Do you and your family feel pressured to get gifts for relatives or friends? A sagging economy gives you an opportunity to address this pressure head on - people are more likely to be foregiving when you replace your $50 gift card presents with a $20 donation in their name to charity. It seems that many of us spend a lot of time and stress trying to figure out what presents to get for our adult friends. This is fine if you truly want to get presents for particular friends and relatives, but what if you're only buying presents because you feel like it's the socially acceptable thing to do? And what if you're buying long distance presents based on a list that's been delivered to you?
Rehink it. For your close friends, shouldn't just grabbing a drink or dinner together (and it can be cheap!) suffice? For long distance friends and relatives, what's the point of buying something for them, particularly if you've asked the person what he/she wants. And a long-distance gift card? I used to think this was a good idea (I love gift cards as much as the next guy), but, seriously, what's the point. Birthday recognition, right? Why does spending money have to go hand-in-hand with this? Why do you think? Because we've been conditioned to do so. I think big advertising might have a little to do with this.
Rethink it. If you happen to run across something perfect for a friend and it fits in your budget, by all means get it. But what's the point of sending your dad a $20 Amazon gift certificate when can't necessarily figure out how to use it. Rethink it. If it's about birthday recognition, block out more time to talk than you normally do. Make a small donation in someone's name to a charity that is meaningful to them (perhaps in search of a cure for a disease that affected their parents). Write a long email. Sing them a song. Just don't buy something if YOU think there's a better way. Rethink it.