This post has been updated, it was originally published in 2015.
This list of thoughtful, but FREE Christmas gift ideas is proof that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on the people you gift to if you use your time, resources, and creativity.
Whether you’re trying to save money or just limit the amount of stuff in your life, it doesn’t make it cheap to gift your friends and family ideas from this list. They will appreciate the thoughtfulness and might also be looking to reduce the sheer amount of unnecessary stuff that comes into their homes during the holidays.
These ideas are gifts of time, creativity, and skills. Browse the entire list and let us know in the comments which ideas you’re going to give and what free gift ideas you have.
30 Free (but Thoughtful) Christmas Gift Ideas:
1. Give a Photo Session
Are you a skilled photographer? Not everyone is and professional sessions don’t always fit into people’s budgets. If you have the knack for your DSLR, a photo session would be a perfect idea for new parents, soon-to-be high school or college graduates, or a family portrait.
2. Give your Gift of Organization
Do your friends and family call you the most organized person EVER? If so, give the gift of organizing a closet (or 2), kitchen cupboards, a basement, garage, etc.
3. Give your Perennials
Are you a gardener? Do you have beautiful perennials in your garden? Design a coupon for the gift of perennials. When spring rolls around, plant the perennials for the recipient and this gift will bloom for years to come.
4. Cooking Lessons
Are you an amazing home cook? Pick a theme, such as cooking basics 101, family recipes, bread baking, or preserving /canning. Offer these cooking lessons and send the food home with the recipient. This is a perfect gift for the newly married couple or a college graduate leaving the nest on your list.
6. Family Heirlooms
This sweet little candy dish was a gift from my grandmother. I realize not everyone has family heirlooms to give away, but my grandmother was downsizing and gifted her grandchildren pieces from her Fostoria Glass collection that were my grandparents’ wedding gifts back in 1945.
If you have collectibles or heirlooms that are just sitting in a closet, think about gifting them to someone in your family who would appreciate their sentimental value.
7. Homemade Crafts
If you’re crafty or artistic, this is your chance to shine. Maybe you are a crafter/knitter/crocheter with a stash of supplies. Make scarves, mittens, socks, or Christmas ornaments. My great-grandmother made a lot of her gifts. I still treasure this ornament that she gave me one Christmas when I was a child.
Are you good at calligraphy? As our wedding gift, my cousin wrote the addresses on our 150 wedding invitations (years ago). My handwriting is atrocious and to professionally print all of those addresses would have been costly. My husband and I really appreciated that gift.
What is your artistic talent? Gift it!
8. Baked Goods
Are you good at baking pies? Or are cookies your thing? My aunt gifts her nieces and nephews with loaves of homemade cinnamon bread every Christmas. We all look forward to the bread every year.
I can almost taste the toasted cinnamon bread slathered with butter now.
9. Ready Made Freezer Meals
If your freezer is packed with ready-made meals that just need to be heated up, this would be an awesome gift for anybody, especially any college students or seniors on your list. There’s nothing better than a homemade meal that only needs to be heated up.
10. Create a Family Favorites Recipe Booklet
If your family has a lot of favorite recipes that have been passed down from previous generations, make a recipe booklet. If you have recipe cards with the family member’s handwriting, make copies. I treasure my recipe cards that were handwritten by my grandmother.
11. Garden Harvest
Are you a gardener? Do you have a freezer or pantry full of this past summer’s garden harvest? What a delicious gift of food!
12. Host a Homemade Meal
When my grandparents were living, we gave the gift of a home-cooked meal to my grandparents. They really didn’t need or want anything. The gift my grandparents really wanted was to spend time with my family and we enjoyed spending time with them.
This is a great idea for seniors, friends who don’t have family nearby, college students, or just about anyone on your list.
13. Private Lessons
What are your hobbies and/or skills? Consider offering lessons on those skills as a gift to your friends or family members that might be interested. Some ideas:
- Do you play an instrument? Teach lessons to a friend or family member that might be interested.
- Are you really good at a sport? Give the gift of lessons.
- Are you a knitter, or crafter or do you know how to use a sewing machine? Gift the gift of lessons.
14. Hike & Picnic Outing
Plan a day hike & picnic outing. We have been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather this month by hitting the hiking trails. This is a great gift of time idea for the family member that is so hard to buy for but would really enjoy a day with you and your family. Pack lunch and/or yummy snacks and water bottles, and hit the trails for a day of fresh air and exercise.
15. Host a movie night
Borrow a new(er) movie from the library or find a good movie on your cable/subscription account. Make popcorn, serve hot chocolate, and bake a favorite dessert for a fun evening.
16. Host a game night
Invite your friends or family over for a fun night of games and treats. We have played board games, card games, and interactive video games, such as Wipe-Out and Dance Off with friends and family. Serve your favorite snacks and desserts.
Do you know how much babysitting costs? About $10 an hour. Fortunately, my parents live nearby and my mom never charged us (whew–thanks, mom), but we have close friends who don’t have family nearby and would LOVE a gift of free babysitting. If you have friends or family who could use a date night, babysitting services would make a fantastic gift.
18. Pet Sitting
For friends with pets, maybe they could use pet sitting when they go out of town. The cost of the kennel where we take our dog is about $20 a day. If you have friends or family who have pets, petsitting services would make a fantastic gift.
19. Snow Removal
Thankfully, we have a snow blower, but for some people, snow removal is difficult or even dangerous because of age or physical ability. This is a great idea for any seniors on your list who might live alone or anyone without a snow blower.
20. Hair Cuts
I realize that not everybody is skilled enough to give haircuts–I’m certainly not–but there are people who are very capable and good at it. My sister-in-law is a former hair stylist and has given cuts to family members.
If this is your skill, gift it!
5. Wall Art
If you have a printer and some unused frames, print some FREE wall art that I found on Pinterest. You could also use favorite pictures from the year.
21. Errand Services
For the people on your list that might rely on public transportation or have unreliable transportation, consider offering to run their errands or chauffeur them for their errands for an afternoon or two.
22. Laundry Service or Use of Your Laundry Room
Offer to do laundry or the use of your laundry room to the person on your list that has to rely on a laundromat.
23. Handyman Services
Are you a handy person? Offer your services by the hour or an afternoon to help with easy fixes & repairs.
24. Cleaning Services
If you are a…
neat freak…neat person who loves to clean, offer home cleaning services. Gift them a certain number of weeks of home cleaning. Some other cleaning ideas: window washing or car washing.
25. Oil Change
Do you know how to change the oil in a car? Offer oil change services.
26. Yard Work
Give an afternoon (or two) of yard work. Some ideas to include:
- lawn mowing
- clean gutters
- weed flower beds
27. Online lessons
This idea came to me when my retired neighbor called me and asked if I could come over and help her with a Craigslist posting. We live in a tech age and a lot of seniors could use some lessons to keep up.
Yes, I said it. And I got the idea from my daughter’s Girl Scout troop Christmas party. Each girl was to bring an old, but a usable toy or a handmade item. My girls were in no mood to go through their stuff to decide what they could part with and at the last minute, I needed to think fast.
As I was poking around my house for ideas, I found a bunch of unused, but new items for the girls to pick from. These were all things that were given to us as gifts or bought on clearance. I found several boxes of brand new Crayola crayons and markers (bought cheap in September), two unopened boxes of Christmas stationery, unopened packages of Post-its, new Christmas hand towels, scented hand wash, and scented candles. All of this stuff was sitting in a closet for months or years, completely forgotten about.
My point: Scour your house for new & unused items.
29. Gift your stockpile
I keep a moderate stockpile of food and cleaning supplies. If you do too, make a themed gift bag of unused products:
- Ingredients for dinner: pasta, sauce, and that bottle of wine you haven’t opened.
- Cleaning supplies for someone who just moved or bought their first house.
- Baking supplies for homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies.
And finally, #30: Make a coupon book
Using several of the above list of ideas, make a coupon book for the recipient to use at their leisure.
You don’t need to break the budget this Christmas, instead give your time, resources, and talents. What are your favorite FREE (but Thoughtful) gift ideas? Let us know in the comments.