Buy a gift for a deserving person you've never met. Circling back to the idea of donating in a friend or family member's name, you could also buy a gift for a stranger – in a friend or family member's name. There are a lot of interesting websites where you can do that. At universalgiving.org, consumers can purchase a gift card and then use it to fund numerous vetted opportunities, as they put it.
For instance, if you have a $50 gift card, you might spend $15 to buy a soccer ball for an impoverished child in another country and $25 for a backpack for a kid in Guatemala, and you'd still have $10 left over to buy a couple of stuffed animals for poor children in Mindanao, an island in the Philippines.
At Heifer International (heifer.org), you can buy an animal, such as a pig or llama, for an impoverished South American family. Seriously, imagine the look on your mother's face when you tell her you've bought her a goat. Just before you're banished from the house, you can offer up the remaining details. And if you can't afford to spend $250 on a water buffalo, you can – again, in your friend's name – buy a part of the water buffalo for $25.
Because in the end, isn't that what the holidays are all about? Sure, giving to the needy is nice, but the holidays are also about creating memories. Who wouldn't want to fake out a friend for a few minutes while he wonders where he's going to keep his new water buffalo?