Forget the six-geese-a-laying! 5 great financially thoughtful gifts

A partridge in a pear tree just isn't as appreciated as it used to be. Every year, holiday buying seems to get trickier and costlier. According to PNC Wealth Management, the cost of buying all 364 gifts in The 12 Days of Christmas this year is $107,300. While only a few of the items have increased in price, overall, the cost is up by 6.1% over last year.

If the point of gift giving is to express your love and care, why not give your family and friends gifts that will reduce their stress and improve their financial well-being? We've got five thoughtful gift ideas that will give you and your loved ones a much bigger return on investment than any of the latest gadgets.

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1) Gold

Skip all the seven-swans-a-swimming nonsense and go straight to the proverbial fifth day of Christmas for the five golden rings. Sounds good, right? But wait - seven days straight of them? Thirty-five gold rings might be a bit impractical (even if they're stackable, that's a lot of bling). Instead, go for the original fat stack. A gold bar or gold coin makes an awesome gift for someone who is worth his or her weight in gold to you.

Why it's wise: Gold is the traditional go-to investment in times of uncertainty and market volatility. While the value of an ounce of gold is subject to market swings, over the long term, it tends to hold its value against inflation. As our grandfather says, an ounce of gold has always been able to buy a very nice suit. Also: what gifts did the Three Wise Men bring? Frankincense, myrrh and…that's right, gold.

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Where to buy: ScotiaMocatta.com offers an e-store where you can buy a Scotiabank Gold Bar (1/10 oz) for less than $200.  Also check out SprottMoney.com to buy gold and silver.

2) Stock & stock certificates

You can buy a tablet that will be obsolete within two years, or you could buy a share in Samsung, Microsoft or Apple that will grow more valuable over many years. Choose a company that will be meaningful — whether that is Disney, Nintendo, Google, Facebook, Manchester United or Harley Davidson. Stock certificates are becoming increasingly rare, but there are still a few companies who will issue them on request.

Why it's wise: Buying shares for your kids and teenagers is a fantastic way to introduce them to the financial markets, get them started with investing and help them understand the way their buying decisions can influence the global economy.

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Where to buy: Oneshare.com and Giveashare.com make it easy — you pick the company and the site will arrange for a framed stock certificate to be sent to your loved one. For companies that do not issue paper certificates, replica certificates can be created to accompany written confirmation of ownership from the company.  To buy stocks, check out Canada's online/discount brokerages — such as TD Waterhouse Discount Brokerage, Scotia iTRADE, and Disnat Direct.  And remember, dividend-paying stocks are the gift that keeps on giving.

3) A TFSA kick-start

Giving someone cash might be welcome, but it can also feel impersonal. Helping someone to start a lifelong savings habit, however, is very personal. You can even help someone save up for a special big-ticket item. Give a flat sum of money or a year of 12 monthly instalments to be directed into a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Maybe your gift is no-strings-attached, or maybe it's on the proviso that your recipient must match your donation.

Why it's wise: TFSAs are the government's gift to savers and investors in Canada. With interest rates so low, the TFSA provides a place to save and invest cash without having to worry about paying taxes on the interest or profits you earn, nor on the money you take out.  Bonus: the yearly contribution limit was just increased by $500, to $5500 in 2013…a gift from the government, indeed!

Where to buy: Anyone over the age of 18 can open a TFSA account at any Canadian bank. You can open as many TFSA accounts as you wish, just be careful not to exceed your overall annual contribution limit.

4) A session with a financial planner

For someone who has just gone through a major change in life — graduation, marriage, having a child, retirement, widowhood, divorce, buying a house or starting a new career — a session with a financial planner could be a hugely important gift that helps them get organized and off on the right track.

Why it's wise: A financial planner looks at the big picture. He or she will take into consideration the person or family's goals and examine spending patterns. The planner will make recommendations on how to better pay off debt and make those goals achievable. This could be life-changing stuff!

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Where to buy: The Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC.ca) can help you track down a certified financial planner in your area; or ask trusted friends and colleagues for recommendations.

5) Mango trees & literacy

Embrace the spirit of the holidays, not by dragging your kids to the mall to pick out presents for the family, but by encouraging them to choose special, meaningful, ethical gifts that will make a huge difference to the lives of others.

Why it's wise: Buying more stuff for people who already have so much can be burdensome and boring. And when it comes to kids, there is no better way to teach them about ethical giving and the responsibility we all share toward making the world a better place than to lead by example. And wouldn't grandma be impressed?

Where to buy: There are so many wonderful choices, from the World Wildlife Fund to World Vision and we especially love Plan Canada's Gifts of Hope to support girls. Check out PlanCanada.ca for options such as a Mango Tree ($15), a Library in a Box ($60) and Literacy Training for Two Women ($120).

Gifts that give and give and give…

Whether you've got twelve days of Christmas or eight days of Hanukkah, there are many ways you can give a financially inspired gift that will be remembered and appreciated for years after those toys and gadgets have long lost their appeal. Besides, who wants to put up with all those birds just to get the golden rings, when you can just get the gold?

GoldenGirlFinance.ca is a free personal finance and education site for women.

Nothing contained herein is intended to provide personalized financial, legal or tax advice. Before implementing any financial or legal strategy, you should obtain information and advice from your financial, legal and/or tax advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances, as well as fully aware of current laws and regulations.

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