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Ideas for Meaningful and Low-Cost Last-Minute Gifts

The holidays can feel especially stressful because suddenly you have 30 people to buy presents for At. The. Same. Time.

And you want to get something thoughtful and sweet and meaningful for each of them. Of course, all this has to happen while you’re tending to your typical responsibilities, which already fill your days to the brim.

Inevitably and understandably, this sparks pressure and stress. How much are they spending? What if my gift isn’t enough? What if they think I’m cheap? What if they’re disappointed? What if I totally miss the mark? 

It makes sense why we wait until the last minute, why we spend hours scrolling through gift guides (and still can’t find the “right” gift). It makes sense why we want the holidays to be over. Because we end up feeling frazzled, fearing that we’ll get it wrong, and offend someone, or make someone feel as though they’re not important to us (because we didn’t spend an exorbitant amount of money on their gift).

Instead, take a deep breath, and remind yourself about what the holidays really mean to you. Below are a range of ideas for meaningful gifts that don’t bust your budget, and are genuinely from the heart. Gifts that help you feel grateful (versus frustrated, resentful, and overwhelmed). Gifts that are simple yet significant.

  • Write your loved one a love letter. Write about why you love them and what you appreciate about them. Write about why you’re so thankful to have them in your life.
  • Frame a photo of the two of you. On the back jot three things you love about the photo or what you’re doing or where you were.
  • Create a gift certificate for a fun date: Go to brunch at their favorite spot. Check out a new exhibit at the local art museum. See a movie, followed by ice cream.
  • Buy a book of poetry, which you think will really resonate with them—or give them a collection that’s particularly special to you that you already own.
  • Write a poem of your own about a special moment or memory with that person. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a “writer” or not. Simply write what you remember. What did you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? You can’t go wrong when you’re writing from the heart.
  • Create a basket with your loved one’s favorite items. For instance, if they love books, stop by a local bookstore to get a bookmark, notebook or the latest novel. Add in their favorite coffee or tea, a mug and a pair of super soft socks.
  • Buy a blank notebook, and fill it with inspirational sayings, leaving space for the person to write their own thoughts or ideas or observations.
  • Create a play-book for your loved one. This also includes getting a blank notebook. Fill it with  different prompts, activities, quotes, images and anything else that focuses on play and expressing ourselves in silly, surprising, soothing, exciting ways. For instance, your prompts might include: draw your favorite foods; create a self-portrait; spend the day skipping and hopping around your house; take a photo of something that catches you eye. (Learn more here.)
  • Challenge yourself to create a priceless gift by spending just $5.

It’s hard not to get sucked in to the shopping frenzy. But, thankfully, we can refocus. We can pause. We can take several cleansing, soothing breaths, and remember the real magic of the holiday season, the real point and purpose: connection and love.

How might your gifts, at least to a few people, reflect that?

Photo by on Unsplash.
Ideas for Meaningful and Low-Cost Last-Minute Gifts

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2017). Ideas for Meaningful and Low-Cost Last-Minute Gifts. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Dec 2017
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