Every year, shoppers engage in the annual dilemma of what gifts to give to their friends, families and loved ones during the holiday season.

During an economic recession, the difficulty is only exacerbated.

Whether you’re trying to save money this year, or are looking for a valid excuse to give something more meaningful to the ones you care about, here’s a short list of things that you might find more meaningful to give during the holidays this year — some cost nothing, and others cost only as much as you are willing to give.

1.) Give Your Time & Understanding

We often complain that there simply are not enough hours in the day in order to get all the things we need and want accomplished. We also have a natural tendency to view life situations and social interactions through the lens of our individual perspectives and biases. With this in mind, something as simple as giving your precious time can be a very meaningful gift during the holiday season.

During this holiday season, try to make more of a concerted effort to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” and give someone you care about sincere understanding. Lend your ears and offer compassion to someone’s concerns. Pay someone an unexpected visit. Your time may be precious, but it will be so appreciated and even more precious to those that need it.

2.) Give An Apology

To offer a sincere apology is to make an effort to deny or hamper one’s own ego and stubbornness. Reasons may be legitimate for reluctance to offer an apology. But to give an apology during, and in the name of, the holiday season can go a long way in rectifying strained relations with someone you care about.

An apology is not a sign of weakness — in fact, apologies should be understood to be signs of strength, courage, and self-confidence. We might be reluctant to offer an apology because it can subconsciously be perceived to be a sign of weakness — an indication that we are giving up, that we do not have an unwavering and steadfast determination to make sure the other party apologizes for his or her wrongdoing, first.

To the contrary, an apology is an indication to someone that you care about that you are self-confident, and striving to overcome natural stubbornness. And, it’s especially important to prove it to yourself.

3.) Give a Loan or Donation in Someone’s Name

An alternative to giving a gift this holiday season is to give a loan or make a donation (either yourself, or) in someone’s name.

logoLeafy3Kiva.org is online nonprofit organization that utilizes a unique method of offering loans to hard working, entrepreneurial men and women living in impoverished and developing countries. Sign up for their service and partake in a simple loan program called “Micro-lending,” where you choose a real man, woman or family in a developing country to whom you can donate any amount and help their business get off the ground:

When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on Kiva, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community.

With Kiva, you can do some good, help those in need and encourage entrepreneurship. How cool is that?

logo_heifer_newHeifer International (Heifer.org) is another awesome nonprofit organization that strives to help increase sustainable development in developing countries, while working to alleviate (and ultimately eliminate) hunger and poverty across the globe.

Through their website, you can donate the means for families and communities across the globe to drastically improve their lives with basic necessities like livestock, baskets, even trees:

With gifts of livestock and training, we help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. We refer to the animals as “living loans” because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal’s offspring to another family in need. It’s called Passing on the Gift – a cornerstone of our mission that creates an ever-expanding network of hope and peace.

4.) Give Forgiveness

One can find great courage and strength in offering forgiveness — even to those who are undeserving of it. “Forgiveness” is the act of alleviating one’s self from the destructive and negative emotions of being hurt by another that cause you to become vengeful, bitter, vindictive, angry, and resentful.

To forgive someone who has done wrong to you or a loved one, you can do one of two things: either (a) just let it go, be at peace with the past, and approach today and tomorrow with a newfound freedom from your resentment; or (b), to seek out the party that has hurt you in order to make amends and reconcile hostilities.

Just like the difficulty in offering an apology to someone who has hurt you, forgiveness can sometimes be perceived (in our own minds) as a sign of weakness. To the contrary, offering forgiveness is an unparalleled offering of strength, self-confidence, and humanity.

5.) Give Thanks

Routinely reflecting upon one’s thankfulness is humbling practice. To remind yourself regularly of your gifts, advantages and privileges in life — however big or small — helps you to stay focused upon what is most important in life. But how is giving thanks a gift you can give to others?

To take the time every day or night to reflect upon one’s thankfulness serves to open one’s mind, and one’s heart: the mind, because in regularly reminding one’s self of their gifts, advantages, privileges, we maturate our love, appreciation, and humility; the heart, by nurturing a deeply rooted desire within ourselves to enable others or give to others who have not all that you are so thankful for.

When we realize and regularly reflect upon our gifts, privileges, and thankfulness in life, we practice nurturing our appreciation for all we have. Consequently, we nurture an instinctive want to help others. Giving thanks help train ourselves to want to give to others.