10 Thoughtful Gifts That Don’t Cost a Thing

4 minute read

The impact of a good gift should never be measured by its price tag. Indeed, the best gifts are often the ones that are intentional, thoughtful, and above all, personal—all elements that don't (have to) cost a thing. This holiday season, it's worth considering skipping overwhelming shopping crowds and putting undue stress on your bank account with gifts that you can present to your loved ones that don't require shelling out monetarily. With a little bit of planning, some ingenuity, and a whole lot of heart, these options will let them know you care, while affirming the old adage that "the best things in life are free."

Here, we've rounded up 10 unique and free gift ideas that require no spending at all.

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If the person you love has children, babysitting is almost always a welcome gift. Offering to watch their little ones so they can enjoy a night out on the town or a self-care session is a thoughtful way to show you care.

Jar of affirmations

Everyone needs encouragement, and with a jar of affirmations, you can provide a pick-me-up whenever they're going through a challenge. Simply write out uplifting notes, which can range from traits you admire about them to motivational messages, then fold them and place them in a reusable jar. They'll be able to get a little boost, wherever and whenever.

Make them a playlist

From mixtapes to burned CDs to the age of Spotify, playlists have always been inherently personal and there's no better way to make someone feel seen than by curating a playlist just for them. By selecting songs that make you think of them or compiling tracks around a theme they'll enjoy, they'll know that you care about them every time they press play.

Write them a heartfelt note

A sincere message is always appreciated, especially when it's tangible. Break out your good stationery or a beautiful card, use your best penmanship, and write a heartfelt note that the person you care about will want to keep for posterity.

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Pass on an heirloom or a treasured piece

A thoughtful and sustainable way to let someone know you care is to gift them something that you already treasure. Whether it's passing on a family heirloom to another family member or gifting your best friend a clothing item that she's always admired, bestowing a treasured piece is an environmentally friendly and mindful way to give this holiday.

Create a video message for them

Let them know you care this season by sending a video message, something they can replay long after the holidays are over. Don't be afraid to get creative with it—you can perform their favorite song, choreograph a TikTok-worthy dance, or gather all their friends and family to make a group message that will make them feel loved.

Baked goods

Everyone loves a sweet treat or a freshly baked good. Using ingredients you already have on hand, making someone a batch of their favorite cookies or a loaf of bread goes a long way in sending holiday cheer.

Volunteer for their favorite cause

There's no better way of letting someone know that you care than supporting the causes that they're passionate about. Whether that's volunteering at the local school, putting in hours at the soup kitchen, or calling your congressperson to lobby for policy changes, helping them help others is a gift that keeps on giving.

Plan an outing

Planning an activity to do together can be fun and doesn't have to mean breaking the bank—from going to a museum that has free entry or walking in their favorite park, this gift is about spending quality time together, something that's truly priceless.

Offer to clean or do a chore for them

Offering to do a chore for someone you love is a great way to actively show them you care. Whether it's doing the dishes for a month or even a deep clean of their bathroom, this gift is an excellent way to show up for someone, especially if their love language is acts of service.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com