With all the gifting that comes with the holiday season, your bank account could always appreciate some out-of-the-box creativity that doesn't involve more shopping. Ahead, 20 thoughtful ways to show someone you care that won't require spending any cash at all. (Promise.)
Ever heard of the saying, “The best gift you can give someone is a book?” If not, consider this your gift-giving lesson of the day. Grab your favorite book (okay, maybe not your *favorite*), or a book you really enjoyed, and exchange it with one from your friend's collection. You’ll both get an idea of what genres you enjoy, and maybe next year you can buy them a new one as a low-budget present.
Rifle Paper Co., $26
You can design a beautiful calendar for a friend, family member, or S.O. To get crafting all you'll need to do is grab some extra computer paper from your printer and colored pencils. Tie it together with any leftover ribbon you have from gift-wrapping, and it will be the perfect addition to their home as we approach the new year.
(Note: If you’re totally in love with the calendar in this picture and are able to spare some extra cash, we've included a link to shop above *just* incase.)
When you're not exactly skilled in the cooking department (or just don't have the time to whip up treats for Christmas) you can package some surplus ingredients into a giftable treat jar. Consider giving a mason jar filled with hot chocolate ingredients, a pretty five-bean soup mix or oatmeal.
A more personalized gift for audiophiles, or for your partner in a long-distance relationship, is an audiobook created by yours truly. Read some original poems or even chapters from their favorite books for this personal tribute.
If you can't afford to splurge on Sugar lip scrub kits for all your friends, consider making some sugar scrubs at home with a combo of sugar and coconut oil.
If your well-stocked garden is your pride and joy, wrap up the literal fruits of your labor with a hand-selected basket of fresh goodies—from veggies to fruits or jams—for your foodie recipients to cook with on their own time (peas, potatoes, swiss chard, carrots, and asparagus are top picks for winter vegetable gardens, FWIW) .
Winter's a better season than ever to gift someone a budding bulb and it's an easy present for beginners to green-thumb gurus to use.You can either pluck them from your garden or source them for cheap from your local nursery, and the bulbs can grow anywhere in a garden where the ground is cool and the soil drains well.
Your mom was always the OG on this one, but we have to give it to her: nothing beats a hand-knitted or crocheted winter accessory (well, so long as it's tasteful). Gauge what your giftee's favorite colors are and then put in the time on a pair of soft woolen socks or a scarf. The only real expense here is the wool, but you can always shop budget options that will save you money on the real thing.
Whether they're wrangling a puppy or taking care of a child at home, offer your sitting services by gifting them a night out on the town or a weekend away without having to book a sitter.
There's no better way to show appreciation for a hard-working parent than gifting an all-over house cleaning as a little stocking stuffer with whatever else you've got up your sleeve. Especially as the holidays get more hectic, the 'rents will appreciate you letting them put their feet up a bit and relax while you take care of the cleaning.
Cosmetic counter makeovers are free and *everywhere*. In case you want to go luxe, remember that high-end cosmetic boutiques like Chanel require a reservation.
Does your friend or family member like to cook? Bake? Mix drinks? If so, compile recipes you love, along with any treasured family recipes. Choose themes relating to his or her life and introduce each section of the cookbook with a little personalized note. If they went to school down South, include a Southern comfort food section. Do they love Roald Dahl? There's a whole trove of Roald Dahl-themed recipes waiting for you to find them.
Okay, so it doesn't have to be an actual mixtape (who even has a cassette player anymore?), but creating a custom playlist is a sweet gesture, especially when you choose songs that are meaningful and relevant to your relationship. Burn the playlist to a CD—yes, an actual CD—and decorate the case rather than just file-sharing the music. It's nice to have something physical to unwrap.
Yes, buying groceries costs money, but you probably have most of the ingredients you need already. Plus, cooking costs nowhere near as much money as dinner at a stuffy, expensive restaurant. Cook a romantic dinner or go full-on Martha Stewart and give baked goodies to all your friends. It's a gift everyone will appreciate.
Exercise your right brain and create some thoughtful art or flex your crafting muscles. Your friend probably doesn't want a cheesy art project with her initials on it, but she might appreciate a pillow cross-stitched with a quippy quote from her favorite movie, hand-painted mason jars to round out her hipster kitchen set, or a pair of hand-made earrings. Hint: Browse Etsy for inspiration!
Give Instagram a run for its money with a good old-fashioned photo album. If you hold onto things like ticket stubs and mementos from times together, include them scrapbook-style.
Have your S.O. relive your favorite moments together—and test their memory—by placing clues at your shared favorite spots across your city/hometown/wherever. Think: places where he or she made you laugh so hard you almost peed your pants, spot where you had your first kiss, your go-to coffee shop. Need inspiration? Think: What Would Leslie Knope Do?
Make your friend a movie they'll watch for years to come. Record all your mutual friends talking about why they love that friend. Ask their parents for adorable, vintage footage from their childhood years to include. Finish it off with your own personal message.
Grab some nice stationary, sit down, and get to writing. It can be a sincere letter or a funny tribute to your relationship.
Every city has no-cost cultural events. Do your research on local gatherings and you could bring your friend to a concert, museum, festival, street market, lecture, or gallery.