Get Organized to Give (Free) Gifts from the Heart

Although your thirteen year old may try to convince you otherwise, money, and its Christmas corollary – more presents, doesn’t buy happiness. In fact, when looked at optimistically, having less money to spend on all your gifts is actually a blessing. Why? Well, for one, it forces you to get creative. Another reason: it has a tendency to shift the focus away from ‘things’ and instead turn it to sharing time, memories and creating new experiences. Those are things that you can’t possibly put a price tag on, and frankly are what everyone remembers decades later anyway. So give a priceless gift or two, literally, to the people you love this year. To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve put together a list of twelve low-cost and cost-free options for spreading the true Holiday spirit with your friends and family.

1. Organize an Evening of Caroling.

Whether you bundle up and go door-to-door, or host an evening of songs at your home, singing carols is a wonderful way to share the holiday spirit with others. Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten the lyrics, you can find them easily online and print them out so others can follow. Don’t forget the hot chocolate!

2. Give Some Homemade Coupons.

This is really the ultimate custom gift. You can make coupons to for walking the dog, doing the dishes, giving a massage after a tough day, playing a marathon session of freeze tag, splashing in puddles, or giving them an extra hour in bed. So put your thinking cap on, grab some construction paper, scissors, and markers and create a set of unique coupons – you can’t go wrong. If you’re stumped, you can buy some pre-made ones from Buttoned Up for less than $5 here..

3. Button Up a Photo Album.

In this era of digital photos, organizing a beautiful, meaningful album has never been easier. Go online to a site like or use your iPhoto program to create a layout digitally, send to print and have it delivered to your doorstep. Alternatively, pick up those photos currently without a home and put them in an inexpensive album. One very inexpensive way to make an album is to buy the inexpensive filler leaves for a three ring photo album. Create ‘rings’ from ribbon and a title page from magazine cutouts.

4. Plan & Create a Wish Book.

A wish book is a place to put all of your wishes for another person, big or small, for the coming year. For example, you may wish that they meet exciting new friends, laugh so hard they get tears in their eyes, become a master bowler, or get the chance to stroll the beach at sunset. Illustrate each wish page yourself, or make collages from magazine cutouts. Kolo ( has some great mini and matchbook-sized paper albums for $10 or less that are the perfect canvas for your wishes.

5. Make and Share a Book About “Me” for Your Little Ones.

When you’re little, a whole book about you and your life is incredibly special and something worth poring over again and again. Include pages about the day they were born, their family, their friends, their favorite things, as well as a page or two about those unique things everybody else loves so much about them. Use pictures, make collages, draw and paint to bring their story to life. This can be done in a paper photo or scrapbook album or simply by using plain paper sandwiched between construction paper covers. If you do the latter, hole punch the

6. Celebrate with a Movie Marathon.

Make some popcorn, cozy up on the couch, and watch two or three movies in a row that celebrate the holiday season together as a family. Great ones include: The Polar Express, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually, Home Alone, and Miracle on 34th Street.

7. Organize a Game of Charades.

There’s nothing like a game of charades to bring out the goofball in every member of the family. There’s something magic about watching grandma acting out “Ghostbusters” and seeing her eyes light up when someone finally gets it a half an hour later! If you have more than four people, you’ve got a large enough group to divide into teams. Five words: Let Loose And Have Fun!

8. Organize a ‘Freecycling’ Event with Good Friends.

We have all probably accumulated more than we really needed over the past few years. Why not band together with some good friends and make a list of items each family has that are usable but unused or unwanted. Instead of hoarding them, or disposing of them in a landfill, swap them. This is especially great for parents with younger children. A toy that is different is as good as new!

9. Make a Special CD Mix.

Music is the soundtrack to our lives. Now that so many people have their music stored digitally on MP3 players, it’s incredibly easy to put together a mix for someone special and burn it to a CD for them. Sometimes picking a theme, such as ‘resilience’ or ‘relax’ makes it easier to select the songs and create the cover art. Designing the cover art for your CD case is a cinch with Memorex CD Jewel Case inserts.

10. Bake Something.

Chocolate chip cookies, rugelach, fruitcake…sweets for your sweet are always appreciated. complicated or simple, a gift from your kitchen is a gift from the heart.

11. Volunteer Together.

Make the rounds at a nursing home and bring along balloons or some baked goods to hand out to residents. Help prepare and serve meals at a local soup kitchen. Bring balloons and some Curious George books to the children’s ward of a local hospital. Whatever you do to give of yourself, you will get back ten times in joy and gratitude.

12. Read Capote’s A Christmas Memory Aloud.

Start a new tradition by reading Truman Capote’s timeless short story aloud to the whole family. Have each member of the family take a turn reading a section of this autobiographical story of seven-year-old Buddy and his aging cousin Sook. You’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for the things that really matter.