Your Guide to Thoughtful, Low-Cost Holiday Gifts

By: Connor Davies ’14, Public and Community Health, CRS Communications Assistant

Gift giving can be a rewarding, positive experience than enhances are our sense of well-being.

giving thoughtfully

Dr. Ellen J. Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard, noted in an interview with NPR on the psychological benefits of gift giving that:

“The advantage of giving a gift is that when you decide to give somebody a gift, typically it means you are going to be thinking about them. You are going to be thinking about what they might like, what you can afford, and that making these decisions is empowering for the gift giver. When you give a gift, it makes you feel generous, it makes you feel in control, it’s good for your self-esteem and it’s good for the relationship, because you come to know the person even better.”

But, gift giving can also be stressful. Not only do gift giving holidays coincide with the stress of finals, but by the end of the semester many students are running low on funds.

However, with an open mind and some creativity there are many gifting options for the thoughtful student on a budget.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas for thoughtful, low-cost gifts.

Totally Free Gift Ideas

First things first, the totally free options …

  • A book from your bookshelf. Many people read a book once and then never open it again. Share that book that you loved so much with a small note about how much you enjoyed it and why it made you think of the recipient.
  • A DVD from your collection. Similar to the book idea above, you may truly love a movie, but ultimately be bored with it. Package it with a nice note and the promise of a movie night when you can spend quality time watching it together.
  • Share your Netflix/HBO Go password. Free, simple and very much appreciated. Just be secure about it. Make sure it’s not the same password you use for your e-mail and bank accounts.
  • Closet exchange. This could be a fun evening for a small group of friends. Everyone gathers together clothes they no longer want or that no longer fit and brings the items to a swap. A highly recommended activity with your fashion-forward friends.
  • Offer a special skill or service for free. Everyone has a special talent. If you are a great bartender or cook, provide that service at a party your gift recipient is planning to host. Maybe offer to babysit, fix something around the house or tackle a computer project for someone less tech savvy.

Gifts to Charities

Donating to charities in the name of a loved one or friend can be the perfect option for the person who already has everything and you can make the donation in any amount that fits your budget. Choose a cause or organization that is meaningful to the giftee.

Just Give is an online resource featuring a holiday gift guide and than can help you find a reputable charity for almost any interest and GiveNow Charity Gift Cards that allow your recipient to choose the charity.

Some charities have special options for “gifting”, like UNICEF‘s “inspired gifts” which features a tool to send a personalized postal card or eCard to a friend or loved one for the gift you make in their honor.

Gift Experiences

Sometimes the best gift you can give someone is time spent together.

  • Volunteer together. Take the lead on organizing a time for you and your gift recipient to volunteer for a local organization. If you are having a hard time finding a charity or cause to work with, Volunteer Match can help you narrow down your options by location and interest.
  • Workout together. Find a group fitness class that fits both of your schedules and make it happen! You never know, it could become a regular thing.  If group fitness isn’t your thing, try another type of activity like a bike ride or a climb on the MAP climbing wall when it opens back up for the spring.
  • Cook a meal together. Cooking together is a fun way to spend time together and results in a delicious meal you can enjoy over good conversation.
  • Learn a new skill together. Sign up for a class together to learn a new skill you can both practice in the future for more fun times. The Art & Learning Center in The Stamp Student Union offers classes in ceramics, watercolor, salsa dancing, photography and more.

DIY Gifts

Do-It-Yourself gifts are special for two reasons – 1) They can be perfectly personalized for the person you are gifting, and 2) You are not just giving an object, you are gifting the time and thoughtfulness you put in to creating it.

Share with us! What are some of your thoughtful, creative gift ideas?

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