Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 1:41 PM EDT
NEW: 10 More Great Christmas Gifts That Won't Cost You a Dime!
Are you long on Christmas shopping lists but short on cash? Last week I wrote about how you could save a sleigh-full of money this holiday season, but for some that just wasn't enough. "Save money?" they sneered, "What if we don't have any money?" Fair enough. You may have to use some of your other 8 hours, but it's better than going into debt buying a bunch of gifts for others. And you don't want to follow George Costanza's lead by making donations in your friends' names to the Human Fund.
Of course, I could cop out and simply tell you to rise above the commercialization of the holiday and to simply love one another (although that wouldn't be bad advice), but it's hard to gift wrap pretension. Instead, I'm going to show you how to give real gifts without spending a dime.
Here are 10 low cost FREE gifts you can give your loved ones this year without breaking too many laws:
- Gadget training. If you have less tech-savvy people on your Christmas list (i.e., anyone over the age of 15), give them something they desperately need -- training for their gadgets. Show them all of the features of their cell phone, how to record their favorite shows on their DVR, etc.
- Babysit. When your tolerance for screaming kids exceeds your bank account balance, consider giving babysitting "coupons" that your friends can redeem. If you're a masochist, schedule a night where multiple families drop the kids off at your house. This way you're not giving up so much of your time.
- Swap services. If you have smart but broke friends, this tip is for you. Have a friend who provides a valuable service such as personal training, financial planning, or computer consulting give you several one hour vouchers you can give to your friends. In return, you give your friend the same number of one hour vouchers for whatever service you provide.
- Teach them. Now's your chance to be a know-it-all. Do you have a special skill such as speaking a foreign language or the ability to play an instrument? If so, you could provide weekly lessons for a month or six weeks. Bonus benefit: If you're a good teacher, they may just want to hire you at the end of their free lessons.
- Start a book club. Tap into your inner Oprah. Offer to host a book club at your house every month. To avoid having to buy the books each month, download from thousands of free titles such as Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, and Moby Dick from Project Gutenberg or Amazon's free eBook program.
- iTunes transfer. Nothing like the gift of piracy! This can take some time, but for that special person, this is the ultimate gift! Import all of their CDs into iTunes for them (no, it's not piracy).
- Be a host. Be the host with the most when you're the host with the least (cash, that is). This is an efficient gift because you can give it to all of the people on your list. Offer to host a monthly or quarterly party or game night at your place. Tell them you'll plan it, send the invites, etc. To make sure you're not spending money, require attendees to bring food and drink.
- Share lottery winnings. If your idea of asset allocation revolves around having a mix of scratchers and Powerball lottery tickets, consider sharing one of the lottery tickets you've already purchased with those on your list. If you win, share the proceeds equally with everyone on your list. If you win really big, simply keep it all and get new friends.
- Cook. Who doesn't love being served by a friend? Give those on your list the experience of eating out at home. Shop for the groceries (they pay), prepare and serve the meal, and then be sure to clean up. You might even get a free meal out of it.
- Workout partner. They may both thank and curse you for this gift! Offer to be a workout partner to a friend. When you exercise with others you are more inclined to keep going even if you lose motivation. It's a superb gift that will also benefit you.
Whatever you decide, you don't have to feel guilty about not spending money -- I guarantee you that the less money you spend the more thought you'll put into the gift. And isn't that what Christmas is all about? Woops, I guess not...
Now it's your turn . . . what's your favorite FREE holiday gift you like to give?
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