Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, or Festivus, you are probably one of the many who exchange gifts of one sort or another during the holiday season. I start each year with high hopes for my ability to find that perfect gift for everyone in my life. Then, when I find myself desperately racing through a packed mall for a gift for that brother who has everything, I can’t help but think there has to be a better way. Determined to find it, I compiled a list of suggestions from local families for gifts ideas that meet three criteria: not too expensive, not too difficult, and still meaningful. Here’s what they suggested.

The Gift of Time.

Spend time together doing something special. Go on a special outing, share a special meal, decorate, shop, or volunteer together.

The Gift of Service.

Give them the gift of your service by offering up your help and skills: Computer help, babysitting, housecleaning, yard work, or other household projects.

The Gift of the Unexpected.

One family enjoys planning “mystery outings,” where one member takes the others to a surprise location to share something special, whether it’s an activity or something beautiful to look at. Another loved her “Twelve Days of Christmas” gift, made up of trinkets that always had something to do with the number and the song. Come up with your own fun twist on a modest gift to turn a small gesture into a grand one.

The Gifts You Can Use.

Embrace consumables. The beauty of these gifts is that they don’t get left languishing on the shelf: Tickets to an event, flowers, fudge, cookies, or other homemade treats.

The Gift You Give.

Some fabulous local charities allow you to support their work while making a gift to others. For instance, families can enjoy wonderful soups made by women of the Tomorrow Project. Check them out at

The Gift of Adventure.

Rather than exchanging gifts, agree on an outing or exciting new adventure you can enjoy together: Trapeze classes, surfing, or going camping or sledding together.

The Gift from the Heart.

Many folks feel a simple, heartfelt note is as meaningful to them as any gift. Some have enjoyed when friends and family share a favorite book or poem, or make a gift of a great photograph or scrapbook page that celebrates a shared memory.