25 Fun & Free Creative Ways to Give

25 Fun & Free Creative Ways to Give
ESSENCE.COM Dec, 10, 2008

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Create a photo album with this year’s family photos and videos. Select favorite photos and transfer them to a CD or DVD, or go to Slide.com to create your photographic memory lane. Add captions and short stories. “People love to see their lives unfold,” says Natalie P. McNeal, The Frugalista Files blogger at MiamiHerald.com.

By Angela P. Moore-Thorpe

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“I wrap presents for busy friends and/or charity,” says Sherri Athay, author of “Present Perfect: Unforgettable Gifts for Every Occasion” and owner of Present Perfect Gift Consultant.

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Invite family and friends over to watch holiday movies and enjoy hot apple cider or egg nog. “My family does movie night, and we play board games, too,” says personal finance expert Harrine Freeman of Hefreemanenterprises.com.

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“Pick out a family charity and schedule time to volunteer for it as a unit,” says McNeal. “Offer to volunteer on behalf of someone else’s favorite charity,” suggests Finney. Organize a neighborhood coat and blanket drive for a homeless shelter, or visit Volunteermatch.org to search for a cause that you are passionate about.

Actor Lance Gross and model-actress Eva Marcille attend the Baskin Robbins Wrapped With A Bow event at Giggles ‘n’ Hugs in Los Angeles. The wrapped gifts will be distributed throughout the L.A. area to foster children by the Jayneoni Moore Children’s Fund.

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Gather everyone up and go enjoy the Christmas lights. Burn a CD of your favorite holiday music and while cruising, play it in the car. “This really gets us in the holiday spirit,” says Kiirsten Daniel of Redpiggifts.com.

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Help someone out by giving a coupon offering babysitting, a massage, a manicure or a home-cooked dinner. Create your own coupon or print coupons from Buynothingchristmas.org. “My favorite free gift to give is cleaning the kitchen for the cook,” says Daniel.

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Compile family members’ favorite recipes, and burn everyone a CD or use construction paper, glue and ribbon to pull the book together.

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Lift a loved one’s spirits by writing an inspirational letter. Put it in a white envelope, punch a hole in the corner of envelope, and add a glitzy ribbon to hang on the tree. “I write notes of love and appreciation,” says Athay.

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Offer to teach someone a talent or skill you have, or mentor a younger friend or family member.

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This year, visit a museum for the holiday. “Most museums and art institutes have free days or times,” says McNeal. The Museum of Modern Art in New York is free on Fridays from 4:00 to 8:00 P.M. Go to Museumsusa.org to locate museums in your area.

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Videotape and interview family and friends about their favorite holiday memories. Present the package to your nearest and dearest for great family fun.

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“We exchange clothes, shoes and purses as well as clear out our closets,” says King. “It’s a big hit because everyone leaves happy with new or almost-new items."

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Shop for free items online at Freecycle.org and join the movement of people who are giving and getting things gratis to reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. The site offers free televisions, toys, clothes, furniture, electronics—you name it. It’s available in most states, with each local group moderated by a volunteer. Membership is free.

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Sing out, sister! Gather up a group of family and friends, carry candles and take the holiday spirit door-to-door in song.

Aretha Franklin performs at the 85th annual New York Stock Exchange Christmas tree-lighting festivities on Wall Street in New York City.

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Run errands or do chores for an elderly or infirm person, such as picking up groceries or walking the dog.

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Always racking your brain over that hard-to-buy-for person on your list? Then redeem your credit card rewards. Many programs offer programs such as free magazine subscriptions. Wrap one up for a friend.

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Treat a loved one to a getaway by giving up your airline mileage rewards. It will definitely be a gift to remember.

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Make a joyful noise and download music free (and legally) from FeelsLikeChristmas.com.

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Gather friends or that special someone, play your favorite Christmas CD and roast marshmallows in the fireplace.

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Spread the love through food. “If you can throw down in the kitchen, prepare your signature dish,” says McNeal. Stick a bow atop the dish cover and surprise your friend.

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Most cities offer free events such as a tree-lighting ceremonies, winter wonderlands, live nativity scenes, holiday parades, live Christmas performances or plays at the malls for the entire family to enjoy free of charge. Check your local newspaper for additional free holiday events to attend.

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“If you know how to quilt or crochet, you can make pillows, quilts, blankets, sweaters, socks and more,” suggests Freeman. Or make jewelry, pottery, candles, candleholders, kites or bookmarks. Visit Aboutchristmascrafts.com for free craft ideas.

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Call family and friends; ask everyone to bring their favorite dish; pull out your favorite holiday music; and enjoy a fun and free good time.

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“Stroll down Main Street to see store decorations,” says Athay. If you’re traveling out of town to a big city, check out the department stores’ displays.

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Play What Not to Wear. Clean your buddy’s closet, help rid your pal of fashion no-nos and rearrange the space.

Get more holiday gift ideas »


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