Cash stuffed into an envelope - or tucked into a box of chocolates - can be a pretty great holiday gift.
Unfortunately, some people view cash itself to be a tad impersonal.
Still, for show-me-the-money gifts that go beyond the usual U.S. savings bonds, there are plenty of other creative options.
If you want actual savings bonds, Series EE bonds issued from November of this year through April 2016 will earn a fixed rate of 0.10 percent, so they're not all that exciting. Series I savings bonds issued during that time earn a composite rate of 1.64 percent for the first six months after the issue date - and a portion of that is indexed to inflation every six months. See www.treasurydirect.gov/readysavegrow/start_saving/gift_bonds.htm for how to buy savings bonds as gifts online.
If you're looking for other on-the-money ideas, here's a handful of them:
Shiny things. You could dish out roughly $750 for five gold rings, according to the 2015 PNC Christmas Gift Index. The price for a simple, no-fuss gold wedding band is about flat from last year, according to PNC. (Granted, you also could pay $700 or more for just one attractively designed man's gold wedding band.)
But the price of gold has been trending down lately and was down about 10 percent in late November from a year ago. Some think the downward trend will continue. Gold would start about $128 for one-tenth troy ounce American Eagle gold coin as of Nov. 30, said John Abbott, of Abbott's Coins in Birmingham, Mich. But the price is consistently in flux.
Silver is a less expensive gift option. You can start out as low as $15 or $16 for a troy ounce for silver and "go up to a lot of money," Abbott said. "There's a wide range."
What's a "lot of money" for silver? One box of American Silver Eagles - 500 troy ounces of silver - cost about $8,800 in late November. The price fluctuates regularly throughout a day, too.
Dramatic effect. How about a little financial suspense? Pick up a gift card to a movie theater for the new financial thriller The Big Short or maybe even wrap up the Michael Lewis book of the same name along with a gift card.
The book, published in March 2010, is a riveting read on the subprime-mortgage crisis and clearly walks the reader through such cumbersome topics as collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps.
The new movie has an all-star cast including Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale. It focuses on how a few quirky characters spotted a crisis in the making years before the 2007-09 financial collapse led to huge layoffs, home foreclosures, and government bailouts. Early in the game, these financial geeks took multimillion-dollar bets against Wall Street's big gamble on subprime mortgage bonds, ultimately made wild money, and have an incredible story to tell.
Wiggle room. Ever think of paying someone's electric bill for a month? Or maybe buying the person a week's worth of groceries?
Sure, it's practical. But it can be practically delightful to be surprised by extra breathing space in the family's budget for 2016.
Or maybe pick up the cost of a chore - such as a month of maid service or lawn service.
Market pick. This holiday season, it's easier to buy just a small part of a share of stock in Apple, Nike, and other popular companies.
A $50 gift card for Apple stock, of course, won't enable anyone to buy one share of Apple, which has been trading about $118 a share. But it's a start.
Change afoot. Gather up the spare change around your house to buy a gift card. If you've got $25 or $50 lying around - and many people do - consider visiting a CoinStar location to convert the change into a gift card for Starbucks or Amazon.com or Toys R Us.
If you apply the value of the change to buy a gift card, you do not pay a fee.
Some kiosks give physical gift cards. Others issue vouchers that can be used when shopping online or in participating retailers. If you want, you can take vouchers to the store to get the actual plastic gift cards.
Retailers in the program include Home Depot, Sephora, Game Stop, Forever 21, and Applebee's.