100+ Free or Almost Free Gift Ideas For When You Have No Money

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What do you give if you have no money at Christmas? You can still give some great gifts on a tiny budget with these free and almost free gift ideas.

woman holding crocheted heart in hands as a free gift metaphor

What do you give if you’ve got no money for gifts this Christmas?

It’s easy to get caught up in the spending – the average credit card debt from Christmas spending alone in Australia is around $1,727 [source].

But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to give beautiful gifts and create Christmas memories that will last long after the gifts are forgotten.

In fact, you probably have many things you can give that won’t cost you much – if any – money!

In this post, you’ll find dozens of ideas for free or almost free gift ideas.

Tips for Giving Free Gifts That People Will Appreciate

While these tips apply no matter what the gift, they are especially important when you’re giving a free gift or something a little out of the ordinary.

  • Match the gift to the person and give them something you know they will like and appreciate.
  • Give something beyond what you’re already obligated to do. That means if you’re already taking grandma out to lunch, don’t make that your Christmas gift.
  • Follow through. If your gift is the service of babysitting, then make sure you do some babysitting when needed.
  • Presentation is key. The presentation can make a cheap gift look lux. For example, if you’re giving food, print off some labels (look on Pinterest for a tonne of free ones). Check out the second-hand store, Spotlight or your local Two Dollar Shop for fancy (but inexpensive) jars, craft and decorative items to make your gift look fancy.
  • Combine free and inexpensive gifts to make a personalised hamper. Hampers are a great way to turn lots of little free gifts into something special.
  • Turn a service into a gift with homemade coupons.

You might also like Second-hand items that make great gifts.

Ideas For Free and Nearly Free Gifts

Even if you haven’t got a lot of money for gifts, there are still many things you can give to make Christmas – and, more importantly, your recipient – feel special.

Because some people equate the value of the gift with how much you value them, it’s important to tell people how much you value them. A few heartfelt words are more valuable than any gift will ever be.

As well as the list of free and low-cost gift ideas below, you may be able to find ways to get potential gifts without money. Some ideas include:

  • Use points from loyalty cards to buy gifts
  • Re-gift items you have on hand
  • Check out Freecycle, free stuff websites, and local community free-stuff groups on Facebook for free gifts
  • Visit community swap meets to exchange stuff for gifts
  • Go to garage sales at the end of the day to see if they are throwing anything out
  • Repurpose or upcycle something you have on hand or something scrounged (side-of-the-road finds can be upcycled into something wonderful)
  • If you have a craft hobby, craft something with materials you already have on hand
  • If money is tight, ask for help from your local charity, like the Salvation Army.

You may also like: How to have a magical Christmas even if you are flat broke

Tips on Re-gifting

Regifting is giving something you were given to someone else. It’s something that hasn’t been opened or used and that you really don’t want or have no use for.

Some people think it’s tacky, but I think it’s a smart way not to waste money and resources. It’s the thought that counts. Stop the waste!

Having said that, here are some tips on re-gifting:

  • Keep track of who gives what so you don’t give the gift back to the same person or a close family member or friend.
  • Check for gift tags, monograms, personalised inscriptions etc., before regifting.
  • Avoid making the same mistake and give the regift to someone you know will actually like it.
  • Consider repackaging it or putting it as part of a hamper.
  • Divide up a large gift (like a hamper) and create smaller gifts from it.
  • Pass on handmade gifts with care. I don’t think you should never pass on a handmade gift or a meaningful gift. It can be nice for a handmade gift to come with a story: “This was handcrafted especially for me by someone I care about, and it has given me great joy. Now I want to pass that onto you…”)

Gift a Service for Free

man trimming tree with pruning sheers

Is there a service your recipient wants or needs that you can do for them? Maybe you have unique skills related to your job (hairdressing, for instance) that you can gift.

Here are some general ideas:

  • Childcare/babysitting
  • Petcare, pet sitting, pet grooming
  • Massage, spa, pedicure, manicure etc.
  • Baking, cooking meals for the freezer
  • Car detailing/cleaning
  • Gardening or yardwork
  • Cleaning
  • Home maintenance, handiwork, DIY
  • Car service
  • Photography.

One way to present services is in a coupon book. I’ve created a free template in Canva for coupons that you can use and customise for free within the Canva app or website.

screenshot of gift coupon template

Teach a Skill

woman teaching girl with down syndrome how to play the guitar

Do you have a skill that you know your recipient (or their kids) would like to learn? You can gift them lessons.

When choosing a skill to teach as a gift, consider the recipient’s interests, current skill level, and the resources you have available to facilitate the learning process. Customising the gift to their specific needs and desires will make it even more meaningful.

Ideas include:

  • Cooking
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • A language
  • Photography
  • Art or drawing (someone gave me this as a gift once, they taught me drawing; it was a great gift)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Personal training/fitness
  • Dancing
  • Writing
  • Sewing or embroidery
  • woodwork
  • home maintenance, DIY
  • surfing
  • knitting or crocheting
  • first aid, camping, prepping, camping
  • public speaking, mentoring, coaching

If your recipient lives far away, or you’re short on time, you could film yourself teaching a series of video tutorials for them.

Food Gifts

homemade gingerbread cookies in a gift tin

Food gifts are always useful, and if you have the ingredients already in your pantry, they can be practically free. 

If you need to buy ingredients, look out for supermarket sales to save maximum money.

You can make up a hamper of homemade foods and, if you like, some store-bought, on-sale items and some second-hand items, like a coffee mug or cake plate.

Some people don’t eat home-baked goods because they worry about sanitation (I’ve had several people tell me they throw homemade food gifts in the bin because it’s not made in a commercial-grade kitchen). So to save yourself the hassle and possibly the money, make sure your recipient will eat homemade foods.

Food gifts to consider include:

Bath and Spa Gifts

round handmade soaps wrapped in twine

A relaxing home spa doesn’t have to cost the earth. Here are some ideas for bath and spa products that you can make cheaply at home if you have the ingredients on hand.

Some of the ideas use basic pantry ingredients. For example, a sugar scrub uses sugar and or honey, so if you have them on hand, the gift won’t cost you anything.

For other ideas, you might need beeswax or essential oils – best if you already have these on hand. I get ingredients fairly cheaply from Green Living Australia (not an affiliate).

Epsom salt and many other ingredients can be purchased cheaply from the supermarket.

  • Bath salts: made from salt, Epsom salt, and essential oils if available.
  • Bath bombs: made from baking soda and citric acid, found at the supermarket
  • Sugar Scrub: made from sugar and oil or honey.
  • Soap: these soaps are melt-and-pour soaps made from purchased supermarket soap and other ingredients.
  • Homemade lip balm: uses beeswax.
  • Foot soak: uses Epsom salts
  • Bath Tea Bags: made from dried herbs. Add a little note to let your recipient know the properties of each herb. If you have a garden, you can dry rose petals and lavender to make bath tea bags or potpourri.
  • Knitted bath mitt/face washer.
  • A DIY coupon for a facial, manicure, or other way you can pamper your recipient.
  • Bath playlist. Create a playlist on Spotify of relaxing music to enhance bath time.

Gifts for Family

album of old black and white photos

Looking for personal gifts for family members you can give for free? Here are some free and low-cost ideas.

  • Photos, a photo book or album of your family (especially good for grandparents who live far away)
  • A scrapbook of family photos. If the photos are current, add captions and stories to go along with them.
  • A home video – good to send distant grandparents. Alternatively, you could host a home movie night of old family footage.
  • Your family history (you can explore your family history at your local library for free and get help from genealogists) and then write it up in a document to print or share.
  • A handmade family calendar
  • A printed or digital family cookbook
  • Life stories/memoirs, either written, recorded, or told in person
  • A family heirloom to give to other family members.
  • A personalised coupon book with things like ‘one free hug’ or ‘help with the chores’.

Sentimental Gifts

jar on a table full of colourful scraps of paper representing a memory jar

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

Sentimental gifts are free and yet priceless. They can be among the most cherished of gifts. Here are some ideas:

  • A printable quote. Download a free quote from Pinterest or make your own on Canva. You can frame it in a second-hand frame.
  • Create a playlist of favourite or meaningful songs. Check out your local library for free songs you can download or create a playlist on Spotify or YouTube and share it with your recipient.
  • A handwritten, heartfelt letter. A letter to your children telling them of all the things you’re proud of and a recap of the year would be cherished for life.
  • Write a story with your recipient as the hero. If you can draw, make a personalised comic book with your child as the hero. You never know; it might be the next Captain Underpants.
  • Create an inspiration jar.
  • Or a memory Jar (I received one of these on Christmas. It’s a beautiful, inexpensive gift that I really appreciated).
  • Make an audiobook using your computer by recording yourself reading a favourite book (or using your phone)
  • Custom family artwork. You could frame the kids’ artwork in a second-hand frame or DIY a frame.

Creative Gifts

woman knitting white scarf with red love heart

Are you a creative person? Maybe you are an artist, or you can sing or play an instrument. Maybe you can sew or carve wooden animals. Give away the product of your creative gifts with materials you already have on hand.

Be careful to give something your recipient will like. Taste in artwork can be very personal.

Some ideas include:

  • Paint a picture and give your artwork
  • Give a performance (live or recorded)
  • Write a story for your recipient
  • Write and sing a song
  • Make a handmade card
  • Design a digital artwork or wallpaper
  • Take and frame a photo of something meaningful to them
  • Knit something like a scarf, jumper, gloves, socks, beanie
  • Sew something like clothes or a bag, or check out some of the scrap-busting ideas below. Repurpose old clothes into a new and stylish piece
  • Make an embroidery or cross-stitch
  • Craft handmade jewellery
  • Build something like a coffee table or bookshelf from reclaimed wood
  • Make a decorative paperweight from a rock
  • Make a hand-drawn map of memorable or significant landmarks.

If you have a lot of craft supplies at home already, you can create a craft kit instead so that your recipient can make their own craft.

Home and Garden

woman painting aluminium drink cans pink to turn them into vases

Upcycle or recycle to create something beautiful for the home, depending on your skills.

If you’re a green thumb, consider growing some cuttings, dividing plants you already have, or collecting and planting seeds to give very cheap potted plants as a gift. You can dress them up in a cheap pot that you’ve painted or glammed up. 

Other almost free gift ideas include:

Gifts for Kids

easy no-cook play dough recipe

You don’t need to spend a fortune on gifts for kids for them to have a wonderful Christmas. Old-fashioned gifts are timeless, and kids love them. Here are some free gift ideas for kids:

Free Gift Ideas for Teens and Tweens

card with affirmation quote next to cup of coffee

This age group is tricky to buy gifts for at the best of times, and finding free gifts can be even trickier, especially if they are comparing themselves to friends.

If you can get help from a potential mentor or a grandparent who is willing to share a skill, an uncle who is willing to teach surfing etc, that can give you more free gift options.

Second-hand options like pre-loved games can be a good money-saving option, albeit not free.

Some potential free gift ideas include:

  • A DIY craft kit you put together from stuff you have on hand.
  • Homemade coupons
  • Cooking lessons
  • A movie night or special time with you
  • A book swap (some second-hand bookstores do this for a smaller cost than purchasing outright)
  • A spa day at home
  • An outdoor adventure like a hike
  • A photo scavenger hunt, geocaching weekend, city orienteering
  • A boardgame night
  • Life skills lessons like budgeting or home repairs (my kids both want these and don’t want them. They want to learn, but sometimes learning from mum and dad sucks)
  • A music jam or art session
  • A sports game together
  • A jar or book of hand-selected positive affirmations.
  • Journalling prompts
  • Backyard camping
  • A cook-off challenge
  • A collaborative art piece
  • A book of family recipes
  • A printable positive wall quote for their room (you can put it in a second-hand frame)

Free Gifts Ideas Sewn From Scraps

fabric coasters with various patterns made from scraps

If you sew and keep your scraps from other projects, scrap buster crafts can make inexpensive gifts.

A scrap quilt is the ultimate scrap-buster gift, but there are lots of smaller projects you could make as well.

Don’t have any scrap fabric? Check out second-hand stores and the off-cut bin in fabric stores for cheap fabric.

Even if your gift-buying budget is zero, there’s always something you can give at Christmas.

It’s not the cost of the gift but the thought that matters most and gifts that cost no money can be some of the most thoughtful.

Looking for more gift ideas on a budget? Check out these articles:

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  1. Nelia little says:

    Please help me for Christmas I don’t have no money to get anything for my kids I never ask for anything but this year I wish someone could help me I work but not alot hours and I’m single mom with 4 kids anything will help and I can’t not get Christmas tree this year

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Hi. I’m sorry to hear things are really tight for you at the moment. Your local charity is the best place to approach for help. They can be great with kids gifts and food hampers. You’re doing an amazing job and your kids will appreciate your time and love. I hope things pick up for you soon.

    2. Fru-gal Lisa says:

      Nelia, I live in the USA so I’m not sure what your situation is where you are. But one of my friends is a single mom who also had 4 kids, and very little income. We live in a college town, and the college classes let out a couple of weeks before Christmas. My friend would go around the college dorms and student apartments and find discarded Christmas trees at the curb, where they were put out for the garbage collection. The students threw the Christmas trees away before heading home for the holidays; some were even still decorated, although she had her own ornaments saved from past years. Other items were also left there by the trash cans, including bicycles, which she also took (this is legal where we live). She said she never had to buy her kids bicycles, and she got some really nice ones this way. I’ve also heard of people looking around large apartment complexes for discarded trees and decorations. Another thing we have here in America is a program called Toys for Tots. Run by the Salvation Army and U.S. Marine Corps, it collects new unwrapped toys for children of needy families. Low-income parents sign up and are given toys for Santa to leave for their children. Some other charities do similar things. You might check around to see if there are programs like that where you live.

  2. Hello, money is very tight for me right now, and I have no job or source of income. I’ve got a few friends who are going through hard times and I thought I would try to make them happy this Christmas season, but I have no money for gifts. I cannot cook, or make any crafts of the sort and I’ve already got some memory jars made. Would you have any suggestions?

  3. This year we decided to get back to basics (and not having a job over Christmas has also aided in this decision), we have decided to give homemade gift vouchers to our immediate family. Our children have been given the challenge to give a personal gift or act of service to each member that costs them nothing. I was making up a list to help them and I had run out of ideas when I came across your blog. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.
    I believe that we already have so much, and take so much for granted. This year it is time to refocus and be grateful for what we have, not what we don’t have. I am looking forward to seeing what ideas my children come up with.

    This next part is for Nelia, a Christmas tree is what you make it. A potted plant decorated with homemade decorations. Spending time as a family making the decorations. Another idea is to trace around each child’s hand on paper and cut them out. If you turn the handprint upside down and make rows of the handprints in the shape of a tree you have not only a tree but the memories of making it with your children. Hope this is helpful, and praying that you will be blessed this Christmas season.

  4. Marline Coleman says:

    My husband and I are both disabled we have 7 children, 17gran,4great grandchildren and no money to get gifts this year. Do you have any ideas for us

  5. RosesRred says:

    Do you have a smart phone? There are apps you can download and use for free to do photo editing (my choice is picsart,) so go for a walk, take some photos, then use your photo editing app to edit the photo, print it, prints do not cost a lot of money unless they are large, or if you can’t then you can send them digitally via email etc, it’s the gift of a custom background or screensaver! If you get them printed, You can just give it to the person(s) or you can make it into something else with some glue or mod podge it to virtually anything to give it an art look, but I like to mod podge it to wooden fence slats that are not too expensive. You can seriously use cardboard if you need to. One year, I made little ornaments by mod podging my wallet sized digital art to the bottom of those plastic containers that have cottage cheese or yogurt in them. Just wash the container and cut what you want. Or just use the lid. I did use some paint to cover up the writing on them. I also have used cardboard. In fact, dollar tree has beautiful decorative napkins, one package and you can decoupage anything with some mod podge… You just need to remove the back layer of the napkin first. You can do a lot of things with repurposed items, instead of recycling, remake it. Honestly, a simple note, or handmade card works too. You can even just build them a snowman… or snow dog or whatever. just use basic shapes. You don’t need to be an artist, you don’t need to be rich. The internet has so many things available to us that we did not have before, and for that, we are fortunate. You can even make a kaleidoscope with basic household items. sing a song, tell holiday jokes, make a treasure hunt with little notes with clues inside… just look for what you have that gets tossed and think, ‘what can I do with this?’ Christmas in our house is about feeling the spirit of love, re-finding the magic that is around us that we generally don’t see, oh, and it is there, you just have to look for it, and re-connecting with each other. if you have nothing to build anything with, use what you have; get some paper out repurpose that junk mail or those empty return envelopes or even cardboard, write a positive quote on it. tape it to their door or stick it to their car or something. Anything is better than nothing when you are trying to do something and nothing can be done if you don’t do anything, so just do something, anything.