Gifts That Keep On Giving

If traditional gifts aren’t giving you all the feels, try these financial presents that — in the right hands — can provide a boost that lasts for decades

Despite all of the holiday discounts, it’s easy to wind up feeling that you’re spending so much on gifts that don’t matter. Sure, there are a slew of gifts that give back (and those can be great) but sometimes the impact feels too far afield.

So, how can you feel more fulfilled in your gift-giving this holiday season? How about giving a few of the more personal finance-challenged folks on your list something that can give them a little help getting their act together. Granted, this is not something you can do for every single person on your list (it might feel weird with a colleague, it would be weird with a boss.)

Giving this kind of gift “depends on your relationship with the person and whether or not there is some context for why a financial gift would be appropriate,” says Farnoosh Torabi, Financial Expert and Host of the Podcast So Money. For example, is this going to your best friend who is struggling to pay off her student loans or a coworker you just met?

Once you determine who you’re selecting for, you have to figure out what would best benefit them because the “gifts are only as valuable as the gift-recipient makes them out to be,” says Torabi.

Ideas to consider:

  • A book that offers advice or strategies is a great gift for a friend struggling with a few financial problems, like debt or asking for a raise, says Torabi. In it, you should include a note detailing why you think it can help them succeed financially so it is more personal, she adds.
  • Giving a gift card that will support a big financial goal is also a good option, says Torabi. If your parents are redoing the kitchen, give them a Home Depot gift card. If your sibling is struggling with food expenses, send over a gift card from their local grocery store.
  • If your bestie can’t budget (and has confided in you their frustration with this), buy them a year’s access to a budgeting app, like YNAB, Torabi suggests.
  • A financial planning session is a great gift for a recent college graduate or young adult who is beginning to build their financial foundation, says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert at
  • Your nice and nephew are getting older, and their parents are stressed about paying for college. Instead of a new outfit or piece of technology, make a contribution to their 529 accounts for the holidays. It may land with a thud now, but they’lll be super grateful when they graduate debt-free.
  • If you are giving a gift to a teen or a young adult, an SAT prep course or a GMAT review session could be a great gift, Woroch says. “This could really help get them ready for taking that next step in their education and position them for paying better jobs in the future.”
  • What about cold, hard cash? This is a risky kind of financial gift. “People love receiving cash,” Woroch says, but “you can’t control their purchasing decisions and the money could end up going toward something that eventually ends up in the corner of a closet.” If you’re really looking to make a positive impact on someone’s financial life, it’s best to go another route.

    With Rebecca Cohen

    Jean Chatzky

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