7 Virtually Free Holiday Gift Ideas

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Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Christmas-regardless which holiday you celebrate, chances are there will be years when things get completely out of hand. Going into debt to shower each other with over the top gifts was never the intention of any of these celebrations. This year instead of pulling out your credit cards try on your thinking cap and get creative. Of course if you have small children who are expecting someone’s arrival on December 24th, entirely swapping the following suggestions in place of gift giving may be a bit extreme. However, including a few of these activities could slow down the materialistic madness that the holidays have become.

Virtual Gift Cards

For this activity, you could draw names or make one for each family member; it’s up to you. You can use cards or plain paper and envelopes. First, put the recipient’s name on the envelope and either print on the computer or write out the following by hand:

  • If money were no object and I could buy you anything, I would get you a:
  • If I could send you on a trip anywhere in the world, I would send you to:
  • If I had magic powers I would do this for you:

As you complete your gift card, think big and maybe explain your choices, Be sure to sign and date your card-these are fun to keep and read years later.  Seal the envelopes and exchange these “gifts” at an appropriate time.

Candy Free Advent Calendar

This year remove the predictable chocolate snowmen and peppermints from the Advent calendar and try something new. On small slips of paper give your kids directions for activities such as the following:

-If the North Pole is at the very top of The Arctic, find out which 3 cities are closet to it.

-Let’s go to the library and check out everyone’s favorite holiday movie.

-Make your teachers a holiday card.

-Cut out paper snowflakes for our windows.

-Paint a rock or shell with a holiday theme.

-Look through our cookbooks and choose one new cookie recipe. Make, bake and decorate some for a special friend or neighbor.

***You get the idea!

Find Your Inner Poet

Discuss haiku poetry’s Japanese roots and natural themes. Explain the simple haiku meter of 3 lines containing 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and the final 5-syllable line. Be sure and mention that it does not have to rhyme! This is a great activity for all ages and even the youngest kids enjoy counting the syllables as they figure out how to make the pattern work. As in activity #1 above-you can make these as gift cards or plaques complete with colorful artwork or crafty embellishments.

Instead of gathering around the flat screen, sometime during the holidays set aside a “Performance Night”. Family members of all ages should be able to participate by singing, dancing, playing an instrument, reading a poem, telling a joke or story. Even the surliest teenagers may find themselves enjoying this one!


Simple to do and it makes you feel good to help others. Think beyond the usual soup kitchen setting and look for opportunities such as assembling bicycles, and packing toys that have been donated to churches and the Salvation Army.

Go Global

Sometimes it’s fun to break from tradition and try something completely new. For this activity family members can go solo or pair up. The idea is to choose an unfamiliar country and learn a bit about its holidays and customs. You may draw from a hat or assign the countries to each individual or group. Culminate with a dinner featuring foods, music, and games from the chosen country.

Give the Gift of Time

Hopefully if you try some of these ideas you will spend less time shopping and have some of that all too precious commodity left over. Reflect on the special talents you possess and then share them with your friends and family members. Giving your time to someone that you care about can be as simple as teaching them how to sew on a button, check the oil or tire pressure in their car, shoveling their driveway, or sharing your computer skills. For kids, just giving them your undivided attention for an activity of their choosing is always a sure winner.

With these 7 suggestions please keep in mind that to be successful, you must spend a little time in the planning stages. Be aware that your inner circle may be resistant to making any changes to their usual holiday routine, and it may be better to choose 1 or 2 to start with and see how it goes. The hope is that in the end, everyone will realize that intangible gifts are the most precious!


Lisa is a cost-cutting, money-saving, life-simplifying guru, ready to share her secrets and the tricks up her sleeve. As a mother to a teenager and a twenty-something, avid surfer, and world traveler, Lisa knows how to live the good life on a budget. She covers topics that help us let go of wasteful and costly habits, and embrace those that do our wallets, our bodies, our families, and our planet some good!

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