4 Gifts That Are Better Than Presents

By Jessica Scott |

Need a last-minute, budget-friendly gift that still shows a lot of love? These ideas can help.

grandmother and granddaughter baking

Giving without getting? There’s no such thing. Turns out that altruism, or the act of helping others without expecting anything in return, has a host of health benefits.

“Practicing kind, unselfish behaviors increases well-being, reduces stress, and improves our mental and emotional health,” says psychologist Dana Klisanin, Ph.D. It also strengthens relationships with family members, friends, and people within our communities, she adds.

Charity doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. “We often believe that only large actions make a difference,” Klisanin says. “But through everyday acts of altruism, we can improve the lives of others and ultimately the world at large.”

In the spirit of the season, here are four invaluable things you should give freely this year.

1. Your Creativity

Whether it’s baked goods or a personalized photo album, a homemade gift adds a personal touch. “Some of the best gifts are those made by hand,” Klisanin says. A homemade gift is often easier to customize to fit a recipient’s personality or interests. Plus, it can be a way to give something meaningful while sticking to a budget.

If you’re making something for your children or grandchildren, it’s a terrific opportunity to pass on family history. Gifting a batch of cookies using your mom’s recipe? Write down the recipe, and pass it along too.

2. Your Time or Skills

If you’re lucky, you’re able to celebrate this time of year with loved ones nearby. Unfortunately, everyone isn’t so lucky. Why not give some of your time and abilities to help those in need? Serve meals at a homeless shelter, visit residents at a nursing home, organize a coat drive, or volunteer at a local pet shelter. “All of our actions matter, even those that seem slight,” Klisanin says.

Need more ideas? Check out these seven random acts of kindness you can commit anytime.

3. Your Support

Is there a cause—such as education, environment, or emergency relief—that matters to you? Before making a donation, find reputable charities and check out tips for donors at CharityNavigator.org. If you prefer, you can sign petitions at Change.org.

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4. Your Love

In our busy lives, it can be easy to take each other for granted. Now’s a perfect time to show and tell your loved ones that you value your relationship. It’s an expression of altruism, Klisanin says.

You don’t have to be sappy. Looking someone in the eye and offering a sincere “thank you” is enough. Or handwrite a letter—nothing is more meaningful than putting your feelings on paper.

While family get-togethers can bring stress and anxiety for some, lightening the mood and making the most of your time together can have some surprising benefits. Check out four ways family bonds can help you.

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