Home > Uncategorized > 6 Low-Cost (or Free!) Gifts People Will Actually Like

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


The season of giving is upon us, and it’s incredibly easy to overspend because we want people we love to know they really matter to us. Yes, it’s “the thought that counts,” and we teach our kids to say thank you, no matter how odd the unwanted the gift. But deep down, most of us give partly because of the pleasure we get from pleasing somebody else. We don’t want recipients to understand that we are being responsible; we want them to be delighted.

Let’s face it: Often we’re just one Hallmark commercial away from deciding that getting out of debt isn’t nearly as important as watching a loved one’s eyes light up with pleasure.

And so we scoured the Internet and asked friends about gifts that are cost-free, or close to it, and are likely to be treasured — and better than a homemade coupon that will most likely get lost. These gifts won’t get your debt-repayment plan off track (if you need a motivating reminder of just how much debt can cost in a lifetime, this calculator can tell you) — but they will allow you to give something of value. Your wallet will thank you, but more importantly, so will your recipient.

1. A Play Date

For this one, you find a free kids’ activity (or plan one of your own) for the recipient’s children. You set a date and a time. The recipient is free to ask you to change it, but unless they do, you are committed to that time slot. You may be taking their kids to a museum, to the playground or baking cookies with them at your house. But their harried parents get some time off. And they can schedule it and count on it.

2. A Mix Tape (or CD or Digital Playlist)

How do you know your recipient? If they were in high school band with you, be sure you include something from that era that makes you both laugh. At a family reunion this past summer, my sister pulled out a Carpenters’ Best Hits CD she bought for me. (Yes, I’ll confess it was one of the first albums I bought.) We were both in tears by the time we were singing “Ticket to Ride” out loud — we were laughing so hard. And torturing our kids with our music was half the fun. If there’s a song that reminds you of your relationship, choose that. Otherwise, go with songs you know the recipient will like. Or pick a theme and find songs that work with it.

3. The Benefit of Your Expertise

Do you have a friend or relative who admires your fashion sense and has asked for your advice? Show that person how to wear those new Christmas clothes, down to scarves, jewelry, shoes and accessories. Check closets for clothing that needs to be deleted from the recipient’s wardrobe, and those that deserve more wearing time. Choose outfits and photograph them for your recipient. No more guessing (wrong) about what looks good with what.

Fashion not your thing? Maybe you are a natural for a few hours of Web consulting. Or maybe your friend really needs a photo that looks more professional than the selfie you saw he posted on LinkedIn, and you have the time and expertise to take one. (Again, set a date and time, and be committed to following through.)

4. Photos — Organized

Mobile devices have made it so we need never miss a photo op, but we still can’t seem to find time to organize all those images. If there are boxes of photos, you could organize those (you may even find a photo album that has been started but has lots of room left among old photos). Identify everyone you can. Chances are good your recipient can supply some names, dates or occasions that you could not. Going through the pictures with them, and adding the information they recall is part of what makes this gift memorable. Digital photos can be organized into albums, virtual or physical. And remember, some recipients will appreciate a gift they can hold or display.

5. A Resolution Buddy

You know what makes a New Year’s resolution easier to keep? Someone to keep you accountable — and to encourage you and remind you of why all this effort will be worth it. Your daily check-ins and support will help. (And bonus: Your friend will probably be willing to return the favor when you check in, so this can also be self-gifting.) One of my friends and I have committed to doing yoga at least twice a week and reporting to the other. Knowing she’s waiting to hear from me, I’m motivated to squeeze it in.

6. Returns Genie

You know how much you hate standing in line to return the gifts that didn’t work, didn’t fit or were duplicates? So does everybody else. And how happy would you be if someone pretty much insisted on doing it for you … as their gift?

What’s your favorite free or low-cost holiday gift? Share your memories or suggestions with us below.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: shironosov

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team