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50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime

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“Friendship isn’t a big thing. It’s a million little things.” ~Unknown

This hasn’t been an extravagant holiday season for me. Like everyone and their mother, I lost a lot of income last year and I just don’t have the means to give expensive presents.

Yet I feel I’ve received a lot of gifts this year. Most notably, I’ve realized how many of the people in my life mean more to me than any of the things I’m trying to accomplish.

The friends and family members whose love and support far eclipse the achievement of any goals I set. The people who are my home, whether I can afford a pricey apartment or not.

I’ve come up with fifty ways to show them how much I care within my current means.

If you’re looking for a few meaningful gifts that don’t require a debit card, you may find these creative ideas helpful this season:

50. Make a mixed CD of songs they’ll enjoy.

49. Create a hand-made card and leave a thoughtful note.

48. Randomly, without any prompting, look them in the eye and say, “I really appreciate you—just for being you.”

47. Compliment them on something people may not often acknowledge, like their work ethic or consideration for other people.

46. Give them something from nature that reminds you of them, like a unique shell or a smooth but sturdy rock.

44. Send them a funny video from YouTube and write, “You make me laugh more than this video. Thank you!”

43. Draw a map of your apartment with them in it and write, “I’d be lost without you.”

42. Give them something of yours that reminds you of them.

41. Give them a book you’ve already read and inscribe it with a meaningful message.

40. Ask them if you can take care of their responsibilities; for example, you could offer to pick your friend’s children up from school.

39. Tell them they were so right about something and let them know how that information impacted your life.

38. Look for something on Craigslist you know they need—a job or a piece of affordable furniture, for example—and forward them the ad.

37. Squeeze their hand and say, “thank you.”

36. Ask, “How are you—really?” Then do nothing but listen and respond to what you hear for as long as they’d like to talk.

35. Ask, “What can I do to help you today?”

34. Notice how they affect other people—not you—and comment on it.

33. Cook dinner for them.

32. Make a simple sacrifice to spend time with them; for example, TiVo that show you always catch and stop by with a six pack.

31. See their potential and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

30. Ask them to retell their favorite story.

29. Let them pick the plans and find a way to really enjoy it—go line dancing, and see the experience through their eyes.

28. Offer them your skill for free. For example, my friend Cori who’s a graphic designer designed something for me last year as an early birthday gift.

27. Tell them which qualities of theirs you admire.

26. Introduce them to someone you love as, “My dear friend who taught me…”

25. Introduce them to something new that you think would enrich their lives.

24. Let them be right, even if you think they’re not, if it’s not that big of a deal.

23. Ask their advice on something important and tell them their opinion means the world to you.

22. Send them a text that reads, “Thought of you today and it made me smile.”

21. Notice when they do something that might have been challenging and applaud their efforts.

20. Tell them the block in your planner that includes their name is the most important on a busy day.

19. Tell them you understand their struggle—whatever that may be—and say you’re always a call away to help.

18. Say thank you for something they don’t realize they gave you, like inspiration to seize the day or the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship.

17. Let them know how they helped you think about something differently. For example, tell your friend she helped you see losing your job as a gift (if she did).

16. Surprise them in some way with something you know they’ll enjoy.

15. Send them a picture of you two together, and remind them why that day was amazing.

14. Ask how their big day went—whatever that big day may have been.

13. Share their pain when they have it. Hold their hand, wipe their tears, and be their shoulder to lean on.

12. Give them an uncomfortably long hug.

11. Share a childlike experience with them. Go on the swings, get some ice cream, and let go of your stresses together.

10. Sing a song at karaoke and dedicate it to them. It doesn’t have to be a mushy one. Dedicate Ice, Ice Baby—it’s the thought that counts!

9. Encourage them to be completely themselves around you. Tell your female friend she’s beautiful even without makeup, or tell your guy friend you like his corny jokes because they’re his.

8. Be honest, even if it’s uncomfortable for you.

7. Invite them out with friends of yours they don’t know. Nothing says “I value you” like inclusion.

6. Forgive something they did that hurt you without needing to hear the words “I’m sorry.”

5. Look out for someone they love.

4. Remember something they said that they thought you didn’t hear.

3. Help them reconnect with someone important in their life.

2. If you blog, write something they inspired and dedicate it to them.

1. Simply say, “I really care about you, and I wanted you to know.”

Now forget these came from me—one might be coming your way! In the meantime, do you have any ideas to add?

Photos by suchitra prints and pewari naan.

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
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  • linharesjuliana

    @tinybuddha 50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime http://bit.ly/4IFxpz

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  • http://jennahinkley.blogspot.com/ Jenna@ Health and Happiness

    This is a great post, very inspiring!

  • http://twitter.com/caremenu Care Menu

    Tiny,
    Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your daily posts. I incorporate your wisdom in to http://care-menu.com

  • linharesjuliana

    @tinybuddha 50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime http://bit.ly/4IFxpz

  • http://jennahinkley.blogspot.com/ Jenna@ Health and Happiness

    This is a great post, very inspiring!

  • http://twitter.com/caremenu Care Menu

    Tiny,
    Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your daily posts. I incorporate your wisdom in to http://care-menu.com

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  • mady

    this isnt really on topic but my bf and i broke up recently and i still have really strong feels for him but when he said that he wanted to get back together every part of me wanted to scream yes but a small part of me want to say no……..so i said no!!! I still think of him everyday and about how much fun we had together and how happy i was and i truely miss him but i dont know what to do?

  • Lori Deschene

    Hi Mady,

    Since I don’t know all the details of the situation, it’s hard to give you advice. But my main suggestion is to listen to your gut. If a small part of you wanted to say no, there is a reason. Now your job is to figure out what that reason is!

    It might be because you know it isn’t best for you, or because you weren’t fully happy before, but you stayed because it was comfortable. Whatever the case, spend some time figuring out what your feelings are trying to tell you. That will help you both with this relationship and the next one because you’ll be clearer about what you want and DON’T want.

    Hope this helps!
    Lori

  • Lori Deschene

    Hi Mady,

    Since I don’t know all the details of the situation, it’s hard to give you advice. But my main suggestion is to listen to your gut. If a small part of you wanted to say no, there is a reason. Now your job is to figure out what that reason is!

    It might be because you know it isn’t best for you, or because you weren’t fully happy before, but you stayed because it was comfortable. Whatever the case, spend some time figuring out what your feelings are trying to tell you. That will help you both with this relationship and the next one because you’ll be clearer about what you want and DON’T want.

    Hope this helps!
    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Mady,

    Since I don't know all the details of the situation, it's hard to give you advice. But my main suggestion is to listen to your gut. If a small part of you wanted to say no, there is a reason. Now your job is to figure out what that reason is!

    It might be because you know it isn't best for you, or because you weren't fully happy before, but you stayed because it was comfortable. Whatever the case, spend some time figuring out what your feelings are trying to tell you. That will help you both with this relationship and the next one because you'll be clearer about what you want and DON'T want.

    Hope this helps!
    Lori

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  • http://jefmenguin.com Jef Menguin

    I enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing your 50 ways of showing that you care.

    Originally, I was looking for ways that leader can do to show that they care. I think yours is a great contribution.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Jef! I’m glad you enjoyed it. =)

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  • Misty_loves Percy

    the man im with is hard to please he doesnt like anything done for him and i feel like every time i say something its wrong and when hes upset he doesnt like to talk about it… i want to really show him im there for him with out makeing him uncomfterable … could you please help me figure a way to let me show him i care with out him takeing it the wrong way

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    It’s tough for my to offer you advice since I don’t know you or your situation. It sounds to me like the issue is less about showing him you care, and more about him letting you in so that you don’t feel the need to try so hard. While I think we should always remember to love in action, it shouldn’t have to feel like a stressful thing.

    A few questions for you (to answer for you, not me):

    1. Is everything else good with this relationship?
    2. Are you happy more often than not in this relationship?
    3. Is he there for you when you need him?
    4. Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around him/constantly work for his approval?

    Based on the answers to these questions, you’ll likely know whether this is about showing him you care or something deeper. And if it’s something deeper, perhaps this isn’t the healthiest relationship to stay in.

    I am not an expert on relationships, so please know this is just my personal opinion. I hope this helps!

    Lori

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  • Kerry

    Misty,

    I’m in a similar situation.  I’m crazy about the woman I’m with and I want to show her how much I love her and how much I care.  I love these suggestions btw (great article/post, Lori!) and I’ve done and do many of them.  I know that I would appreciate it if someone did these things for me.  The thing is, when I do these things… it’s like they don’t even penetrate.  It’s like the words fall on deaf ears and the actions aren’t believed.

    I have gone through and still am going through what you describe — every time you say something, it’s wrong.  You feel like everything you do is wrong because of how he acts or what he says.  I try to treat her right, the best way I can.  I do things out of love but she doesn’t see it that way because it’s not what she was expecting.  She’s always thinks there’s an ulterior motive behind it or she reads into things incorrectly.  She doesn’t think things are genuine, when they are.  If I give her space, she doesn’t want space – she wants me “in her face”.  If I’m “in her face”, she wants space and doesn’t want to talk.  It’s like I can’t win.

    What I’ve realized through God’s help and the help of support groups is that I still have issues with co-dependency.  What you’re describing sounds like you might be in the same boat.  If you’re not familiar with it, please look it up and do some research. There are 2 things going on here — (1) his behavior and (2) the way it affects you.  Remember that you are not responsible for his behavior or his reactions to things.  You can only control yourself and you are responsible for your reactions and you can get to the place where you can control your feelings.

    My advice is to just keep loving him, the best you know how.  Pure love is not selfish.  Pure love just loves.  It doesn’t want anything in return.  Just keep showing him love.  And work on yourself, get your heart right, your motives right — are you doing these things just so he appreciates you or are you doing them just because he loves you?  I ask myself that question several times a day.  If you are loving from the right place (not selfish), keep at it and don’t expect certain reactions from him.

    People who act like he does have had their own issues.  They’ve gone through things that have hurt them and he is probably behaving out of a defense-mechanism he had to create years ago.  People who have a hard time receiving love have been through some bad stuff.  It hardens their heart.  Even the biggest jerk on the planet has probably been hurt by someone that turned them into who they are.  It’s not an excuse for the behavior, but it is an explanation.  I know that my love has been through all kinds of crazy things.  I know she has a hard time trusting people. I know she’s been hurt over and over and abandoned by everyone.  I know this still affects her and I remember that when she doesn’t receive what I’m doing for her.

    By no means am I encouraging you to stay in a bad relationship.  It’s up to you to decide if he and this relationship are right for you.  I’m more concerned about you — your feelings and how this relationship is affecting you.  Even if you two break up, if you have issues you need to work through, they will carry to the next relationship.

    You can’t make someone love you but you can choose to love someone.  Love is a decision and real, pure love doesn’t expect anything in return.  I’m praying that everything works out in your life.

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  • Missy_Mouse

    another one you could do… send them a text only they would understand- it shows that they’re important enough to remember all the inside jokes you shared

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love that one! I think you know your friendship has hit a new level when you start having inside jokes.

  • The duderino

    Say you will not cum in her mouth and mean it !! It all about the little things :)

  • Me

    or tell them derictly that you appreiate them

  • welshpaul

    i wish i could make these work… the girl im with has just been ignoring me no matter how sweet i am… she told me that she wants to spend her life with me and then ignores me… :/

  • Trud

    Words can never discribe the love you have for someone who risk it all to help better you. For that I will forever be greatful because you helped me get to where I should be. Back on track

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad this was helpful to you Trud!

  • Donkeykonglaidiestime

    Or you could just tell them how you feel about them

  • Tj.fit

    Again, I don’t really know your situation, but if you are happy, but just unsure how to love him right, you may want to check out the book the 5 love languages. Its about how there are different ways of showing our love for one another, but sometimes if the person your with has a different love type they won’t recognize all the things you do. For example if his love type was words of affirmation, he would want to be shown love by your encouragement and admiration! But if your love type was maybe giving/recieving gifts (for example) he wouldn’t feel the love from your gifts because you two are speaking a different language. Obviously, I am not explaining this nearly as good as the book would, so check it out if you like. Hope this helped! :)

  • Don

    How do I show my girlfriend that I care about her a lot …..she said she wants a nother man but still loves what do I do?

  • Don

    Me

  • Xela

    These are really good! Some of them are a little creepy though…and some sound like something you’d say in a relationship. But overall I like it!

  • Repay Someday

    A great way let someone know they are appreciated is to make a pledge for them at http://www.RepaySomeday.com It will a wonderful way to let someone know they are a great person and have positively impacted someone. And you can send it for FREE

  • Nader

    Hi Lori, i want you to advice me about what i can do in my situation.. i will try to minimize as much as i can.

    I like a girl, as a matter effect i’m crazy about her!! I did a lot romantic moves that stunned her and made her SO happy! I showed her everyday how much i care about her, and how much she means to me… but still i didn’t get what i want, she still considers herself as single, i told her that i love her in SO many ways, romantic ways even other than what you suggested in this page, but i’m not capable of getting to her feelings :( sometimes she ignores me, and sometimes she shows that she cares.. i’m confused!! i even tried to not talk to her for a week, she didn’t bother herself of calling me! i was hit by a motorcycle and she didn’t knew because she did not call!! But after this week i called, i told her so many times that i want to take her out somewhere she will like, she answers with “we will see..” and she never tells me when she can go out!! Am i doing something wrong? I’m worried about losing her, so please if you can help me somehow it would mean so much to me!!

    Thanks a lot!!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Nader,

    Have you asked her straight out how she feels about you? Based on what you wrote, it seems like she’s not sure, since she’s been sort of hot and cold. I don’t think you’re doing something wrong; she just might not have the same feelings, or she might not be in the right place to open up to a relationship right now. Hopefully, if you start an honest conversation, she’ll let you in so you don’t have to guess what’s going on with her!

    Lori

  • JAndrews

    Here are a few to add to that list.
    -Pick up the phone and call them, just to say hi. (It’s very simple, but sometimes we forget to do it.)
    -Do something silly or embarrassing just to make them smile.
    -Support one of their hobbies (i.e. go watch their team play their season final, attend the play they are in etc.)

  • andrew

    i was with someone for 3years and helped her through everything, she lost her job and i was doing everything for her and she never did anything for me and gave me anything and when i ask her to appreciate me she ran me