3. Subscriptions: Worried that a 700-page tome on investing or personal finance might go over as big as a tacky Santa sweater? Then consider giving a one-year subscription to a personal finance magazine or maybe the Wall Street Journal, which offers a mix of day-to-day market coverage along with in-depth stories and columns on individual investing and other personal finance topics.
Any of the three major personal finance magazines -- Money, SmartMoney and Kiplinger's Personal Finance -- are fine choices for someone just developing an interest in managing their money. Think of them as first steps in financial literacy.
4. Financial planning gift certificate: Is somebody important to you in need of individualized financial help? Then consider paying for a few hours of time with a fee-only financial planner willing to work with clients on an hourly basis. Many of these planners offer gift certificates on their Web sites, and if you don't see one, ask.
You probably don't want to pay for a full-scale, comprehensive financial plan that can easily cost $1,500 to $3,000. But many planners are willing to sit down with clients whose finances are fairly simple for a couple hours of time to go over the basics of saving and investing.
To find a financial planner willing to work with clients on an hourly basis, check out the Garrett Planning Network, which has members across the country and offers financial planning gift certificates on its Web site. (Disclosure: I am a Garrett Planning Network member.)
5. 529 plan: Thinking about buying a savings bond for Junior's college fund? I say forget it, and instead help fund a 529 college savings plan. U.S. savings bonds are more trouble than they're worth with a long list of peculiar rules.
A 529 plan offers far more flexibility, including higher contribution limits and the ability to transfer account balances among family members.
You can either set up a 529 plan on your own to benefit a young person, or contribute to one that's already been established by another adult on that child's behalf.
To learn more about 529 plans, check out Savingforcollege.com. It recently featured an article on making a 529 contribution gift and outlined how some 529 providers are taking steps to make it easier to make such gifts through gift coupons or cards.
For instance, the Massachusetts UFund managed by Fidelity Investments, offers a gift card that can be customized with a photo.
As I said in the beginning, none of these gifts is likely a trigger a scream of joy from the recipient, but the appreciation could last a whole lot longer.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
David McPherson is founder and principal of Four Ponds Financial Planning in Falmouth, Mass. He previously worked as a financial writer and editor for The Providence Journal in Rhode Island. He is a member of the Garrett Planning Network, whose members provide financial advice to clients on an hourly, as-needed basis. Contact McPherson at email@example.com.