Five No-Cost Gifts to Give

Gifts don’t need to be things you can wrap. In fact, some of the best gifts aren’t things at all. Here are five things that you can give this holiday season that will mean a lot and cost nothing–but a little time and effort on your part.


Make a list of people you know who are grieving a loss this holiday season–particularly those who are experiencing a first holiday without someone they love. Over the course of December, reach out to let them to know you are thinking of them and share a good memory you have of the person they are missing. We often make the mistake of thinking people don’t want to be reminded of those they’ve lost, but it’s not like they’ve forgotten. Knowing that you remember their person is one of the best gifts you can give this holiday.


Contact a favorite teacher and let them know not only that you appreciate them, but let them know how you’re doing and how what they taught you has served you well in life. Can’t really give a better teacher gift than that. (Bonus: it works for pastors/youth directors and Christian ed folks, too.) A handwritten letter is a great way to communicate this. A little out of practice? Here’s a primer on how to write one.


If you receive good customer service this holiday season, head to social media, tag the business and call out the person who provided the service. Or head to the company/store/office website and use the contact link to let them know what a good job Sue/Bob/Kris did. If you don’t remember a name, check your receipt or note the store and the time and date in your message. These callouts and compliments are taken into consideration when it’s time for pay raises and promotions, so it can really had a positive impact on a person’s life. It’s a gift you can give this holiday and beyond.


I can’t believe I need to say this, but I do, so please don’t be offended. This holiday season, do not donate your broken, torn, worn-out or dirty stuff to charity. They do not have the time, resources or money to mend, clean and repair items that are not in good shape. In fact, you will cause more problems than you solve when you make non-profit volunteers and personnel sift through stuff they and their clients cannot use. Give the gift of time and freedom from ick to those laboring to help the least of these this holiday season.


Pick up your phone and make an actual call to someone you care about but have lost touch with. COVID has taken all of us out of our regular life cycles and rhythms, so we’ve all fallen out of touch with someone. Use this holiday season to reconnect–even if only by phone (or Facetime). It’s a gift of you and for you. You’ll be glad you did.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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