Maybe you are knee high in bills this year. Maybe you recently lost a job. Maybe you are college student with little cash to spare. Whatever your situation, Christmas can certainly add oodles of stress to a pocketbook that’s nearly empty.
But, just because you may not have bundles of cash in hand, it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t give generously at Christmas. There is a vast selection of gifts that cost nothing (or close to nothing).
1. Crop: If you like to scrapbook, make a page for a friend or loved one. Use materials you already have to save money. If you have children, relatives will go ga-ga over your gift. If you are short on ideas, make a page detailing what you appreciate about the recipient- this will truly be a treasured gift. If you’re a student away at college, you can make a page showing your life at school for a younger sibling who misses you.
2. Write: Some people are always hard to buy for, whether you have money or not. Why not buy a nice card and then include a handwritten letter. Not a note, but a real letter. Grandparents particularly enjoy receiving letters as they are not always in the loop electronically (on Facebook, email, and so on.) It doesn’t cost you anything to spend 20 minutes jotting down details of your week, a few childhood memories and a quick “I miss you”.
3. Read: Hunt down free magazine subscriptions. Search the internet for deals and freebies. You can often find magazine subscriptions for free and rather than sending to yourself, have them sent to someone on your gift list. Then write a note in a card to let them know the subscription is a gift from you! Keep your eyes open. Everyone loves getting a brand new magazine to read each month and they’ll remember who gave it to them.
4. Bake: If you enjoy baking, head home and get in the kitchen. Fresh baked goods are always appreciated and do not cost much. The best part is that you likely have most of the ingredients on–hand already. You don’t need fancy containers, either. Use a mason jar and some ribbon, or cover a paper plate with wrapping paper, then put cookies, brownies or other goodies atop and wrap with saran wrap.
5. Craft: Chances are, if you sew, draw, paint, or use any form of craft materials, you likely have extra materials on hand. Create simple ornaments or other holiday decorations from felt, glass beads, small drawings, or other form of craft medium to gift. Everyone loves a personal touch. My favorite ornaments, to this day, are the Raggedy Anne and Andy ones my grandmother made from clothes pins, yarn, and scraps of fabric.
6. Brag: College students this one is especially for you: Normally, you are discouraged from bragging but its ok with parents. Wrap up your grades or an “A” paper. They miss being part of your day-to-day education and will be thrilled to be included. Reading a paper, whether they understand the subject or not, will make them proud. You can’t buy that.
7. Watch: Children, that is. If you have older siblings, relatives, or friends with children, volunteer to babysit. It may seem hokey to you, but they will love the opportunity to get out of the house knowing they have a babysitter they can trust. Better yet, make a simple card gift certificate for a free night of babysitting or two and tie a nice ribbon around it to gift.
8. Record: Many of your friends and family are likely just as strapped for cash as you and do not expect a gift. You can, however, burn a CD of holiday songs for them. (Just be mindful of copyright laws, there are a lot of free tunes available for copying.)
The key to remember is that no one expects you to buy them an expensive gift. They are just happy to see you and spend time with you. Don’t stress the gift; you don’t need to spend money at Christmas to make your family and friends happy.