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I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor, and I’ve been somewhere in between. By most standards, I’m doing pretty well. I live in a modest, but beautiful home, surrounded by the things I enjoy. I don’t worry about paying my bills anymore, and I don’t want for anything. I save regularly and live frugally. Gone are the days when I couldn’t give generously.
It wasn’t always that way.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you’ve probably read my get out of debt story. I’ll give you the abbreviated version if you’re new. I lost my job, had no savings, lots of debt to the tune of 50K in credit card debt alone, was taking care of my parents, was facing foreclosure on my home and had a daughter in college.
I was broke, and I do mean broke. I didn’t have a nickel to spare.
That first Christmas was emotionally painful for me because I had always been an overly generous person. I liked buying gifts for others and my family, and I took a lot of pride in choosing just the gift that would make them happy.
But when you don’t have a nickel to spare, how to do you give generously?
How To Give Generously When You Don’t Have A Nickel To Spare
Generosity is intricately tied to many other acts. Think about it for a moment.
For us to be forgiving, we must be generous.
For us to be accepting, we must be generous.
To build honest, long-term and intimate relationships, we must be generous.
To give to others, to be of service we must be generous.
When I was forced to look at all the ways I had been generous, I realized it was all tied to money. Everything I did for someone was tied to what I could buy for them.
Gift giving is wonderful, but gifts from the heart are the ones that matter most.
Generosity goes far beyond the dollar. And, in most case, personal acts of generosity have nothing to do with money at all.
This was a lesson I needed to learn. And, the experience was brought forward to me at just the right time in my life.
So that very first Christmas when I was flat broke and didn’t have a nickel to spare, I started down the road of generosity and learned how to give to others that didn’t monetarily cost me anything.
1. The Gift of Listening~
When you engage in the task of listening, actually listening, you are connecting with that other person in a way that lets them know how much they matter to you. While you sit there intently listening; not daydreaming, planning or interrupting, you are connecting at a deep place where two souls join for the betterment of each other. As the listener, you gain something too – the deep fulfillment of lending yourself to another in friendship and love.
- Visit someone who spends a lot of time alone like an elderly neighbor, family member or friend. Let them freely share their stories
- Go to a VA hospital and spend time with a vet.
- Go to a nursing home and ask the elderly to share the story of their life.
2. The Gift of Laughter ~
“Laughter is the best medicine” is how the quote is known and I couldn’t agree more. Nothing makes me feel better than to share a good laugh with a friend. It lifts my spirits and the other person too. Share a joke, funny story, or a cartoon and share the gift of laughter with others.
- Dress up like a clown or other child-appropriate character and visit sick children at your local hospital.
- Give others a chuckle by spreading some laughter via social media.
Gift Idea **Find some funny quotes and create a monthly calendar. Give it to the people in your life that need to laugh more often.
Related: The Gift Giving Guide
3. The Gift of Kindness ~
I realized the other day that it is just as easy to be kind to someone as it is to be nasty…almost easier because one leaves you feeling good about yourself while the other leaves you feeling empty. Be kind to others by sharing simple gestures of yourself. This could be opening a door for someone, being a good driver on the roadways, sharing a kind word or a simple smile. Watch how these gestures of kindness fill you up and help you be a better person.
- Pay it forward in the coffee line.
- Open the door for someone
- Help someone in need
Gift Idea **Get some mason jars and put each member of the family’s name on them. Starting after Thanksgiving, have each member of the family write something nice about other members of the family. On Christmas Eve or Day, hand each family member their jar and read what other’s said about them. Let each person have their turn.
This can be done for friends or other special people who don’t live in the same household. Wrap the jar and give it to them for Christmas.
4. The Gift of Affection ~
Nothing feels better than a hug! I love to give hugs, and I love to get them. And I like to pair it with a kiss on the cheek too! Maybe it’s Italian in me; I’m not quite sure. But what I am certain about is how much those little gestures of affection let me express to my family and friends how much they mean to me.
- Hug your kids every day
- Go to a nursing home and hug an elderly person who doesn’t get any visitors. (Make sure you ask the person’s permission before you hug them.)
- Hug someone who is extra grumpy.
Gift Idea **Create a 30-day hug or kiss calendar. You can create it in PicMonkey if you want to get super creative. Give the calendar or book as a gift to your husband, wife, partner or anyone who needs more affection. It’s a great way to strengthen your marriage or relationship if it’s gotten a little stale.
Related: 6 Habits of Thoughtful Gift Givers
5. The Gift of Service ~
I believe that we are on this earth to be of service to others. Giving of your time and talents to the benefit of someone else is the most wonderful gift you can ever give. Service comes in many forms but can include giving blood to help save a life, feeding the hungry, volunteering for a local charity, helping an elderly neighbor with household chores. The list is endless. But one thing is sure, helping others fills the heart and soul in ways that nothing else can.
- Rake your elderly neighbor’s leaves or shovel their driveway/walkway.
- Bring a meal to a shut-in.
- Drop off a baked treat to a child who is sick
Gift Idea **Make service tags and tie to the Christmas Tree. Do an act of service for each family member. They can redeem their service tag whenever they need help with something.
6. The Gift of Solitude ~
Sometimes we need to be alone. Maybe we need time to sort through a problem or time to re-energize ourselves. Others need this time as well. This Christmas learn to respect other people’s need and give the gift of solitude by leaving them the time they need to be alone.
Gift Idea **Make a sand timer (instructions here) and attach a note to it gifting the person quiet and alone time.
Related: How To Cut People Off The Holiday Gift Giving List Without Feeling Guilty
7. The Gift of Courage ~
This gift allows you to be courageous, to speak your truth always and to stand in your power as a person. Give this gift to yourself. Be honest with yourself about what you want and don’t want in your life. Take good care of yourself…this is not about being selfish. It’s about taking the time to care for you!
- If this is new to you, practice and practice often.
- Remember it’s not about being right it’s about being truthful and real
- Stop managing others feelings and focus on your truth, not their reaction. That’s for them to own.
Gift Idea **Create a Speak Your Truth Game. Make a spinner arrow divided by topics: home, school, life, relationships, money, affection, quality time, or any other issues relevant to your family. Each member of the family spins the arrow. When they land on a topic, they share their truth about the subject matter. No one is allowed to criticize, just be accepting of that person’s truth. For example, your ten-year-old son might land on money and speak his truth that he feels he deserves a larger allowance. Wrap up the game and put it under the tree! Play on Christmas night.
8. The Gift of Appreciation ~
Mother Theresa said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”
Take a moment to think about your family and friends. Make a list of all the things that you appreciate about them. Keep this list in a safe place, maybe in your journal or with your will. Just imagine what this gift of appreciation will mean to people after you’ve gone. Your last words to them will be a heartfelt treasure they will never forget. You will show how you recognized, admired and valued their unique qualities. You will acknowledge with gratitude what they meant to you. This gift of appreciation will be the memory of your heart living on.
Gift Idea **Write a letter to your friends and loved ones sharing with them your feelings of appreciation and what they mean to you.
This Christmas don’t delay in giving the Gift of Appreciation. Share your feelings this holiday with the ones you love.
These gifts from the heart are worth so much more than any gift you could buy.
So if you find yourself without much money, don’t despair. Use these gift ideas to draw your family closer than any gift card, or toy could ever possibly do.