- Offer to take on a massive cleaning project (say, sorting through an attic or basement), reorganizing closets, or dusting and scrubing an exhausted new mom's house.
- Help someone use digital tools to stay on top of things: Show them how to use online calendars, set up e-mail folders, or how to transfer music or data onto a computer or back-up hard drive.
- Collect recipes in a book or binder.
- Set a mutual $5 limit on gifts.
- One O contributor creates a gift of a movie and a recipe. She scouts video stores for inexpensive, previously viewed movies. Then she handwrites recipes on cardstock to accompany each film, wraps the movies and recipes with a big bow, and delivers them to the busy parents or multiplex-phobic people in her orbit.
- Another staffer and her friends take the money they'd spend on one another and dine out together to toast the season.
Other Helpful Services
- Share you expertise with a friend in need of a résumé, website, or business plan. Or promise lessons in something you're good at—dancing sessions, basic foreign-language phrases before a vacation, yoga, knitting, etc.
- Be a "wingperson." Even if you're married, head out on the town with a single friend; it will mean a lot to him or her. Offer to help write or edit an online dating profile.
- Offer help to elderly friends or relatives with home maintenance repairs (lightbulbs, hanging pics, etc.)
- Create a gift certificate, promising to help with planting/gardening/lawn-mowing in the spring
- Help someone go green: Sign them up for CatalogueChoice.org, a free mailing list removal service, and get them a recycling bin, $1 canvas bags, and energy-saving power strips.
- Be a personal shopper: Take charge of returning unwanted gifts and doing exchanges for that set of harried parents.
Other Ideas to Bridge the Gap
- Start a phone card account for a distant relative.
- Teach a nondigitally-savvy friend or relative how to text, use social networking, message boards, dating, video, or expert sites. Create an instruction manual they can reference.
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