Gift Ideas for Any Occasion for Little-to-No Money

Giving someone a gift is one of the simplest gestures a person can make to show love, friendship, appreciation, respect, or admiration. Aside from the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, there are so many other milestone moments that worthy of gift giving. From new jobs to weddings, graduations to homecomings—a lot of life is worth a gift.

Unfortunately, that giving spirit does come with a cost. The National Retail Federation says that the average American will spend over $1,000 during the end-of-year holiday season alone! Your list could include significant others, children, parents, grandparents, friends, nieces, nephews, godchildren, coworkers and more.

Fortunately, there are a lot of great gift ideas out there that cost little-to-no money at all. Some things you can make, while others are low-budget items that have big value. Regardless, it’s important to remember the old saying: it’s the thought that counts.

Things You Can Make
  1. A meal – You can drop it off or invite guests over, but this is one of the tried-and-true ways to show you care. It removes a chore from their daily lives, and the effort is always appreciated.
  2. A Jar of Cookies (or brownies, or cake, or whatever baked good you like!) – A mason jar filled with the ingredients to bake a sweet treat. Can’t go wrong here especially if it’s an old family recipe (make sure to ask about allergies, first!).
  3. T-Shirt Tote Bag – Love this. Take a T-shirt that has some meaning to it and follow these steps.
  4. Handwritten Letter or Drawing – More than a note, a full-on letter. Use the words to explain all the reasons the person is worthy to receive a gift and let that be the gift on its own.
  5. Mixtape or Personalized Playlist – Choose depending on what generation you and the recipient belong to and load up on songs that mean something between the two of you. It’s not just for boyfriends and girlfriends anymore.
  6. Memory Jar – Another mason jar project? Yep! But instead of sweets, this jar has little notes for times you’ve enjoyed with that person along the way. Drop in a note every week, every month or whenever the moment strikes you. Maybe add a box of tissues with this one.
  7. Bouquet of Wildflowers – You don’t need a store to find beautiful flowers! Do some hunting in a field or pull from your own garden to put together a truly unique assortment.
  8. Purse from Old Book – This crafty gift idea is as cute as it is sweet. Ideal for the avid reader on your list.
Things that Cost Time
  1. Outdoor Excursion – Carve out time for a hike, bike ride, kayaking, or a stroll through downtown. Pack some snacks, grab coffee, or whatever you need, but this is all about time spent, not money spent.
  2. Babysitting Service – When you can’t give a gift card for $100-plus so someone can go to dinner, offer to watch their kids so they can actually get there. Pet sitting and housesitting could also fall in this category.
Low-Cost Ideas
  1. Portable Bluetooth Speaker – Whether they listen to music or podcasts, these are super helpful and can go for less than $15.
  2. Coffee Mug or Water Bottle – Sometimes a fun phrase on an otherwise ordinary item says more than you’d think.
  3. Power Bank – How often do you wish you had one? OK, then.
  4. Phone Holder for Car – High-quality phone holders are inexpensive and super useful.
  5. Reusable Shopping Bags – Everyone needs these, so here’s your chance to give bags that fit their personality.
  6. Car Wash/Detail Gift Card – It’s not the most fun gift, but the gift of a clean car is easily appreciated.
  7. Succulents – Low cost for you and low maintenance for the person you give them to.
  8. Picture Frame – An old reliable gift idea that never disappoints. There are tons of creative spins on this, so put some time into it.
  9. Adult Coloring Books – From birds to bad words, there’s an adult coloring book that’ll help someone you care about feel like a kid again.