Romance outside the Box: 5 Alternatives to Generic Gift-Giving

Good Deeds, Happy Couples

If the two of you don't need anything for the holidays (and, hey, you already have each other), why not do something that will give you warm, fuzzy feelings all year long? Charlene Bowser, a 38-year-old stockbroker from New York says, "Last year, my boyfriend, Rich, and I volunteered at a soup kitchen on Christmas morning. That felt so great that we underwent training at a crisis hotline. We do shifts together twice a month," she says. "This Christmas we'll be manning the phones. There's nothing like hearing about other people's woes to make you appreciate what you have. And sharing the experience of volunteering makes it that much more special."

Ann Howard and her husband, Sam, also gave each other a gift that keeps on giving '- that is, a gift of the heart. "This Thanksgiving will be two years since we started sponsoring an overseas child in Uganda through WorldVision [worldvision.org]," says Ann, a 34-year-old lawyer in San Francisco. "The agency sends us monthly letters and photos about [the child] Wahabu that we read in bed snuggled up together."

Home (and Heart) Improvements

Claire Smith told her husband, Ron, flat out that she didn't want any more expensive gifts. Says the 27-year-old mother of four, "I wasn't nuts '- I just wanted more space. We have four kids." The Illinois couple's holiday gift to each other was remodeling their kitchen and basement and redoing their landscaping.

It was a desire to improve her inner space that drove Lisa Spangler to give her boyfriend a weekend couples' seminar two Decembers ago. "It was the best money I've ever spent," declares the 40-year-old chef. "Rob and I learned terrific communication skills that I'm convinced saved our relationship."

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