Money is really tight for a lot of people - especially around the holidays. Gift-giving doesn't have to be about shelling out the dough for knick-knacks... it doesn't even have to be about homemade cookies or handmade bracelets.
Gift-giving can be completely expense-free - if you put a little thought into it. If you think about it, that's really what the holidays are supposed to be about anyway - putting some time into the ones we care about.
Gift idea 1: use your skills
Use your own special skills to do something nice for someone. Make a great cup of coffee with your french press - invite them over for conversation. Give a great manicure; organize their closet with them; do their makeup for a holiday party; offer to hem their skirts or mend their pants; anything that you do well that would be of use or enjoyed by someone else? Offer up those services readily.
Gift idea 2: a massage
This idea might be a little cliche, but don't underestimate the power of human touch. Everyone gets a little tense from time to time - a close friend or partner might really enjoy a relaxing hour of massage. Here is a list of different massage techniques to learn on your own.
Gift idea 3: movie or book night with the kids
Kids really just want our attention. Maybe you spend some time cuddling with the kids each day, but is it 100% uninterrupted time? No iPhones, no texting, no laptops, no Facebook, no tweeting - NO interruptions!
Get a cozy blanket and cuddle up with the kids. Watch a movie from your collection, on TV or on Netflix. OR: get a good book - perhaps one of your favorites from when you were a kid. I know I want to read the Little House series to my girls. Spending some quality time with your kids - giving them your un-divided attention - that will be a gift they will not forget.
Gift idea 4: handwritten holiday cards
How often do we really express our true thoughts and feelings to loved ones? Sometimes it feels like we're staying in touch, between Facebook likes and Instagram comments, but how authentic do relationships feel over time if that's the depth of communication?
Take any kind of paper you have. Use any type of markers, pens, pencils, paints, etc. that you have to write a simple message on the front cover: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, etc.
On the inside, take some time to write an honest message to that person. Thank them for the kind things they've done this year. Compliment them, congratulate them on this year's achievements. Tell them how much you care about them. Hand it to them in person, if possible. Caring and thoughtfulness is as great a gift as any.
Gift idea 5: create a musical playlist
Use your favorite free music platform to create a playlist: YouTube and MySpace are some examples. Think of the recipients favorite bands and tunes. Think about memories with this person, and songs that mean something to both of you. Make the playlist at least 40 minutes long, and put their name in the title. Email them the link, or post it on their Facebook wall. Leave the playlist up so they can always listen to it, when they miss you, or just need a little boost in spirits.
Not sure how to make a playlist on YouTube? Click on a video on YouTube.com. If you want to add it to your list, just click add. A list of your current playlists (if any) will drop down. Click to create a new playlist, name it accordingly, and select it to add the video. For the next videos, select the playlist you just created to add the videos to. Send the recipient the link to the entire playlist.