‘Can I help you?’ asked the sales clerk, for the second time in 2 hours. I had somehow spent two hours walking around my local Westfield trying to find a present for a family member that is notoriously hard to buy for.
Each and every year, as Christmas edges closer my anxiety heightens as I am forever stuck for ideas on buying gifts for them. I am loaded up with cash (by that I mean a good $75 in my pocket), ready to spend yet I tend to get a little stuck on what I should actually buy them.
Most people I know have everything they need, in that they buy things for themselves as and when they need them. As a money saver at heart, I do not subscribe to the mentality of just buying anything in order to have a gift to give – I want them to need it, want it and hopefully get use out of it.
This is what caused me to have an epiphany. It occurred to me that buying someone a terrible Britney Spears CD or Wizard of Oz Blu-ray was short-sighted and a materialistic gift isn’t necessarily always the right way.
This year I am going to give gifts that actually mean something.
Want to hear the best thing? These gifts will cost nothing. While some may immediately assume this is being cheap, it is actually the opposite. I am offering value man hours and skills instead of ‘things’ that will likely one day be of little use.
So with that said, here are some gifts that don’t cost anything money wise for your inspiration.
Offer to babysit for your friends and family
If your friends and family have little ones, why not offer to babysit for them while they go for a night out? As a new parent, this gift would not only excite me but actually may end in me kissing the gift-giver right on the mouth.
A night out is incredibly valuable to parents. It’s time they can spend together alone and would otherwise cost them an hourly rate with a stranger. Basically, you are saving them money, giving them alone time and helping them avoid the anxiety of having a stranger mind the kids.
A true win-win. Depending on how nice you are, you could even give a voucher book of multiple babysits!
Lend your personal time and skills
Do you have a special skill set? Perhaps you are an expert at making quilts that look amazing or you know how to make websites? If you have a skill set that is a valuable resource, why not offer it to your friends and family for free?
Offer them access to your specialist knowledge and give them a helping hand with something that you are good at. This could actually save them hundreds if not thousands of dollars. One year I did this with a family member and helped them make a blog which they had been meaning to start – had they of paid a web design firm to build it for them, it would have cost them well over $2,000 minimum.
Offer lessons in something
Similar to lending your personal time and skills, why not give someone lessons in something you are proficient in? It might be music, your understanding of business, picking nice wines – find something that your friend or family member will enjoy doing with you and plan to teach them about it.
It could be something as fun as teaching them to taste and appreciate wine (yeah right!) or perhaps agree to give them lessons in tennis or similar. The trick, however, is to deliver this in such a way as to make them realise the underlying value.
Write a few paragraphs to them in their card about why you appreciate the thing you are proficient in and how much you look forward to teaching them and bonding with them over the learning experience.
Gardening work for free
Are you good in the garden? Perhaps you wish to enslave your husband to your parent’s gardens for a few weekends as a Christmas present?
Gardening is hard work. Having a helping hand to get things done, move pots, plant flowers, mow lawns and rake up leaves can go a long way.
If you are trying to save money, why not offer to do the gardening for your friends and family? You could give them a ‘Backyard Blitz Special’ and offer to spend a day in the backyard getting it up to scratch. Make a day of it and really help them get organised.
A weeks worth of dinners
Whether you are a working family, a stay at home mum or a single parent household – cooking dinners is a pain in the arse.
It takes up time and costs a bomb.
Why not make 5 days worth of meals and give the gift of not cooking? It will save your friend or family member a weeks grocery shopping and a week worth of time in the kitchen.
As the giver of this gift, the trick is to make healthy and easy to reheat meals for your recipient that doesn’t break your purse strings. Think buying meat in bulk or preparing a bulk amount of a particular dish that can be frozen, imagine how handy 5 spaghetti bolognese would be when you are a busy family?
Home repairs for free
If you are particularly handy around the home, you can offer your trade services as a gift. Install shelves, mount the dryer on the wall, paint a room, set up IKEA furniture (if there is a hell, the person who invented flat pack furniture is definitely there).
Don’t underestimate how many people need help with home repairs. I forever have a list of tiny little things that add up to a fair bit of work and personally, I would love someone else to do them for me.
Do a combo offer
Perhaps you could offer to babysit your friend’s kids as a present, while your partner does minor home repairs? Make a day of it and do a ‘combo’. This is the ultimate gift. Kids babysat for a night while hubby or mum does home repairs such as cleaning, repairs, installation etc.
Loan something of value you have
Have an awesome beach house? Why not lend it to your friends and family for a getaway weekend. Perhaps you have a nice car – lend it for a weekend.
These are things that we can easily give to someone at no real cost to ourselves and yet allow someone else to get enjoyment.
Have a 4WD? Lend it to your family member and tell them to go camping or do something they otherwise wouldn’t.
Offer to walk the dog
We all love our four legged friends and most of us feel guilty about not walking them as much as we should. Give the gift of 5 days of after-hours dog walks. The dog is happy, you lose weight and once again – you give a gift that doesn’t cost anything.
The verdict on gifts that don’t cost anything?
The trick with free gift ideas like this is that you need to take the time to explain why the gift you are giving is actually better than a present. Re-educate friends and family to the importance of time = money concept and that you want to help them get ahead, not load them up with junk.
Still unsure of the power of giving manual labour and services as a free gift? Sites like AirTasker.com have literally become overnight sensations by people posting $20 jobs to move furniture and the like with hundreds of people offering to do the task for the cash. We all have so many things we need done and so little time.
So trust me, position this right and you may be able to knock a few birthdays presents or Christmas gifts off the to-do list this year. Your friends and family will love you for it.