Anyone who has lived on the margin has likely felt the anxiety that comes with having just about enough to get by. That's why I'd like to suggest a holiday present that can make a short- or long-term difference in someone's life -- the gift of breathing room. Got a barely-afloat friend or family member or one who is inching toward the red side of the ledger? Even a small amount of leeway could be extremely helpful (maybe even life-changing) to unemployed or underemployed friends and relatives, single parents, retirees or recent college grads. The freeing-up of even $20 from someone's budget could become seed money for an emergency fund, an extra payment toward consumer debt, the sneakers her kid needs for gym class. I included workarounds for those who are themselves on budgets. But the higher-end suggestions could be good collective presents if need be. Suppose you and your parents chipped in on a breathing-room gift for a sib who graduated with deep student debt and a starter salary?
1. Lend the initial deposit for someone's apartment. 2. Pay a week's worth of rent (or more.) 3. Offer to let the giftee stay with you for a couple of months as they save money for a place of their own. Budget-friendly workarounds: Help a newbie find the best housing deal or offer your help (and your truck/van) for the move. Fill a bag with cleaning supplies and foods from your pantry and call it an "apartment starter kit."
Lights, water and the rest
4. Lend the amount of any utility deposit(s). 5. Upgrading your still-decent cellphone? Give it to someone on your list. 6. Offer $25 toward the electric bill. 7. Does the recipient use a pay-as-you-go? Buy some minutes. Budget-friendly workarounds: Put the person on your family cellphone plan. Help weatherize a drafty home. Offer to install a clothesline.
8. Pay for a bridge/road toll sticker for a month.