Christmas can quickly devolve into a list of mindless obligations. You make the peanutbutter balls that you always make. You put up your tree, post it to Instagram with #betterlatethannever even though it’s not late at all and what is “late” anyway? You go to all the parties that you always go to. And soon enough, you’re buying all of these presents for the same people you always buy presents for. You stress yourself out and can’t wait for it all to be over with. It’s just a mindless deluge of crap that you don’t really care about.
Who wants that? It absolutely doesn’t need to be that way. These are made up rules that you’re definitely allowed to question and toss out the windows if you so decide.
That’s why I’m talking to you about gifts that are either free or nearly free. Not only does it ease some pressure from the pocket book, but I think that it really focuses a point on what gift giving is all about. What does it mean to give someone a really good gift? It means that you were thinking of someone else—that you took a moment to meditate on someone that you love, someone that you want to make feel special. It’s important and I sort of feel like if you’re not able (or simply don’t want) to make gifting a priority, then you should just relieve yourself from that duty. And don’t feel bad about it. There’s no point in freeing yourself up if you’re just going to use that time to feel guilty anyway. But if you, like me, love to be able to give but are just hoping to stay within budget or keep things minimal, here are several ideas.
Feed Someone—this is one of the ways that I consistently show love:
-Make a double batch of whatever you’re making for dinner tonight and freeze it! Sure, it’ll be difficult to wrap and keep under a tree but your recipient won’t mind when they won’t have to make dinner in a few weeks. Soups and casseroles are best for this.
–Compound Butters are one of those perfect treats in that they are fancy but easy and relatively inexpensive. You’ve probably got all the ingredients. Another idea is to make a batch of Ghee for gifts. All you need is butter and a jar.
-Can something (if you feel comfortable with it). Last week I was at Aldi and big bags of apples were on sale for less than $1.50. That, plus a little sugar, heat, and mashing will make several jars of homemade applesauce.
Help out—for those of you who have “acts of service” as your love language:
-Commit to snow shoveling for the rest of the winter for a friend of yours (or lawn-mowing, yard work, etc).
-If there are parents in your life, and you believe that you can be trusted with their precious babies, go classic. Hand your loved one a coupon for free babysitting so that they can run errands, go on a date, or get some work done. If you’re feeling extra generous, extend this offer to be renewed monthly!
-Go grocery shopping! Some people hate this chore—maybe they have kids that make it challenging, maybe they’re elderly, maybe they’re busy, or maybe they just really don’t like it. Become your very own version of Postmates! Give your friend explicit directions on how to redeem this service. They can text you a detailed list (even photos of specific brands they like) and drop some money into your paypal account while you do the work!
Lend your expertise. Maybe you have a special skill that you know your friend wants to learn! Remember that time that Dwight gave away paintball lessons at The Office Christmas party? Be like Dwight.
-My friend Sherilynn is an incredible beaker of bread. I would love nothing more than to spend an afternoon with her teaching me the art of baking.
-Maybe someone you know just got a new car and isn’t sure about basic routine maintenance but that’s something that comes really naturally to you—offer to show your friend a few things.
-You know someone who isn’t making the most out of their camera/ fancy coffee maker/ stereo but would like to? If that happens to intersect with some things that you know, take some time to share your knowledge.
Granted, these are all things that you can easily Google, but learning from a person in real life that you know and love is not only more fun, but it’s also more likely to really sink in.
Give your friend an IOU—this doesn’t have to be something that’s obviously about not having the money right now. It’s about planning for the future (that just so happens to be at a time when maybe you have a couple extra dollars).
-Is there a movie coming out or a concert coming to town that you’re both looking forward to in a few months? Pay for the tickets when the time comes.
-Catch up over a coffee date once this holiday craziness all calms down. Spring for the scone.
-It may be 17 degrees outside right now but one day the sun will come out again! When it does, take your friend to that zoo, arboretum, really cool park you’ve been telling them about (this would also be an excellent opportunity for families to get together).
You can always make something—this isn’t always the easiest thing to keep on a limited budget but I have a few ideas.
-Frame a recipe that you’re famous for/ has been handed down throughout the family: Okay, so I know this sounds a little silly but I did this and I love the way it turned out (photo at the top of the post). It’s an awesome piece of kitchen art! (Full disclosure, I stole this idea from someone else on the internet. I found a person on Etsy who will type up your family recipe and send it to you as a printable PDF for the low, low price of $15. But since I have Microsoft Word on my computer, I did it for myself for free. And I found a 3-pack of frames at the dollar store.)
-Hand scrub: All you need is sugar, hand soap and a container. I made this last year and it’s been loyal to me. It’s great for when your hands feel rough or they’re exceptionally dirty.
-Infused something. You can easily infuse liquor, sugars, or olive oil to make for really special gifts with minimal effort and (depending on what you already have on hand) cash.
Finally, it really is the thought that counts. And anyone that you really want to show love to deserves to know why. Christmas cards are completely underrated. All you really need for this is a pen, a piece of paper, and a whole lot of vulnerability. Tell someone what their presence has meant to you this year—that’s what this whole thing is all about anyway.
Have you ever given or received a really good free gift? Tell me about it!