As the holidays approach, Christmas lists are compiled and the Black Friday Frenzy kicks into full gear, maybe it’s time to think outside the box.

Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in produced wrapping paper? Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber? Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, locally-owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates. How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by a local working guy?

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamins on a flat-screen tv? Perhaps the grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day. How about a nice floral arrangement or a manicure?

My computer could use a tune-up and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

Perhaps dad is in need of some new tools — rather than taking a ride to one of the “big box” stores, check out your local hometown hardware store. Not only can you find dad’s gift, you might be surprised at the unique items available in their gift section.

Or, maybe you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit it into scarves. They make jewelry, pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember folks, this isn’t about big national chains — this is about supporting your hometown  merchants with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open. Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.

Kids are always looking for something to do over Christmas break. Consider stuffing their stockings with gift certificates to the local entertainment venues — skating, movies, bowling or how about some court time or batting practice?

And, how about going out to see a play at your hometown theatre? Many of the aspiring actors and actresses are your friends and neighbors. Don’t forget that musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

If you have an avid reader in the family, books or a subscription to the local newspaper make a great gift for passing time on a long winter afternoon.

Christmas is about caring about us, encouraging small businesses to keep plugging away — owners following their dreams. And, when we care about our communities, the benefits come back to us in ways we wouldn’t imagine.

Happy Holidays!!