Top 7 Alternative Holiday Gifts

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Stocking stuffers, check. Office party survival, check. But still in need of a last-minute gift for your neighbor or surprise family guest? Take a look at these seven alternative gift ideas, most of which are available on Christmas Eve online or in stores. And best of all, depending on your preferences, these deals won't break the bank.

PHOTO: Top 7 Alternative Holiday Gifts
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1.
Experiences

Instead of a sweater or jewelry, many people prefer to share a memorable experience with family and friends. Deal sites like Groupon and Living Social offer couples massages, spa days, and lessons for everything from sewing to flying.

Exclusive deals online boutique, RueLaLa.com, offers tickets and hotel stays for PGA Tour tournaments throughout the country in 2012, which expire Christmas Day at noon EST. Those include $145 for two clubhouse tickets for a tournament in February 2012 in Pacific Palisades, Calif. and a weekend hotel package for April's Master's Tournament, from $7,500 to $12,500 in Augusta, Ga. A ticket to September's Ryder Cup in Medina, Ill., can also be purchased on StubHub for $55 and up.

The Associated Press reported shoppers are expected to spend $80 million to $100 million on deal sites over the holidays, as much as 10 times more than last year, said deals aggregator Yipit.

You can usually print or email an experience that you purchased on a deal site. A word of caution, though: almost all deals have expiration dates and are non-returnable. And you risk having an awkward conversation when you ask whether your father-in-law used the deal you gave him.

Or, you can get creative and plan your own experience catered exactly to your loved one's preferences.

2.
Donations

Giving a goat, meals or farming tools to communities in need has been a trend since at least since the 90s. In 1996, humanitarian organization World Vision created a "gift catalog" for charitable giving on behalf of a loved one. Oxfam offers similar donation opportunities. World Vision's gift catalog, online and in print, includes donations to impoverished people in the U.S. as well as around the world.

Razoo, an online platform that helps individuals and nonprofits conduct online fundraisers, created charitable giving cards. The cards are good for an online donation to any 501c3 U.S.-based nonprofit of the recipient's choice, and the giver gets a tax-deduction. Almost every charity, or P.T.A. or religious institution will have their tax I.D. on Razoo.com and can accept donations through the site, said Alison Risso, Razoo's director of communications.

3.
IOU

Who says you have to get a gift right away? If you haven't found the perfect gift yet, consider an IOU. Post-Christmas sales are bound to have some relevant deals if you can risk the crowds and have time to shop before the New Year.

4.
Gift cards

Stores including Walgreens, Costco, CVS, Duane Reade sell gift cards to other retailers so you can easily snag a $20 or $50 gift before you head to a holiday soiree. Many retailers also offer e-gift cards, such as Best Buy, Apple, iTunes, and Amazon.

5.
Lottery ticket

Jeff Somogyi, dealnews media editor, notes that lottery tickets are not the best gifts.

"But, if it's zero-hour, you can't afford to worry about the eye-rolling of whomever you'll be giving these hateful presents!" he writes on Dealnews.com.

And the "$1 life-savers" are available at nearly any gas station, supermarket, corner store or deli in the country, he said.

6.
Flowers

While many grocery stores and flower stands make flowers almost as prevalent as lottery tickets, Somogyi notes you can get same-day delivery from 1-800-flowers.com or Teleflora. Deadlines are strict and early, however. Teleflora has a midnight deadline for same-day delivery on Saturdays and delivery costs can be around $20, nearly as much as a beautiful bouquet.

7.
Re-gifting

Somogyi also says if you are desperate, you can always re-gift something you already have. Hopefully you will have wrapping paper, a bow, or at least newspaper to wrap it. Or you can re-gift a gift bag, which seems more practical than frugal. But, he writes, this strategy will fail if the person you're re-gifting to was the original gifter.

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