Unless you have unlimited financial resources and creative inspiration—or in other words, you’re the next incarnation of Oprah—finding a thoughtful gift for everyone on your list can be super stressful. Holiday gift-giving is a minefield of considerations: How much do I spend? What do they need? Who has time for this?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task, take a step back and remind yourself that you don’t need to brave a sea of shoppers in order to find the perfect gift. A thoughtful gift of your time is a great way to honor and connect with your friends and family. Time is a precious commodity and really can be so meaningful. Be creative and customize these ideas—ideas that are full of love but won’t break the bank—to fit the people in your life.

Acts of Kindness

Tell your family how thankful you are to have them in your life, what you love about them, or remind them of some funny memories. You can do this through a scrapbook of photos, or by presenting them with framed, handwritten letter. You could also become a supporter of your friend’s charity organization of choice by registering for a 5k, or committing to monthly donations for a year. These are often the types of gifts that people remember forever—and you will too.

Share Experiences

A thoughtful experience doesn’t have to involve tickets to an expensive concert or a cooking class from a 5-star chef. Make a post-holiday plan—because you’ll need some fun in February—that you and your friend or partner can enjoy together. Take a free brewery tour and share a beer flight, enjoy an open mic night at a comedy club, or go for a hike together. You could also spend the day volunteering together: surround yourself with puppies at a humane society, or join a beach clean-up on a gorgeous day and bring a picnic basket full of snacks.

Personal Giftcards

Lean into your talents and share them! Are you super organized? Spend the day helping your friend figure out the mess that is her closet. Computer programming whiz? Spend three hours helping your little sister set up her blog. Create a fun IOU that your loved ones can “cash in” for the gift.

Make Them Dinner

Treating someone to a dinner out can get expensive, but treating someone to an equally luxe home-cooked meal can be a real pleasure. Indulge your friend by splurging on a nice bottle wine, a bag of fancy groceries, and bust out the candles you’ve been saving for a special occasion. You’ll be spending quality time with your friend while cooking their favorite meal—and of course, cleaning up afterward. If cooking really isn’t your strong suit, don’t hesitate to order take-out from a low-key restaurant that neither of you have tried before… but supplement it with a bottle of champagne!


Ashley Feinstein Gerstley is a money coach and founder of the Fiscal Femme where she demystifies the world of money and personal finance. Get her exclusive how-to guide “30 Days to Financial Bliss“ – free for GoGirl Finance readers.