50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime

“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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Send them an eCard for no reason, or an “unbirthday” eCard to make them smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. 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.

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

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

17. Cook dinner for them.

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

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

20. Ask them to retell their favorite story.

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

22. 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.

23. Tell them which qualities of theirs you admire.

24. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

32. 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.

33. 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).

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

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

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

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

38. Give them an uncomfortably long hug.

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

40. 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!

41. 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.

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

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

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

45. Look out for someone they love.

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

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

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

49. Support their passion by coming to their show or poetry reading or bowling tournament.

50. 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?

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She started the site after struggling with depression, bulimia, c-PTSD, and toxic shame so she could recycle her former pain into something useful and inspire others do the same. She recently created the Breaking Barriers to Self-Care eCourse to help people overcome internal blocks to meeting their needs—so they can feel their best, be their best, and live their best possible life. If you’re ready to start thriving instead of merely surviving, you can learn more and get instant access here.

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