Holiday Survival Guide, Part 2: 6 Ways to Give Great Gifts for Less (or No) Cash

So often, the first thought about gift giving is, “What should I BUY?” If finances are tight this season, or you just want to start thinking outside the box, there are many options for gift giving that are lower cost or even free. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

a tin of holiday cookies surrounded by silver decorations and pine boughs
1. Do Something Together.

Time with friends or family is a valuable gift. Consider a group decision to pass on gift items in lieu of a group activity. Spend the day exploring a museum together or check out the animals at the zoo. If you all love getting outside, try hiking together or put together a picnic. If you prefer an indoor activity, consider making a craft or cookies together, or an in-home movie or board game night with homemade appetizers. Attend one of the many free or low-cost holiday or end-of-year events in your local area.

2. There’s Nothing Wrong with Regifting.

Maybe you’ve received a gift in the past that really doesn’t fit your personality, but it’s totally something your sister would love. There are some helpful common-sense rules to follow, like removing the original gift tag – try this article for more tips to make your regifting successful.

3. Save Your Shared Memories.

Whenever you spend time with friends or family, bring your camera and take pictures. At the end of the year, use the photos to put together a memory book, or other photo gift of your shared experiences, and spend some time reminiscing and planning for the coming year.

4. Tap Into Your Creative Side.

Homemade gifts can show your creativity without breaking the bank. Consider painting a pre-made item from a craft store. Check out this piece on 25 Homemade Gifts Under $5.

5. Gifts That Give Back.

Give a gift of charity by making a small donation in your friend or family member’s honor to a cause important to them, and ask they do the same for you. After you donate, spend time talking about why the charities you chose are important to each of you. Or spend the day together serving lunch at a soup kitchen, walking dogs at a shelter, or participating in a charitable fundraising event together. You not only spend quality time together, but so many other people will benefit from your gift as well.

6. Food!

If you love to bake, a fresh loaf of bread or box of homemade cookies is a perfect way to show someone you’re thinking of them. Find a new recipe for their favorite food and make it especially for them. Make a whole meal for your friend and their family and personally deliver it. If your friend likes to do the baking, consider putting together a cookie mix or soup mix in a jar, for them to have on hand and make when it’s convenient.


Start a new tradition this year by giving your time, and looking beyond the wrapping paper and ribbon – it’ll save some money and make your relationships even more valuable!

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