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Avoid the Excess: How to Get Back to the Basics This Holiday Season

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1. Spend a day with Mom or Dad (or Grandma or Grandpa)

Instead of another toy or game for the pile, devote a day to your child (or grandchild) and that child’s imagination. Let him or her pick out a few activities for just the two of you to do together, like a trip to a museum, a guided nature walk in the park, or a community play. Your undivided attention can be a real treat for younger children, especially if they have brothers or sisters.

If the children are older, consider what's important to them at this point in their life. Take them to dinner at a white tablecloth restaurant, sign up for a cooking class, or a treat them to "spa" day for pedicures. As long as they get to help pick the activities, you have a good shot of them actually wanting to spend time with you!

2. Give to charity in your loved ones' names

Instead of giving someone special another scarf or candle, make a difference in someone else's life in the name of that special person. Many charitable organizations make it easy to give a gift—large or small—on someone's behalf by giving you a thank-you card or some personalized token to present. And this can be a great alternative for others you'd like to recognize this time of year, like teachers or co-workers. Everyone likes to be part of doing something worthwhile.

3. Use photos to create memorable gifts

Almost every photo-sharing website has promo code offers or other discounts for you to create inexpensive personalized photo books, calendars, coffee mugs or pretty much any other type of keepsake you can think of – all with the ease of uploading an image. And what grandparents or relatives wouldn't want to see a great shared memory each morning when they drink their coffee?

4. Give the gift of education

It may not sound super-exciting, but putting money toward a child’s or grandchild's education is one of the most valuable gifts you can give. And if you're looking for something for the child to open during present time, pick up the child’s favorite college's T-shirt or water bottle, and add a note about your monetary contribution. There are plenty of ways you can contribute toward the cost of education – and some of the options, like 529 education savings plans, may have tax advantages too. Talk to your financial advisor for more information.

5. Start your own day of caring

Invite friends, co-workers, or family (especially the younger members) to participate with you in a hands-on volunteer day around the holidays. Organizations like the United Way can help you find an activity that provides the best fit for your group's preferences and abilities. Even just a few hours together at a local food pantry or youth center helping others in need can provide you the gift of time together.

There's always room for gifts during the holidays – but remember that the time you share with your family and friends this time of year will be what you remember down the road, not the new toy or gadget.

Important Information:

*Withdrawals used for expenses other than qualified education expenses may be subject to federal and state taxes, plus a 10% penalty on the earnings. Before investing, an investor should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state’s 529 qualified tuition program. Student and parental assets and income are considered when applying for financial aid. Generally, a 529 plan is considered an asset of the parent, which may be an advantage over saving in the student’s name. Make sure you discuss the potential financial aid impacts with a financial aid professional. Tax issues for 529 plans can be complex. Please consult your tax advisor about your situation. Edward Jones, its financial advisors and employees cannot provide tax or legal advice.

More resources:

4 To Dos before Giving to Charity

Before you write a check to a charity in the coming weeks, use these four tips to help you give smarter.

What to Know About Gifting Stocks

If you decide to give stocks to family members or a charitable organization, be aware of the tax considerations.

Are You Looking for a Better Way to Do Good?

Are you feeling charitable this holiday season? If so, check out these ideas for giving back.

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