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7 Great Gifts Ideas that Don't Cost Money

December 8, 2011

With all the hype and one-day sales, it's easy to get sucked into thinking you have to drop lots of cash while holiday shopping. But it's simply not true. There are many gifts that are just as momentous and fun as big, pricey items that don't cost a thing. From homemade art to holiday swaps, here are seven absolutely free ways to delight your friends and family as well as your wallet this season.

1. Pen a poem or short story.
If you like to write, this is the perfect time to share your talent and your feelings with the important people in your life. Take the time to write down what you like about the recipient or a special memory you have of him or her, then write it out by hand on a crisp piece of paper. The recipient will love the extra-personal touch and your gift will be cherished for years to come.

2. Create a coupon!
Sometimes services-babysitting, dishwashing, a foot massage, closet organizing, scrapbooking, or anything else that will delight the recipient-are much more useful and meaningful than objects. So why not offer your services to the people in your life who would appreciate them. Just create a coupon for something that someone really wants and let them know they can redeem it anytime, no questions asked. They'll appreciate the creativity and thoughtfulness.

3. Make a mix CD.
Yes, it's a little old school (and a blank CD costs a tiny bit of money), but that's the charm! Making a CD takes time and thought-plus, there's something cool and retro about giving a mix CD. For an extra-special touch, use a photo of you with the gift recipient as the cover. And don't forget to list all the songs on the back!

4. Create a unique photo gift.
Skip the store-bought album and find something you can turn into a cool frame or album. Paste photos in an old children's book or attach one to the front of a notebook. Are you a Photoshop wiz? Create a faux wine bottle label and then glue it to one of your favorite bottles of wine.

5. Agree to skip gifts.
Many of us already have everything we need and know that it really is the thought that counts. If that applies to you and your friends, why not or family suggest skipping the gift exchange altogether and instead agree to take a holiday walk, go caroling, or have a potluck holiday celebration? We bet your friends will be just as relieved as you.

6. Commit to volunteering.
The gift of time goes a long way if you pledge to volunteer on others' behalf in lieu of a present. Promising 10 hours of time at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter is a huge commitment that your friends and family-not to mention the people you are helping-will respect and appreciate. To make sure people know your generosity, send them a card explaining what you've volunteered for in their name. You might even be able to recruit others to join you!

7. Suggest a swap.
If you've got a group of fun and adventurous friends, suggest the idea of swapping things you already own instead of exchanging gifts. Sure, it's a bit unconventional, but just think how fun it will be to see the hidden treasures your friends give away! (Plus it's an excuse to get rid of that figurine you never liked but just can't bring yourself to throw away!)

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