Spreading Love and Joy One Day At a Time

The holidays can be hard on a lot of people, especially those who have lost loved ones or don’t have a lot of close family or friends. It can exacerbate that feeling of loneliness if you choose to focus on the fact that you’re feeling sad and alone.

I’ve spent countless Christmases by myself, so I know how it goes. Looking back, I realize that every choice I have made in my life has given me a certain result. If you choose to feel sad and alone, you will feel sad and alone. If you choose to feel gratitude for having some peace and time for reflection, then that’s what you’ll feel.

I also know so many of us get caught up on the commercialism of Christmas and buy into the belief that we need to buy people presents to celebrate the holidays or validate them somehow. I dumped this belief years ago and since then I focus on what I can do to make people happy by giving them “gifts” that they can’t get from someone else.

So, what are twelve things you can give that won’t cost a dime?

1-Elf on the Shelf:

Hopefully you have one laying around because the Elf on the Shelf is just about the funniest gift you can torment someone with, I mean play around with someone with.

I started this “tradition” last year when I decided it would be fun to come up with ways to torment my boyfriend with an Elf on the Shelf when he came home. When I say torment, I mean it with the utmost love and admiration. Having him come home every day with a new Elf situation and watching the look on his face when he sees the trouble Elf has gotten into is a gift in itself.

Find things around the house that double as props. This year I used marshmallows, skewers and toothpicks to make a gym set complete with dumbbells and a supposedly heavy barbell Elf was lifting over his head. Because my guy is in the military, I also took a bunch of little military men and stationed them around the Elf all pointing their guns at him with a conversation bubble that said, “I won’t talk!”

This is some downright fun and you can spend hours trying to come up with ways to personalize Elf and put him in cute and funny positions using things around the house. It shows your partner or friend you care because you took the time to stage this guy and come up with ideas that are personalized to something, they would think is cute or funny. Mission accomplished.

2-Arrange a Game Night

I would hope everyone has a game of Monopoly or Life or Trivial Pursuit laying around somewhere or know someone who has one you can borrow. What is more fun than getting a bunch of friends together for a game night?

If you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t have that many friends to invite”, then make some new ones. I know its hard, especially if you’re an introvert and it can feel like torture having to put yourself out there and risk the chance of rejection. But, so is being alone forever and I guarantee you that people like you more than you think.

If you don’t know where to start check out www.meetup.com and search for groups in your area if you’re really ambitious you can start your own (although it isn’t free to run a group).

3-Bring Someone Something from your Garden.

I completely suck at gardening. I kill everything I buy. One of the nicest gifts my mom gives me is to come out to my house and plant a bunch of stuff. She has so many plants in her garden she doesn’t even have to buy anything and she’s way better at knowing what goes where than I do.

If you have a green thumb or enjoy gardening think of someone you know or even someone you don’t know very well that could use a little help in the flower department and give them the gift of your time and expertise.

Whether you make them their own little vegetable garden for the kitchen overhang or plant a few flowers to pretty-up their porch or backyard doesn’t matter.

4-No Social Media for A Day

Give your partner a coupon that says, “I will not go on Social Media for One Day” that they can redeem at any time when they want your sole and undivided attention. Guys: hint, hint any woman would LOVE this as a gift. There is no gift you can give that is better than your time and attention.

Plus, once you try it you never know. It may turn into a regular routine and you may find out that it’s the happiest day you spend together every year or maybe once a month.

5-Invite Someone Over

Do you have any friends that you know will be alone for the holiday? Reach out. Invite them to your house to join you. Don’t take no for an answer. People want to be included even if they seem like they don’t. People want to feel like they belong somewhere and that they are valued and accepted just for being who they are.

What an amazing gift you can give by thinking of someone else who doesn’t have what you have. Extend the olive branch. The only thing it will cost you is a seat at your table but, imagine the reward you will get knowing that your friend didn’t spend the holiday alone and feeling unloved.

Some years people have invited me over and I said no so I could sit around and feel sorry for myself pretty much. The years that I did accept invitations I felt much better afterwards so whatever they do to try to put you off don’t accept it!

6-Baked Goods!

It was the wise Cookie Monster that once said, “Today I will live in the moment, unless its unpleasant, in which case I will eat a cookie.” Not everyone likes sweets, but probably 95% of people do and really, it’s the thought that counts.

Have you ever spent the day making a bunch of different kinds of Christmas cookies and brownies? I have an its pretty fun and pretty funny because half of them turn out right and the other half are pretty pathetic, but who the heck cares.

I do know there isn’t a person in the world who would say, ‘You suck, why are you giving me baked goods?” When you take the time to bake something it shows you care, and it shows that you put your personal effort into something. Granted, this is only free if you have the ingredients laying around but almost everyone, I know has butter, sugar and flower in their cupboard.

7-If You Live Where It Snows

Even if you live in Southern California (sorry Hawaii people – you’re out on this one) the snow is usually within a reasonable day’s drive. Get in the car and pile in all the kids if you have them and go spend a day in the snow. Bring some carrots from the fridge if you want to make snowmen and you can probably use a boogie board to double as a sled if you don’t have one (don’t sue me if this goes awry!).

Take the day off if you need to. Life is short. Have fun. Play. Snow is free. There’s no need to go to an expensive ski resort because kids don’t really care and honestly adults don’t either (and if they do then maybe you need to find better friends or a less demanding partner).

Honestly, I hate the cold. But I love that my guy loves the snow and anytime I can spend quality time with him I’m all over it. No, winter is not coming, its already here and you can make the best of it and go have some fun for the day at the same time.

8-Make Sure Your Neighbor is Fed

I was listening to the radio the other day and this guy who lives in an apartment complex has an elderly neighbor with no family and he makes sure she gets a home cooked meal every night. Think of what a difference this simple act makes in her life. Do you have someone that lives in your neighborhood that might need your help?

Can you share your dinner? Can you get to know them and what they are struggling with? Christmas should be about giving of yourself and not living inside your head where the world revolves around you and all your problems.

The more time you spend thinking off giving back the more time you’ll feel better about yourself. Use this holiday season to be a catalyst for change. If you don’t have any neighbors that might need your help, then I’m sure the local soup kitchen or food pantry can.

9-Offer Your Services

What do you do for a living? Are you a CPA, lawyer, stylist, babysitter, writer, student, coach, financial analyst or have a skill? If you’re on Facebook, then maybe you can offer your services to friends who might need your help that can’t afford it.

Offer to draw up a will, paint a room, give a free hair-cut, help someone with homework, let that busy mom you know have a break from the kids, give one free hour of financial advice or free relationship coaching. I’ve been coaching a few people for free the past few months and they have said how helpful it has been and its very rewarding to know that you can give someone something that costs you nothing other than your time.

10-Make a Music Compilation

Do you have a friend or family member who loves music? Are you good at picking out new tunes or are you up to date on the latest and greatest country hits? Whatever your preference or theirs try to craft something you know they would like.

Are they into meditation music or love songs? Do they prefer hard rock or EDM? Use your magical, musical skills to create a playlist they would love.

11-Volunteer to Pet Sit

Do you have a friend or loved one who is going away for the holidays and maybe they can’t afford a pet-sitter? Volunteer to watch their pets for them. Pets are like family to most people and they want to make sure they are well cared for and not in any distress while they’re away.

If you can bring them to your house, great and if not, then offer to go there and walk the dog and hang out or pet the cat and make sure he’s fed and not clawing up the furniture.

We all hope that someone would offer to help us when we need it, so reach out and ask them if they need your help. It won’t cost you anything but your time and I’m sure they will be eternally grateful and if they aren’t you never have to do it again!

12-Most Importantly – Give the Gift of Your Love

There is no greater gift you can give anyone in this world than your love. Love is not expressed by a watch or a ring or some new shiny apple product. I suppose these things can be a symbol of love, but in and of themselves they will not sustain or keep or continue to say, “I love you”. Only you can do that.

Make it your mission over the twelve days of Christmas to show at least one person how much you love them by your actions. Do they need help around the house? Do they need you to listen or understand more? Do they need you to run errands or watch the kids? Or, maybe they want to spend un-interrupted quality time with you.

Think about what THEY need, not what you want to give and then give it to them and again, this isn’t about presents. Take the time to reflect on who they are and what drives them and motivates them and learn how you can support them better or love them in a way they need to be loved.

What Are Happy Holidays? 

The only thing I want for Christmas this year is for my boyfriend to come home safe from his deployment. There is no gift greater than that.

What do you really need? Think about everything we have in America and how lucky we are to live where we live. We have so much, and we need to focus on what it means to give in the spirit of love and not in the spirit of commercialism.

Give yourself. Give your time. Give your affection. Give your attention. Give your love. Those are the greatest gifts you can ever or will ever give.


  • Carrie L. Burns

    Life Coach & Blogger

    Carrie L. Burns is a blogger and Certified Mars-Venus and Robbins-Maddanes trained Coach.  Because she is a sexual abuse survivor that struggled for years with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, insecurity, lack of self-love and relationship issues and overcame them all, she figured who could be better at teaching people how to navigate life and love than her.