Gifts That Give Back

A couple of years ago, my brother sent me a really interesting gift for my birthday, a stove. oau10-36As a person living inside a dorm room the size of a walk-in closet, this seemed like an odd gift. But, as I looked at the card more closely I realized that my brother had given money to Oxfam America, in honor of my birthday, that would provide displaced women with a cooking stove that would both keep them warm and cut down on their need for firewood. It was one of the best birthday gifts that I have ever received.

This week I want to look at a variety of different alternative gifts that give back. Frugality is about much more than saving money, it is about putting your money towards the things that really matter. Here are some gifts that allow you to do just that:

  • Charitable Giving: Giving a donation in the receiver’s name to a charity that the receiver cares about never goes out of style. But what if you aren’t sure which charity they care about? Through Just Give you can give a gift card that allows the receiver to give the charity/charities of their choice.
  • Savings: Tired of giving gifts that sit on a shelf or get thrown away? Why not put money in a savings account toward a specific goal? For a child, you might put money in a college savings account. For adults, you might put money towards a special trip.
  • Gifts in Action: These are gifts like the cooking stove that my brother gave me. Oxfam America offers many of these gifts under $25 including art supplies for kids, honey bees, and blankets. Similarly, ELCA Good Gifts offers chicks, ducks, and water jugs. Lastly, the USO has a similar program that provides items like comfort food packages and phone calls home for the troops.
  • Fair Trade Gifts: If you are looking for a more tangible gift, you might look for fair trade gifts. Too often, especially during the holidays, we are so consumed by finding a good deal that we don’t look into the way that a product was made and/or traded. To find fair trade gifts in your area check out Fair Trade Federation. If you are looking for coffee, tea, or chocolate check out Peace Coffee.
  • Buy One, Give One: These gifts provide a physical gift for your user as well as gift to those in need. TOMS’ company philosophy is one for one. For every pair of shoes or eyewear purchased TOMS will give a pair to a child in need. Similarly, the Feed Project sells bags and apparel with the intent of feeding and educating people in need. For instance you can buy a FEED NYC bag for $30 that provides 25 meals to New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy or you could buy a FEED 1 Bag for $80 that provides food for 1 child for 1 year. Lastly, The Giving Keys employs people transitioning out of homelessness to engrave old, recycled keys with a word of hope to make a pendant for a necklace. The best part is that these necklaces are not meant to be kept, but rather given away to someone who needs the message.

Join the Conversation: What are some of your favorite gifts that give back?