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Easy, considerate and reasonably priced presents for a literal international pandemic

1. Write someone a letter

When was the last time you wrote someone an actual letter? Depending on how familiar you are with your words, this option may wince a little, but a letter doesn’t have to be pure poetry to make someone smile. (Although you can of course add a poem if you feel like it.) If you choose to buy a real letter, this option also gives you the option to support the United States Postal Service by purchasing stamps. You can also add a photo, drawing, lyrics, or other small and light memorabilia to most envelopes. If you don’t want to go the traditional route, you can always send a thoughtful email. The point? Let people know you are thinking of them.

2. Create a playlist

If you really don’t want to work with words, music is a fun choice. If you still have the equipment, CD burning is a great thing from the last decade. Free or inexpensive apps like Spotify and YouTube also make it easy to create playlists and share with others.

3. Create a photo album

If you want to create a photo album that is really free, you can create and share one virtually. Users can then print or frame photos if they choose. If you’re looking to spend a small amount, there are plenty of websites out there where you can upload your photos (including directly from social media accounts) and customize captions, covers, and the like. If you have the right supplies at home, you can also print and frame photos yourself.

4. Make a Christmas card by hand

If you’re smart (or hey, even if you aren’t), one of the easier and more charming options when it comes to inexpensive gifts is to hand-make Christmas cards to your loved ones or neighbors. If you already have the stationery at home, they are practically free!

5. Cook or bake your favorite meal

If you are looking for protection in a loved one or roommate, you can give them a homemade version of their favorite food. Of course, depending on what you keep in your kitchen, this idea isn’t really free as ingredients and cooking utensils have to come from somewhere. But you can be surprisingly creative with just a few ingredients, and cooking at home is sometimes cheaper than ordering to take away. Depending on your specific local situation, you may be able to cook or bake in bulk (which may save money overall) and give the porch to loved ones.

6. Hike or go to a new or special place

Getting out into nature is perhaps one of the best ways to spend time while people practice social distancing. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, this option isn’t safe or feasible for everyone. However, if you live in an area where it is safe to get outside, this is a great way to bring back memories. Hiking, walking, biking, bird watching.

7. Do some of your work

If you are living with someone and want to give them a thoughtful gift, why not do some of their job? While this option doesn’t sound like the most flashy, doing homework for a loved one or roommate can help reduce stress and become overwhelming. For example, offer to take a roommate’s pet for a walk, cook family dinners for the week, or take care of childcare for a sibling.

8. Play board games virtually or IRL (can even be borrowed from the library)

Playing board games is a classic group activity, but when you spend the holiday season in isolation from family or friends, you can expect not to be able to enjoy your favorite games. In fact, many games now have virtual versions where you can play against other people (either known users or strangers) online. If everyone has a copy of the game, you can also organize a game night where you all play “together” over a video call. You can also borrow games from your local library for free.

How are you spending the holidays this year? Let us know below what activities or gifts you are thinking of.

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