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Gifts That Keep Giving

These presents grow in value and meaning long after the holidays end

Gifts that Keep Giving

Nick Ferrari

The best present leads to a better future. So why not give children and grandchildren gifts that reap ongoing rewards, inspire new interests and hobbies, or make tomorrow’s world a brighter place? We asked experts for gift ideas that continue to be appreciated over time. Here’s what they shared.

Health is Wealth

“Any gift that keeps someone active and physically fit extends the use-by date,” says Todd Tresidder, founder of A walking stick for a friend. Karate lessons for a kid or grandkid. Blue Apron meal kits to encourage healthier home cooking. “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like something that says ‘I care about your well-being.’ ”

Airline Miles

“A free airplane ticket is a gateway to a new experience, and that’s the greatest gift,” Tresidder says. American, Delta and United charge fees for transferring miles. But to get around that, you can book a ticket in the gift recipient’s name for a specific flight using your mileage account.

Financial Literacy

Sure, you can get lucky and gift a few stock shares that skyrocket in value. (A $100 investment in Amazon in 1997 is worth more than $60,000 today.) But more importantly, “even just one share of a stock can grow a smart investor,” says Jean Chatzky, AARP’s financial ambassador. Pick a company the recipient cares about: Facebook, Disney and Netflix are popular among most young people. 


Funding a 529 savings plan is the obvious (and tax-free) way parents and grandparents sock away money for a child’s college education. But it’s not the only option, says Chatzky. “Paying tuition directly to a school is a way to avoid gift taxes,” she says. At any age, the gift of a class at a college or adult learning center can be a life-changer. 

The Gift of Nature

Celebrate the great outdoors. The National Parks Senior Pass is $80 and valid for life for those 62 and older. “A backpack and a plan for a camping trip can help someone become the best version of themselves,” says Devin Thorpe, author of Your Mark on the World. Or give a fruit tree. A dwarf citrus can grow on a sunny patio or deck and yields delicious returns.  

The Gift of Time

What is more valuable than time? So give some as a gift. Buy a busy homeowner a lawn service for a summer. Or give a college student a laundry service or a meal plan so he or she won’t have to cook. For adult children who are now parents, offer to watch their kids for a weekend, or over a series of Friday nights. 

Work and save

A great way to start a savings habit is to make a one-year offer to double the amount a younger person can squirrel away from allowances and odd jobs. (Or, for young working adults, offer to match their contributions to a Roth IRA.) Consider building in a bonus incentive—say, an extra $50 for reaching a preset savings level midyear.