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The perfect gift to give when you have zero dollars to spend

Family Personal Finance

Finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list this holiday season can be a lot of fun. But what do you do if you’re not totally prepared for the hit your bank account can take between paying your bills and buying gifts for your loved ones?

A mother and her daughter baking cookies in the kitchen

Even if you set aside money throughout the year to cover the costs of the holidays, you may still come up short.

Unexpected expenses, like a blown tire or a vet bill because your dog decided to treat himself to half a bag of Hershey’s Kisses Candy Cane Chocolates, can quickly drain your savings, leaving you without money to spend.

Fortunately, giving someone a gift they’ll really treasure doesn’t have to mean dropping a ton of cash. Sometimes the best gift is something you can’t buy in stores – the gift of your time!

Never underestimate the power of spending quality time with those who matter most, particularly if you only get to see them a few times a year.

Here’s a list of six ways you can give the gift of time.

1. Spend time doing your loved one’s favorite activity.

My Dad loves to golf. In fact, he enjoys it so much that my parents’ house is on a golf course.

That means I can hit a bucket of balls with him by simply walking onto one of the greens after the course is closed or before it opens. He appreciates spending quality time with me while enjoying his favorite past time.

Figure out what your family member or friend likes to do and see if there’s a way the two of you can take part for free.

Going on a run, walking the dogs, taking a hike, scrap-booking and painting are just a few ways to spend one-on-one time without busting your bank account.

2. Find free events in your city or town.

During the holiday season you can often find quirky, fun and perhaps most importantly, free events in your area.

Keep an eye out for free nights at museums, walking tours of historic areas and special holiday festivities.

3. Volunteer together.

Volunteering together is a beautiful way to bond and give back to a good cause.

If your loved one already routinely volunteers somewhere, offer to help out at the same place. It adds even more sentiment to your “gift”!

4. Offer to cook a meal for them or spend time in the kitchen together.

Full disclosure – this activity may not be entirely free if the pantry and the fridge aren’t already stocked. However, there are plenty of low-cost recipes out there if you want to stay within budget.

If a loved one genuinely enjoys cooking, they may welcome the opportunity to share the experience with you. Or, in other cases, maybe your mom, dad or grandma would appreciate a night off from their regular chef duties.

Whether you’re handling kitchen responsibilities for a loved one or assisting the family “culinarian” while they prepare dinner, cooking is a great way to show you care.

5. Do the thing they’ve been asking you to do for years.

I can’t count the number of times my mom asked my sister and me to go through our childhood things stored in my parents’ basement. For years she begged us to sort through those items to free up space.

We finally broke down last Christmas and gave her a gift certificate good for four hours of our time spent purging the items in the basement.

It was fun reminiscing as we decided what to donate, toss or send to consignment shops. It certainly wasn’t an ideal way to spend four hours of vacation, but it was something our mom appreciated.

6. Provide a tech tutorial.

If your family is like mine, your parents or grandparents need a little help with technology. In this case, there’s no better gift than giving them a tech tutorial.

Tailor your tech session to what your parents or grandparents want to learn.

Maybe your mom wants to be on Snapchat so she can follow all your fun adventures. Or maybe your dad would like to learn how Instagram stories work. Perhaps your Grandpa just really wants to figure out how to download pictures to his computer.

Whatever the case, helping them learn a few tips and tricks to navigate our ever-evolving world of technology is probably a more valuable gift to them than you realize.

Just remember, patience is key!

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