6 Holiday Gift Ideas That Don’t Cost a Dime

6 Holiday Gift Ideas That Don’t Cost a Dime

(Or Very Few Dimes…)

By Hunter Laine

At this point, I’m sort of running out of ways to say, “It’s been a rough year”. The political, social, and economic landscapes that make up our daily lives are in upheaval. As we approach the holiday season, some things are going to be different, some things already are. For many of us this year, money is a bit tighter and time with friends and family is a lot lesser. Even in an ideal year, the pressure of buying the perfect gift for those around us can be overwhelming. This year, let’s try something new. Let’s reimagine the gift-giving process in a way that creates meaningful presents (maybe even presence?), that will ultimately leave a deep impression far longer than a new sweater. Check out these 6 holiday gift ideas that don’t cost a dime!

1. Go Holiday Light Hunting

One of the greatest byproducts of human evolution (it could be argued) is holiday decoration. As we move toward December, parts of the Bay Area seem to light up (very literally) with holiday decorations. Houses are covered in twinkling lights, projected images, recognizable cutouts and figurines, and jolly, blow up snowmen. Make a date with your loved one, find a great map that’s already been charted out (like this one), and give the gift of a trip through the wonderland that the Bay Area becomes around the holiday season. Pack a thermos full of hot cocoa, blast the heater, and spend some time immersed in holiday cheer with someone you love (or maybe the whole family). 

2. Write a Letter

Okay, so this one is definitely going to depend on who this is for. If you’re trying to come up with a gift for your eight-year old nephew, I’d say skip this one. But as a gift for a partner, parent, sibling, or friend, this could be really beautiful and meaningful. Most of us are not all that good at letting the people around us that matter, know that they matter. We tend to keep that closer to the chest. It might just be me, but this year especially, I have found myself so grateful for the people in my life who support me. Because I’ve needed more emotional support to make it through, and I don’t think I’m alone! Let those people know. Write a heartfelt letter about how much they mean to you, how much their love, support, or kindness has made a difference in your life. You can write about sweet or funny memories from years ago, or something they said that really resonated. One of the greatest gifts that we can give is letting someone know how important, loved, and impactful they are. And it truly doesn’t cost a thing.

3. Make a Photo Album or Collage

You know how we all have those tiny cameras in our pockets (read phones) that we constantly take pictures with? Where do all pictures go? Granted, many of them end up on social media these days, but more of them, just kind of sit in the ether, on your phone or maybe up in the Cloud. This holiday season, do something with them! Put together a photo album of your favorite moments and memories from the year (you may need to go back further than a year, since we’ve been in quarantine for the past eight(!!) months). Don’t have enough pictures (or time) for a full album? Make a collage of the best ones! You can add little doodles, drawings, magazine cutouts, or stickers. I think this year, it’s been pretty apparent how important memories can be. A photographic reminder of the people who care and of lighter times, is the perfect gift for the 2020 holiday season.

4. Do A Book Exchange

For me, this one’s an exciting no-brainer. Go through all of your books and find one that you love (okay, this is already sort of a gift for me…). Then have a friend or family member do the same. You can each do a short write up about what the book means to you or why you love it so much. Then do a book swap. This is such a fun way to learn more about the people you love (the books people love say a ton about who they are), find great new books, and open conversations. Why stop at a singular book swap? Maybe instead of a Secret Santa this year, you get a group of people together to do a book exchange. Swap favorite books in the beginning of December and then set a time for everyone to meet to discuss how they felt about the book they were given, talk about the book they chose, and give recommendations so you can all start the new year with a fully-vetted list of books from those you love! 

5. Plan a Walk Through San Francisco

There is a reason that San Francisco is known the world over as a premier tourist destination. The expansive architecture, winding roads and vertical hills, and art installations (some commissioned, some of the best, not) make it maybe the most exciting location to get lost exploring. And for those of us in the Bay Area, it’s an easy day trip! A walk through the city is a free, wonderful gift of time and adventure. Check out these free walking tours of the City by the Bay to take a guided look at some of the city’s coolest hidden gems or most beaten paths. Do you have a loved one who’s a history-buff or mad about architecture? This is the gift for them. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out this list of self-guided walks around the city and try not to get lost! Or, I don’t know, maybe try to? Either way, it will make for a memorable, experiential gift.

6. Make a Cookbook

Are you an excellent chef? Or does a relative (your grandma, grandpa, mother, father, great uncle…) have amazing recipes that the whole family wants or should have? Put them all into a cookbook! Maybe you’re extremely lucky and you have multiple family members who are amazing chefs with recipes to pass down. This gift idea lets you spend some time with each of them (whether in person or virtually), get the recipes plus any family lore or tips surrounding them, and make sure that everyone in your family can cook, eat, and pass down recipes from generation to generation. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. 

No matter what you end up giving out to those you love, the idea that you’re putting in the time and energy to show someone how much you care is a beautiful gift in itself (unless, again, it’s for your eight-year old nephew, because he probably just wants a Nerf gun). Focus your celebrations this year on gratitude for the people in your life, past and present, and let your gift-giving reflect that. 

The holiday season is upon us, which means we’ve basically made it through this year! It’s never felt like more of an accomplishment. Rejoice, celebrate, and show people how much they mean to you.

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