or house painting services. Maybe someone’s car has been making weird noises, and you want to pay for them to visit a mechanic. Or maybe someone special in your life has been stressed out lately, and you’d like to treat them to a spa. 

Put your holiday shopping to good use and get the special people in your life gifts that will have a lasting impact.

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