Give Without Buying
1. Make a phone call.
Spend some time catching up with a friend or family member you aren't able to see often.
2. Do something fun together.
Go on a day trip to the beach or go on a hike. Pack a picnic lunch and meet at a sunny spot in the park. Get together to bake cookies or to watch a favorite movie.
3. Donate to their favorite charity.
You can give money, but sometimes the best gift is your time. Help with a local river cleanup, volunteer at the animal shelter, ring a bell for the Salvation Army, or maybe plant a tree with the Arbor Day Foundation. Take a picture and send it to your loved one.
4. Embellish a plain notebook with scrapbook paper and stickers.
Label it (Your Friend)'s Gratitude Journal. On the first page, write a list of reasons you are grateful to have this person in your life. Thank them in writing for all the ways they have blessed you.
5. Give someone a foot or shoulder massage.
Watch their stress melt away.
6. Serve brunch or dinner.
Invite a few family members or friends. Cook your favorite dishes, set a nice table, light candles. Enjoy each other's company. Alternatively, prepare the food for your friends' freezer, and give them the gift of a ready-made, home-cooked meal.
7. Write a letter.
Written correspondence is more personal and durable than a digital note can ever be. Its uniqueness and warmth, and the effort expended in producing it, make it more valuable today than ever.
8. Share your expertise.
What do you know how to do? Cook, garden, sew, paint a room, work with wood, repair a car, replace a faucet? Do a job for someone, or offer to teach your skills.
9. Collect family lore.
Recipes, memories, anecdotes, pictures. Ask for contributions to be sent digitally, then print and compile them in binders.
10. Reuse old jeans.
11. Give someone a valuable possession of your own that you think they'd like to have.
Examples: a piece of jewelry, a vase or candle holder, a musical instrument, a favorite book, a Le Creuset casserole, a classic leather bag, an heirloom photograph.
12. Create a treasure hunt.
We did this at Christmas and on birthdays, and our kids loved it! Instead of putting gifts under the tree, hide them throughout the house. Create a trail of written clues with silly puns, riddles, or poems, or challenge them to complete "heroic tasks," such as "Play 'Silent Night' on a kazoo!" "Say 'Merry Christmas' in a foreign language!" or "Name at least four of Santa's reindeer!"
13. Design a "Gift of the Month Club."
Make a decorated scroll listing twelve tasks (such as babysitting, washing their car, raking leaves, etc.) or homemade items (such as cookies, bread, jam, roses from your garden, etc.) you can give throughout the coming year. Of course you'll arrange dates and times to suit your recipient's schedule.