Last December I glanced into my daughter’s dance teacher’s room and wondered what she would do with all those chocolate holiday goodies piled high from her students. The same thing with her classroom teacher and the endless boxed chocolates and platters of homemade cookies. While desserts and treats are nice, and definitely delicious, how many snacks can a person really eat? And what about those people trying hard to watch their weight or get in better shape, not to mention fight health issues like diabetes? Personally I’d love a gift that is a bit healthier and lasts a lot longer.

So what’s a nice unique gift for a teacher, neighbor, friend or someone else in the service industry?  Here are eight ideas:

  • A book. No calories here. How about a new best seller or a cookbook? A book about the town or state you live in? A sports book for a sporting fan? Or a seasonal new holiday novel.
  • A wreath. Whether you craft one yourself or pick one up at a store, a fresh or fabulous artificial wreath gives the spirit of the season in a gift that is festive and unique.
  • A plant.  Many people love fresh plants in their homes. A nice Christmas cactus or a lovely poinsettia can brighten a room and last quite a while.
  • A fruit platter.  A healthy option, but perishable too, so consider whom it’s going to. An elderly lady living alone may not be able to eat all of it or may not be having guests, but a neighbor with five kids might consider this a wonderful treat. You can even put together a basket wrapped in ribbon and fill it with a dozen apples and oranges.
  • A gift card. You can’t go wrong with a gift card. A large chain store or a smaller town location will do. Everyone loves the freedom to buy what they wish and appreciates the freedom of gift cards.
  • Fancy soaps or body lotions. Organic is even better. You know, the kind we often don’t splurge on. For a woman, try making a mini gift basket with a few soaps, a body brush, or some pedicure tools and nail polishes.
  • A small gift basket with packets of sauces, gravies, spices, and condiments. Add a few bags of fancy pastas and a jar of marinated vegetables and they can even have a few meals on you.
  • A lotto basket. What do you get for the person who has everything or wants nothing? Making a “lotto” tree or lottery gift basket is a cute idea and has the possibility of them winning a few bucks. Or more if they are lucky.

Of course it’s the thought that counts, but personalizing your gifts, even if you’re on a budget can make a world of difference, to both you and the recipient.