We’re all feeling the pinch. Whether you’re job searching or just unsure what the future holds, saving a few bucks here and there is very welcome these days. I like to advocate for recognizing folks with gifts, but those gifts don’t have to break the bank. These strange times have prompted me to think creatively and find a few zero-cost options to consider.
The obvious zero-cost gift is one of the precious masterpieces that your little ones churn out. Let’s face it, that archival box has more than a couple of pieces you could part with. Digitizing and emailing pictures is super easy. But with just a little more effort, mounting them on some recycled cardstock (even a cereal or pizza box) produces something tangible.
Photos are another no-brainer, either of your kids or an image they took themselves. A photo doesn’t have to be another ubiquitous pretty shot, either. We’ve created Warhol-esque pop art, coloring black and white selfies with neon markers. Adding some sparkle with Photoshop Express provides enough magic to satisfy aspiring wizards and princesses.
Similarly, video can be used to recognize special occasions. With the Stop Motion app (free), we’ve pulled together still images and set them to music, allowing unicorns to frolic and magnetic letters to spell out messages of hope. Clips (also free) is another one we’ve been experimenting with. The fun backgrounds and effects (such as Star Wars scenery or a sketched appearance) really add a wow factor.
Maybe this is the year you actually watered those tomato plants regularly and were rewarded with a good yield – enough to share. Or perhaps you nurtured a beautiful flower garden and know a couple of stems would cheer up a friend. Tied with some ribbon, homegrown items always make touching gifts, now more so than ever.
Of course, gifts can simply take the form of a kind action. An offer of help is often better appreciated than more stuff. By giving your time you’re showing just how much your fellow citizens mean to you. The whole family can work together to tidy up a neighbor’s front yard or offer to run an errand.
Alternately you might decide to add some fence décor to mark a birthday, using banners and decorations you already own. Likewise, making a sidewalk chalk drawing is another wonderful way to spread some cheer, and makes for a lovely surprise – no occasion necessary.
Don’t overlook a simple letter or notecard, either. We often neglect to put pen to paper, and yet it really shows thought and effort. Producing the card yourself adds an extra special touch and can be rewarding for the creator as well as the recipient. Try using pressed flowers or fashioning collages with old magazines.
We recently commissioned a poet to create a unique piece for an engagement celebration. Poetry has long been something bestowed by an author upon someone esteemed. While we’re not all practiced at prose, developing your own haiku (3 lines totaling 17 syllables) or nonet (one to Google) can make for interesting dinner conversation.
With so much uncertainty and grief in the world, it's essential to show others you care. With a little ingenuity, you can create heartfelt and meaningful gifts that don’t cost anything monetary, just a little time and some thoughtfulness – and that’s what true gifting is all about.