If you consider yourself an average holiday shopper, chances are you’re going to put a serious dent in your wallet this year. The average American is planning to spend $929 on gifts this season, up from an average of $882 in 2015, according to the American Research Group.
While we don’t expect you to cut your shopping list, there are dozens of ways you can extend the holiday spirit to others — without spending another dime.
Here are 12 free or low-cost gifts you can give this holiday season:
- Offer to help wrap gifts. Know some busy parents? Take over gift-wrapping duties to help them manage their schedules.
- Babysit. ’tis the season of stress, especially for parents of young children. Watch the kids for several hours, free of charge. Military families would especially welcome this gesture of kindness.
- Visit the infirmed. There are plenty of people living in facilities, including veterans homes, who won’t receive gifts or, more importantly, visits. You don’t need to know them to make a difference. While you’re at it, grab a pen and paper to write a thank you note for their service. It could be their most treasured gift this season.
- Transportation. Offer to give an elderly veteran, a busy parent, or a neighbor a free ride to the store. You can provide door-to-door service just for the cost of the gas you put into your tank.
- Empty your pantry. You can make room for the groceries you’re bringing in for your holiday dinner by clearing your pantry of canned goods. Take them down to your local shelter.
- Give a coupon book. Extend your gift-giving throughout the year. Offer an elderly neighbor a handmade coupon book that’s good for shoveling snow, cutting grass, trips to the grocery store, house cleaning, gardening, and other helpful tasks. While you could do those things anyway, it makes the sentiment a little more special and intentional when you present it in a special package.
- Clean out your closet. Already cleaned out the pantry? Head on over to the closet. You likely have clothes you rarely or never wear that could find a great home at a shelter. While you’re at it, rummage through the closets of everyone living under your roof — with their permission, of course.
- Picture album. Here’s another one that may cost a few bucks yet the sentiment will go a long way. Start by gathering photographs of family members, including those past and present. Put them in an album. Reprints and scans of military photos, family gatherings, and wedding photos are inexpensive. You can likely get the job done for about $10 to $15. Not a bad investment to make someone smile.
- Game night. Bring over a chessboard or a Monopoly game to play with a friend who may not be able to get home for the holidays. Enjoy time with each other — cellphone free. The gift of time is truly priceless.
- Hugs. Here’s a gift you can give in abundance without ever spending a cent. Just make sure your target is receptive to a hug and go for it. Make it genuine.
- Read a book. Skip the remote. Grab a book from the library, one of the few things that are still completely free. Gather the family together to read a holiday-inspired tale, like the 1950s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But don’t stop there. Take opportunities throughout the year to read to children at local service centers or to the elderly and veterans at residential homes. Make sure to choose books that fit their interests.
- Volunteer together. Receiving and giving presents is great. Whether you’re the recipient or the giver, you usually feel pretty good about it. Extend those good feelings even further by taking on a volunteer project with friends and family. Call around to different centers in your neighborhood to learn about volunteer opportunities. If you’re not able to volunteer during the holidays, schedule a time during the spring or the summer. Make it an annual or semi-annual event to give your family yet another opportunity to spend time with each other.
Giving during the holiday season and throughout the year can make a significant difference in someone’s life. And the gifts that are thoughtful are typically more meaningful.
Ready to make more of an impact through volunteerism? Learn more about how members of the American Legion Auxiliary are supporting veterans, active-duty military, youth and our communities. Read about our mission here. We would love for you to join our efforts.