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9 Holiday Gifts That Cost Almost Nothing

Kimberly Hirsch

November 15, 2022

     The Christmas season is here! If you're like me, you love everything about the festive season of Christmas: the switch from pumpkin spice to peppermint mocha, the lively music, the decorative wreaths and plastic reindeer adorning entryways, the twinkle lights, and even the crisp scarf weather. Each of these small pieces of the season gives me that nostalgic warm feel of the best time of the year.  

     Christmas in college is a little different. You know a visit home is looming on the horizon, and the stress of studying is nearing a long-deserved break. It's been a while since you've seen your family. You're looking forward to both the reunion and the gift-giving. But herein lies the problem–gift giving. You're a college kid with little to no income. You've barely enough money to dine out occasionally, let alone gift thoughtful presents to your friends and family.

  Trust me when I tell you there is no need to worry! I've covered you this holiday season, so you don't need to show up empty-handed on Christmas morning. You'll be able to extend your love of gift-giving to friends (new and old) and extended family members who may not even expect it. I've got a list of the nine best gift ideas to give your family and friends that are thoughtful, clever, and will cost almost nothing (or nothing at all!). So, grab a notebook and pen and start making your list of recipients. Be bold and make it long because there will be no shortage of gifts to give this year.

DIY Ornament – Everyone loves adding to their ornament collection each year. Personally, my Christmas tree evolves each year with a growing collection of ornaments. Each December, we make it a point to add new ones to our tree and reminisce about all the rest as we find a place for them all. I have saved all the ornaments the kids have made year after year; each one is just as nostalgic as the next. Some hold a heartfelt memory, while others remind me of a funny story. Ornaments play an essential part in family tradition in many homes. If this is the case for your family, consider creating a memorable ornament for someone on your list. You are never too old to craft an ornament and gift it to your family.

Gift a Book – If you are a book lover like I am, chances are you've got bookshelves overflowing with your favorites and a recommendation list that's a mile long. While I sometimes love re-reading my favorites, there is nothing better than sharing the love of a great book with someone else. Peruse your bookcase and keep your book-loving family and friends in mind as you do. What would they love? Pick a few and write a special message with a sweet anecdote or reason for loving the book on the inside cover that's just for them. If the pages are worn, and there's writing inside, consider that book already loved and full of meaning. Gifting a book you've already read can be much more thoughtful than randomly selecting a title from a bestseller list.  

Regift an Old Gift – Everyone has stuff lying around, stuffed in a drawer, or hidden in a closet that isn't getting any use but is too nice to toss. Maybe it was a lovely scarf from your mom that isn't your style or a board game from your aunt that has never been opened. Whatever the reason, put that stuff to use without throwing it out. Think of a family member or friend who might enjoy it and regift the item to them. Chances are it will get a lot more use from someone else, and you didn't have to spend a dime on it—a win-win!

Grow and Dry Herbs – If you have a bit of window space and the tiniest green thumb, start the year by growing your favorite herbs…. basil, thyme, or rosemary are my favorites. Give them plenty of water and sunlight each day and watch them grow. At their peak, use scissors to snip the sprigs or pinch off the leaves from the tip of the stems. Clip any buds that may be flowering, then set aside the plant for continued growth. The nice thing is that you can harvest your herbs far in advance and begin drying them as early as they are ready. After harvesting, you'll need to dry them immediately for optimal flavor. You can set them on a tray and leave them in a dark, warm, dust-free area until they are dry and crumbly. Another option is to hang them up in small bundles and dry them that way (be sure the place is dark and dry). If you have access to an oven or dehydrator, you can dry them out at low heat for an extended time. Once dried, remove the leaves, store them in a jar, and tie them with a festive bow. Add a holiday tag with instructions not to crush or crumble to leaves until just before used and to store the jar somewhere dark and cool. The herbs will be good for 6-12 months, and your gift recipients will adore your thoughtful gift.

Create a Recipe Book - This one is fun and will be cherished by all who receive it if done correctly. Creating fun recipes to share with your friends and family will be easy if you are a great cook. You can use a fun app like Canva to design the book and add photos and backgrounds. I suggest coming up with a great cover, a table of contents, and then 15-20 of your best dishes (they don't need complicated recipes!). A page dedicated to writing a heartwarming message will surely win over recipients' hearts. If cooking is not your thing, ask each family member to email you a favorite family recipe they have used or one passed down over the years. Combine all the recipes into one book and gift it as a "Family Cookbook." Your family will love the thought that went into it. When you're ready, print out your book and bind it. If you are ambitious and tech-savvy, you can upload your book for free onto Amazon KDP and print copies to gift, which will come nicely bound. The best part of this gift is that it's one creation you can gift to everyone in the family.

Create an Affirmation Book – Jot down a list of positive affirmations in a journal. "Today is going to be great," "I am loved by others around me," and "I am an amazing friend" are some simple affirmations. There are tons of websites out there with even more ideas for affirmations. When you've decided on how many to include in your book, type each onto a separate page. You can use a simple MS Word program or create a free account on Canva to make your book more fun by using different fonts and backgrounds, adding graphics, etc. The ideas are endless. Be sure to add a cover and a special message for your recipients. Print, bind, and you're ready to gift! Like a cookbook, an Affirmation Book is something that, once created, can be given to your entire family and friends. It will be received as a thoughtful and creative idea. 

Your Talent - Think for a moment and brainstorm a list of your talents. What are you great at? Art? Music? Crafting? Put your talent to use and gift your friends and family who might appreciate your abilities. Paint a beautiful canvas for your cousin's new dorm room. Record a heartfelt song for your aunt on YouTube, then generate and print out the QR code for her to access anytime. Your closest friends and family will know just how much time and thought you put into a gift explicitly made for them.

Your Time - This gift is free but can be time sensitive if you live far away. Time is often a priceless gift that most busy adults can't find enough of. Moms of young children and adults with demanding jobs or other responsibilities are often the best recipients. Gifting your time to help with chores or handiwork around the home may seem like nothing to you, but it can be valuable to the right person. If you are gifting your time, be specific and make the gift a tangible one that can be unwrapped. For example, design a coupon (or coupon book) for your mom to show how your gift will work: "one uninterrupted hour of putting away Christmas decorations" or "Family game night on December 28th, no devices allowed." Your family will value your time more than you think!

Your Expertise – You may be young, but there's no question you've got expertise in something! Consider gifting your expertise to friends or family who could use the help but might feel like they are constantly pestering you. Be specific and clear, and make the gift attainable. A printable coupon that offers "one free hour to set up your new laptop" or "two hours of math tutoring after school via Zoom." Having it in writing makes it more of a gift they will appreciate and use.

While it's nice to know you won't have to show up empty-handed to your family holiday party this year, remember that the holidays are about much more than presents. Always remember the real meaning behind your celebration and keep that as your focus. Your friends and family will love and appreciate the thought that went into your gift-giving this year. You could start your own family tradition that takes the focus off spending money and focuses instead on the people you love most.  

Sources:

https://growagoodlife.com/harvest-dry-herbs/

 

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