Investing ideas as giftsStumped with what to buy your close friends and loved ones? Rather than resorting to impersonal cash, or gift cards that force them to shop at a specific store, consider a more significant investment in their financial future.

Kick Start a Financial Future

One creative variation on giving cash is with a savings bond that will also earn the recipient some (though not much) interest if it’s held until the redemption period is up. You could also buy shares – typically in trust for younger recipients – to help launch someone’s financial future but, of course, the value of the gift will rise and fall with the stock market.

Perhaps the best way to make an investment for the younger people in your life – children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or even your friends’ kids – is to open or contribute to a Register Education Savings Plan (RESP) for them. You can open either an individual or family account, the latter allowing multiple children to be included under a single plan. For each child, the federal government will provide a 20 per cent grant on everything up to the first $2,500 a year (so a maximum $500 grant), with additional grants available for lower-income families.

Donations: A Real Gift From the Heart

Another option is to make a donation on behalf of a loved one. If you don’t have a favourite charity, find out which one(s) your intended recipient supports. There are some creative options too. Through organizations like Plan Canada, for example, your donation will be directed towards specific needs in underdeveloped countries, such as a kit of classroom essentials ($17 for one child; $250 for an entire classroom), a goat ($75) or entire herd of goats ($775) to provide nourishing milk for a family or village, all the way up to a $50,000 obstetrics centre for a community.

The environmental steward in your life will be sure to appreciate the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which is running its annual Gifts of Canadian Nature donation campaign where you can buy an acre of Canadian wilderness (ranging from $40 for an acre of habitat to $400 for caribou terrain).

Membership Has its Privileges

Finally, if you have children or grandchildren, instead of more toys or clothes for under the tree, consider investing in their cultural wellbeing with a gift membership to a museum, art gallery, zoo, or other attraction in their area. During the holiday season, keep your eyes out for discounted gift membership rates or other add-on bonuses. We recently renewed our family membership to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in downtown Toronto – a favourite rainy day haunt or an escape for me and the kids when Mom wants to go shopping in nearby trendy Yorkville. Included with our new membership cards was an offer of 20 per cent off any gift membership we gave.