Doesn’t it seem like the older you get, the more stressful the holidays become? There are gift lists and shopping budgets and the mad rush to get everything done on time. Throw a global pandemic on top of it all, and 2020 may be the most stressful holiday season yet.
According to a recent holiday spending survey by Credit Karma, more than half of Americans feel more financially stressed about the holidays than they did last year. Of the 34% who feel financially unprepared for the holidays, 50% are worried about affording gifts. Fifty-nine percent of all respondents plan to alter their gift-giving practices this year.
If that includes you, you may be wondering how to show your love and gratitude this holiday season without spending much money. The good news is that the best gifts often can’t be bought in a store anyway. Here’s what you can give instead.
1. Write a letter.
In a world of text, email and DMs, the art of letter-writing is becoming lost. Yet anyone who’s received a heartfelt written note can tell you how special it made them feel.
As a particularly thoughtful gift, consider writing letters of gratitude to loved ones. Research has shown that expressing gratitude is linked to an increase in happiness for both the giver and receiver. Unfortunately, most of us do not always express our gratitude to the people in our lives, so this holiday season is a good opportunity to do so.
Not sure where to start? Try describing one or two specific examples of ways the person made you grateful and how they affected your life positively.
2. Create a scrapbook.
Turning shared memories into a tangible gift can be one of the most thoughtful ideas this holiday season. You can reminisce about when your children were little, relive an epic road trip or memorialize generations of family events in a scrapbook.
If you’re particularly creative, create a traditional scrapbook the old-fashioned way with physical prints and other materials. If you’d rather have your digital photos organized, use an online photo book service such as Walgreens, Shutterfly or Mixbook.
3. Make a video.
Most of us are feeling some degree of Zoom fatigue at this point in the pandemic, so the prospect of spending another holiday awkwardly chatting through the family computer might not be something to look forward to. However, we’re all still in need of human connection, especially around the holidays.
Take some of the pressure off and create a video that the recipient can view on their own time. Services such as VidDay allow you to collect videos and photos from various participants and then have them edited together. Encourage people to record heartfelt messages, list why they’re grateful for that person and tell funny stories for a memorable and touching gift.
4. Give the gift of your time.
Do you have a nifty skill you can teach? Are you a stellar tutor? Can you do grocery runs for someone who is immunocompromised? Now, more than ever, offering your time to help someone else can be the greatest gift. To add a creative touch, consider printing out a gift certificate or coupon for your service and delivering it with a card or note.
5. Transfer stock.
For a gift that will keep on giving over the years, consider giving a loved one shares of stock. You can actually gift existing stock that you own to someone else, according to Tiffany Welka, a financial advisor and accredited wealth management advisor at VFG Associates in Livonia, Michigan. The recipient benefits from any gains in the stock’s price. “Giving the gift of stock may also provide benefits for the giver, particularly if the stock has appreciated in value, since the giver can avoid paying taxes on those earnings or gains,” Welka said.
6. Get crafty.
When it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants janky macaroni art for Christmas. As long as you’re a somewhat talented crafter, consider making gifts this year.
Pam Merritt, crafts expert for Zulily, shared a few ideas:
Holiday decorative baskets: If you have random baskets stored around the house, repurpose one for a holiday gift. You can spraypaint it and then fill it with a rosemary tree, which makes a great gift for a neighbor, friend or teacher, Merritt said. You can also put things like blankets or throws in it, or make it functional and include face masks.
DIY ornaments: Merritt said a good craft kit should have everything you need for this project (though you may need to grab a pair of pliers from the toolbox). Plus, ornaments can be used in all sorts of ways, she added — yes, on a tree or wreath, but they can also look great on a wall or doorknob, or you can even make a few ornaments and put them on a bowl on a table.
Handmade cards: Sometimes a nice card is the best gift of all. Create unique cards using stickers, felt, homemade gift tags and even wrapping paper. “It’s a great activity to bring the family together and give a gift that shows how much you care,” Merritt said.
7. Donate to a charity in their name.
Many people are struggling this year due to the pandemic. Instead of exchanging gifts, try donating to a cause in someone else’s name instead. For a personal touch, choose a charity that matches their interests or beliefs. Is there an animal lover in your life? Donate to a shelter. Did your loved one lose someone to cancer? Donate to the American Cancer Society.
It may not be as fun as opening presents under the tree, but opting out of gift-giving to make a donation instead is one of the most selfless things you can do this holiday season. Plus, your money will go a lot further in the hands of someone who truly needs it.