The Art of Giving Gifts (Without Spending a Dime)

Love languages: you’ve probably heard a great deal about them already. From books to social media, practically everyone insists that understanding somebody’s love language is the key to building a meaningful relationship. I’ve even written an article about how to apply love languages to your friendships. And yet for all the talk on love languages, there’s still one that I could never seem to understand, even though it’s one of my own: receiving gifts.

Receiving gifts doesn’t have the best rep, which I largely attribute to its name. Both words seem to imply selfishness. The word “receiving” says, “it’s all about what you can give to me.” Now, I did cover in my last article that the way people prefer to receive love is also how they tend to give love, and I always thought that “giving gifts” would be a better name. 

The term “gifts” has its own connotations. We think of gifts as being physical and costing money, both of which can make the recipient seem shallow or materialistic for desiring them. However, after some deep thought, I realized what makes gifts so special to me.

Somebody could spend hundreds of dollars on a diamond necklace or designer bag for me and, while I would appreciate the gesture, it would have little extra meaning to me. I don’t care much for either of those things, and such an expenditure seems frivolous. Yet if somebody sends me a song that reminds them of me, it can make my day. That’s because the song, unlike the necklace or purse, was chosen with me in mind. The giver has shown that they’ve listened to my interests and gotten to know me well enough to think of me in their everyday life.

True gifts aren’t about spending the most money or having the biggest item; they’re about knowing someone. That’s why, to me, the best gifts cost nothing at all. That being said, here are some of my favorite free gift ideas to show someone you care.

  1. 1. Make a Spotify Playlist

    iPhone with headphones on desk

    Music is a great way to connect with others, and with so many genres out there, people’s music tastes seldom overlap the way they used to. A personalized Spotify playlist allows you to give the recipient the gift of new music, combine your taste with theirs, or use song lyrics to send a message.

  2. 2. Make a Moodboard

    For those of us who are more visually-oriented, mood boards can capture the essence of a person in a way that words can’t. Some mood boards I’ve made for friends included general aesthetics, color palettes that reminded me of them, fashion lookbooks, interior design concepts, and even fictional character “tags.”

  3. 3. Watch Their Favorite Show

    person holding a remote control pointed at TV streaming netflix

    Think of that show your friend has been raving about for what feels like centuries. People make deep connections with fictional media, and there’s no doubt it’s on their mind a lot. Not only does watching a show demonstrate to your friend that you care, but you’re giving them the gift of conversation, as they can now come to you to discuss the latest episode. Note that this also applies to books, movies, podcasts and YouTubers.

  4. 4. Draw Them

    blank notebook with pencil

    You don’t have to be an artist for this one (although it certainly helps). We only see our own faces in mirrors and photographs, so we have no idea how we look to other people. Drawing another person can give them a lens into your perception of them and literally help them feel “seen.” If you’re too nervous to draw an actual person, you can always create abstract art that reminds you of your recipient.

  5. 5. Send Them a Meme

    This may be the simplest item on the list — it’s certainly one that I do every day. Memes allow you to connect with somebody else through humor. Humor is such a vague concept that’s difficult to describe, so knowing another person’s sense of humor shows an understanding of them that goes deeper than words and interests. For larger occasions like birthdays, you can create a whole meme compilation.

  6. 6. Remember the Little Things

    woman holding bouquet of tulips

    I’ve always preferred eating off of small plates. They’re lighter to carry and keep me from accidentally making my portions too large. When I was in high school, my sister noticed this about me, and now every time she sets the table she puts out a small plate for me. It’s a tiny gesture, but one that still means a lot to me. Look for little details like this in others, and these gestures could brighten their day.

Giving the “perfect gift” is a daunting task, and having a low budget doesn’t help. But no matter the occasion, recipient or cost, putting thought and effort into your gifts will always have a meaningful impact. Just remember that the best gifts come from your heart, not your wallet.

heart shaped gift w plant Photo by from Pexels