Remember the IOU and its convenience during childhood? The vague “I owe ya!” was dragged around like a favorite toy, thus absent integrity by the time Christmas arrived. Issuing an IOU before debt incurred, however, created new meaning and fresh excuses. It became shorthand for "I thought of the perfect gift for you this morning only to find out that stores are closed on Christmas;" and "I don’t have the money now, but perhaps when you are ready to redeem this Caribbean vacation, I will." The world was ours—to give.
No one (my mother included) expected a tropical getaway from a 13-year-old. We've grown in our sophistication right along with those notes of intent. Be realistic. Share a talent or provide a service for those on your gift list. Let's say you're a skilled photographer; offer to take photos of someone’s family, their baby, their pet, garden or house. If computers are your gig, offer to install a new program, add a memory chip, or set up a home computer. Perhaps you like to cook or bake; give a voucher for a three-course meal or pies—one each month throughout the coming year. Gift a massage, a foot rub, babysitting, house-sitting, dog walking, a knit hat or scarf, a few driving lessons, write poem or letter, compile a music CD, create a photo album, or design a business card for the appropriate someone on your list. Be creative.
Take pride in your promises. In time, the reverberations of a verbal invitation will die. The tangibility of a certificate or voucher, on the other hand, will last. Besides, it gives the recipient something to open. Enclose it in a festive envelope with a card—or by itself. Then follow through. You may have to encourage them, periodically, to redeem your offer.
A traditional piece of torn construction paper will carry the message of your voucher; however, we talked about sophistication. If creating a gift certificate is not one of your talents, look to one of several Web sites that offer free templates. Here are three sites to get you started:
Christmas and Hanukkah themes
winter and holiday themes
Download. Modify. Print. Gift! The best part is that your loved ones still have something to look forward to ... like the inevitable calm that comes when the relatives leave.