The Best Gifts You’ll Never Buy

Photo by  Monika Stawowy  on  Unsplash

About this time each December, I start panicking because, once again, I face the reality that none of the gifts I’ve chosen for my people can begin to express my love and gratitude for them. I’ve even been known to stay up until ridiculous hours scrolling through gift idea after gift idea, adding and subtracting things from my cart because nothing is special enough!

On top of that, so many gift choices we make are tough on the environment, too! Besides, who needs more stuff cluttering up our lives?

Last year, Scott and I received one of the best gift we’ve ever received. It was a gift that we kept near to us throughout the year and brought it out whenever we needed a pick-me-up. Every time we did, our hearts welled up all over again.

That gift is included in the list below, along with some other suggestions to kickstarts some ideas of your own. These gifts cost zero dollars (well, maybe a piece of paper and a pen). All you need is a little courage to give what’s in your heart.

1. The Gift of Your Presence

In this digital age, we are constantly distracted. The closest people to us are likely the ones most affected by our mental multi-tasking. So imagine the gift of an entire day, or evening (or longer!) where you are 100% present with someone you care about. No phones, no emails, no side-eying your social media feed while they’re talking.

Giving your presence is easier said than done. It requires setting aside all the things you are doing and thinking about and focusing on what someone else needs from you. It’s a powerful gift to set aside time to spend doing what someone else finds meaningful.

Your presence might take the form of a hike in the woods, a drive to a favorite nearby town, or a restful day at home doing the things they enjoy. Maybe it’s about taking an interest in their hobby, listening to their favorite music, playing their favorite game or creating something together.

Want an easy way to put your “presence” under the tree? We’ve provided a free printable here that you can download and print, then fill in the details.

2. The Gift of Help

This gift is about lightening someone’s load in practical ways. There is most likely someone in your life who is overwhelmed with things to do and would love nothing more than a helping hand for Christmas.

In October, my sister and I experienced the sudden, unexpected death of our father. In addition to processing our grief and shock, we spent every waking hour helping support our mom, caring for end-of-life details and being there for our kids and spouses. But do you know what helped us navigate the fog of those first few weeks? People who jumped into action and gave us help we didn’t even know we needed!

Some outstanding examples of love in action we received included nourishing meals delivered to us, house cleaning, assistance with our pets, help with errands and shopping. Those things are helpful to anyone who is busy, traveling or experiencing a transition.

If you’re good at fixing things, an afternoon of helping someone with a needed repair could be their favorite gift of the year. If you cook, a warm home-cooked meal is a wonderful treat. Busy moms might appreciate a break from being the family chauffeur for a day (or longer) or a few hours of babysitting. Maybe someone you know needs help with holiday baking, shopping or gift-wrapping. The list could go on and on!

Again, our free printable is here to help!

3. The Gift of Relief

Since this past year has been a hard one for our family, a few of us talked early in the season about letting each other off the hook and not needing to buy things for each other. At first, I was worried that our first Christmas without Dad would be a bummer if we didn’t go to the trouble of gift-giving-as-usual, but that worry was quickly replaced by tremendous relief. Now we’re looking forward to giving and receiving the gift of making memories, and offering one another true comfort and joy in place of material things.

The gift of relief might be as simple as saying to someone, “Can I please relieve you of buying a gift for me this year? I would love more than anything to spend Christmas enjoying the gifts we already have in one another without having to acquire more material things.”

4. A Letter That Says What You Most Need To Say

This was the gift to which I referred to earlier: a tear-stained letter from our son’s heart of hearts expressing his gratitude and love. While the specific contents of that letter will remain private, his sincere, handwritten words are a gift we will never forget. We cherish it more than anything money could buy.

Whether it’s a letter of gratitude, an apology or a fresh commitment to making your relationship the best it can be, a personal letter is a powerful way to make someone’s Christmas. We recommend writing it down in your own handwriting to make it extra personal. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Authentic is much better than perfection.

A thoughtful letter that expresses something your kids, partner, friend or family member needs to hear from you might be the best gift they ever receive.

5. The Gift of Opportunity

Another priceless gift you might be able to give someone is an opportunity for them to shine. Perhaps you have the ability to connect people to exposure or resources that could help them fulfill a dream they can’t get off the ground alone.

Maybe you can host a house concert to give a musician friend the chance to try out his/her new songs on a live audience of friendly faces. Or perhaps you can give dance lessons, coach someone in a skill they’ve been wanting to sharpen, or offer computer knowledge to someone who isn’t tech savvy. You might have just the connection or skill someone needs more than anything.

The gift of opportunity or growth could change the course of someone’s life! Yet this incredible gift can easily get overlooked when we can’t see past all the traditional store-bought gifts being marketed to us this time of year.

6. Your Talent

Think about whatever you’re talented at and how you might use that talent to create a one-of-a-kind gift. It could be writing a song for someone, or hand-lettering an inspiring quote, or creating a video or photo montage.

Maybe your talent is good old-fashioned thoughtfulness! I recently went to a Christmas party where the host had created a poster with custom drink recipes tailored for every guest based on our personalities! Everyone felt so special when we read the recipe she thought of for us.

7. Memories

Family treasures, photos and heirlooms are amazing gifts that honor the people you love while celebrating your family’s history. There’s nothing like capturing reminders of special people and stories that have impacted your family for generations. So anytime you have the chance to keep your family’s history alive, you have the opportunity to give a timeless, meaningful gift.

Whatever you decide to give away this season, do it with love and it’ll be a hit. Think about the intangible things the people in your life are most longing for. Whether they most need companionship, assistance, encouragement, relief, thoughtfulness or an opportunity to expand their horizons, making others feel seen, heard and known is worth more than a million dollars.

If you have ideas to add to this list, we would love to hear them in the comments!