Computers make gift-giving fit your budget
By Kim Komando
Millions of Americans are still feeling the effects of the recession. But that needn't take the shine off your Christmas. You can give thoughtful gifts that cost nothing — or next to nothing.
After all, it's the thought that counts. Or, so the adage goes. This year, many will test that saying. Here are some thoughtful ideas to get you started. You'll find links to sites and software mentioned at www.komando.com/news.
Photos always make great gifts. And thanks to digital cameras, most of us have plenty of photos.
A large photo is a nice gift. You can print it at home. Or, use Google's Picasa to create a photo collage using multiple pictures. Picasa is free.
How about a slide show of photos taken throughout the year? Microsoft's free Photo Story will help you build a stellar slide show.
Add music, transitions and effects to the slide show.
The slide show will work on computers and some digital photo frames.
You can also burn your slide show to a DVD for standalone players. You'll need a DVD-authoring program. One may have come with your DVD burner. Or, you may have a program like Nero or Roxio Creator. Failing that, download the free DVD Flick.
Or, maybe you want to create something a little more useful. In that case, consider creating a photo calendar. Microsoft offers free templates that work in Word and other Office programs.
Download a calendar template and add your photos. Or, if you're handy with a glue gun, create a desktop page-a-day calendar.
MAKE A VIDEO
Videos also make great gifts. Use a program like Windows Movie Maker to edit your video.
It is included with Windows XP and Vista. Windows 7 users can download it for free.
Movie Maker creates video files that you can share. They play on computers and some digital photo frames.
Windows 7 and Vista Home Premium and Ultimate can burn the videos to DVD. The DVD will work in standalone players. If you have XP, use DVD Flick or another DVD-authoring program.
GIFT YOUR SERVICES
You may decide to give a loved one the gift of your services.
If you're particularly good with a camera, gift your skills. Offer to take photos of a birthday party, anniversary or other event. If video is your thing, offer to record an event with your camcorder.
If you have a scanner, you can convert old photos to digital. That's a gift anyone would love. After all, everyone has old photos.
Or, you may have a USB turntable or cassette deck. You can convert a loved one's record or cassette collection to CD.
Computer assistance is also a great gift, particularly for newbies. You can help set up new Christmas presents like computers or security cameras.
You can even offer to provide tech support in the future. Just be careful. It could end up as an open invitation to solve computer woes.
If you decide to give your services as a gift, print up a coupon. Again, Microsoft has free templates that will help. You can also use the coupons for nontech services like cleaning or a massage.
MAKE A DONATION
You may have an old computer lying around. If it still works, donate it to charity in a loved one's name.
You may even be able to gift the tax credit to the recipient. Speak to local charities to see if they accept computers. Or, contact the National Cristina Foundation.
Before donating a computer, wipe the hard drive. This will make your data unrecoverable. I recommend the free Heidi Eraser.