If you enjoy presenting your loved ones with the perfect Christmas presents, but hate fighting the holiday crowds that invade your local mall during the month of December, you're going to have to think outside the proverbial gift box. Fortunately, creative gift alternatives — ones that are more meaningful and often less expensive — aren't as difficult to find as you may think.
For example, consider the following holiday gift ideas. Some are handmade, and some still require a bit of shopping. But NONE require a trip to the mall.
1. A handwritten recipe book. Share the recipes you love by compiling a cookbook. Ask members of your extended family to write down their individual favorites.
2. Record yourself reading a favorite book. This is a great gift for grandparents and grandchildren who share a favorite story but live far apart.
3. An item you no longer use. If it's still in good condition, it may make a nice gift for the right person.
4. A possession of yours that someone else admires. Maybe your sister loves your leather jacket, or your friend admires the bracelet you picked up in Greece. Turn it into the perfect Christmas gift.
5. Seeds for a garden. Love to garden? Wrap up some seeds, and give the gift of your time in the spring helping a friend or family member learn to grow their very own fruits and vegetables.
6. A coupon for babysitting. Know some parents who would love a night out? A few hours of free babysitting may be their favorite Christmas present ever.
7. Homemade treats. Whip up some of your special Christmas cookies, or several loaves of your famous banana nut bread.
8. Send a gift to the Third World. With Oxfam Unwrapped, you can send gifts like a goat, chickens, or safe water to developing countries in place of a gift for a loved one. What an amazing way to make your dollars really count this holiday season.
10. A photo collage. Put favorite photos in a collage frame or photo album for gift recipients who love pictures.
11. A quilt made from special fabrics. Whether you make it yourself or simply gather the materials, this gift that doubles as a memento is far from ordinary.
12. Framed artwork. Not the kind from a gallery. If you're artistically inclined, draw or paint something yourself. And kids' artwork, when displayed in a beautiful frame, can also make a great gift for parents and grandparents.
13. Homemade libations. Are you known for making your own homemade wine? Why not give a few bottles away as gifts (to those who like to indulge of course). Homemade Bailey's Irish Cream might also be appreciated.
14. A themed gift basket. Even a basket filled with fun, inexpensive items from the dollar store can make a cute gift for the right person. Make a movie night basket filled with popcorn, candy, and a few DVDs or a baking basket filled with cake mixes, frostings, and various sprinkles.
15. Rare books. Find a special edition copy of a favorite book in a rare bookstore. Inscribe a message to make it even more personal.
16. Something from Etsy. Use Etsy's search function to find the perfect, unique gift. Added bonus: you never have to leave home. I love these dishtowels with your grandmother's handwritten recipes on them.
17. A gift jars. Hot chocolate in a jar? A pedicure in jar? The options here are endless. Add a few flourishes with festive ribbon and you have a simple, homemade gift.
18. The gift of service. Shovel snow from the driveway for an elderly neighbor. Give a friend ride while their car is in the shop. Surprise your child by cleaning his or her bedroom for a week. Not all gifts have to come in a box.
19. An experience. Consider gifts of experiences over gifts of things. Take your niece ice skating, or pay for lessons. Get your parents tickets to a show.
21. Fill the freezer. Who wouldn't love to have their freezer stocked with tasty, home cooked meals? If you're a great cook, this gift would probably be appreciated more than anything from the store.
22. Pay a bill. Whether it's the rent for a struggling student or the water bill for a friend who is experiencing hard times, this practical gift may be the best you can give.
23. Make a donation. Many charities depend on donations to continue their mission, and making one to the favorite cause of a friend or family member can be an excellent gift. Visit JustGive.org for more ideas.
24. Family movies. It's easier than ever to make your own high-quality home movies these days, so start editing, add some music, and share your creation as a gift for loved ones who are far away.
25. A memory jar. Write down all of the favorite memories you've shared with someone (or things you love about them) on small pieces of paper and add them to a jar. A bit sentimental, but the right person will love it.
26. A holiday card. Sometimes a special card is the only gift you need to give. Try skipping the mall and making the card yourself.
27. The gift of time. Spending time together with family and loved ones is the best part of the Christmas holiday. This holiday season, give the gift of being truly present, because there is no other gift that matters as much.
What gifts are you giving this holiday season that don't come from the mall?