The holidays are meant to be a magical time filled with family and love. Unfortunately, we live in a consumer-driven society that places too much emphasis on shopping until we drop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying gifts if it’s something you enjoy doing and have the financial means to do so. It becomes a problem when the only reason you’re buying is that you feel pressured to meet expectations. This is when the holidays become extremely stressful for people. You begin to feel the stress and pressure of buying the perfect gift which causes you to feel guilty if you don’t succeed.
Sometimes we forget how much value we can add to the lives of others by doing things that cost us nothing but our time. The added perk is that you will be spending time with the people you care about instead of money. No one gets to the end of their life and regrets not getting a loved one a pricey gift. What they do regret is not spending enough time together. In the spirit of keeping the focus on what the holidays are all about, below is a list of eight things you can give the people in your life for free. These gifts may be free, but you’ll find they are priceless in value.
Here are eight gifts to give for free this holiday season:
1. Quality Time. We all want more of this in our lives. This year we sent out questionnaires at work for our Secret Santa gift exchange. The purpose was to create a list of ideas so the Secret Santa could purchase a desired gift. We asked, “What is one thing you never seem to have enough of?” Guess what everyone answered? Time. Quality time means not looking at your phone while you’re spending time with people. It means paying attention and asking follow-up questions to ensure you’ve understood them. It means showing up when you know it’s important even if it’s something you’d rather not be doing.
2. A Listening Ear. Sometimes we all need to vent. We aren’t looking for advice or a quick fix, we simply want to feel heard. The best gift you can give someone other than quality time is active listening. Let them know you are hearing them and that they matter to you. I will forever cherish the people in my life who’ve helped me through difficult times simply by listening. Sometimes people can feel like their entire world is collapsing around them until they talk to someone who reminds them they are going to be okay.
3. Positivity. When you really start paying attention to how much of your day is consumed by negativity, it becomes overwhelming. You can wake up with the best attitude and have it ruined within an hour. Angry people honking during the morning commute. Coworkers complaining about the work they have to do. Do I even need to mention news and social media? Yikes! You can be the change! Try injecting a positive comment for every negative one that comes your way. Try pointing out the greatness in something, when everyone else is pointing out the flaw. It can be tough to remain positive in an increasingly polarized world, which is exactly why committing to being positive is a gift to everyone around you.
4. Acts Of Kindness. There are so many opportunities to be kind throughout each day. I’m talking overly simplistic things like holding the door for someone you see coming behind you. Picking up trash you see on the ground instead of leaving it for the janitor. Letting someone merge into traffic to avoid creating a backup. Helping a flustered mom by talking to her children while she tries to dig out her wallet or keys. Simple things requiring basically zero effort can make the life of another so much easier. Your simple act could be the only break they get all day.
5. Cleaning And Errands Help. Offer to clean someone’s home for them! What an amazing gift this would be, right? I have two friends who will always offer to fold my laundry when they come over, simply because they know how much I dislike doing it. The simple act of offering to help takes one thing off my to-do list. I appreciate it more than they know.
Speaking of knocking things off your to-do list, do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done? Sometimes I wish I could blink my eyes and a magical errand genie would appear. Give this gift to someone you love! Offer to run errands for them. It’ll be one less thing they have to worry about during the hectic holiday season.
6. Responsibility Free Time. This gift will be mostly appreciated by the busy parents in your life. Offer to babysit so they can finish up holiday shopping or enjoy a kid free night out. Maybe you know someone caring for an elderly family member. Offer to visit in their absence one day or bring a hot meal to their loved one. Caregivers especially need “me time” in order to remain at their physical and mental best. Take something off their plate so they can enjoy their own downtime.
7. Free Events. Check out local events that are free. This is a great way to spend time with loved ones without breaking the bank. The holidays leave most of us strapped for cash, so look for entertainment options that won’t cost you a penny! It’s not necessarily what you’re doing, but who you’re doing it with that matters.
8. Volunteering. Acts of service always make you feel better about your own problems. Volunteering truly helps put your own life in perspective and it’s especially rewarding during the holiday season. Volunteering can be done alone or with loved ones. There are always opportunities to volunteer your time to be of service to others. Google issues you care about and I’m sure you will find a variety of resources close to home.
These are a few ideas to get you started. As you think through different people in your life, you will come up with your own ideas. Get creative with it and have fun! You’ll find offering to help others to be far more rewarding than any gift you could ever buy. This time of year is only as stressful as you make it. Allow yourself to enjoy the holidays and you’ll find yourself refreshed for the New Year.