Great gifts ideas for when you’ve got no money

People born in early December and early January are not very popular with gift givers. Unlike those unlucky folk who are born on or around December 25th, these people’s birthdays are just slightly too far away from the main gift-giving day of the year to be able to combine two gifts into one ‘super gift’. As anyone unfortunate enough to be born on December 25th knows, instead of getting one gift for the festive season and one gift for their birthday, people will fob them off with something like a pair of socks – “one is for your birthday and the other one is for the festive celebration”, they say. However, it’s pretty difficult to get away with giving the two socks three weeks apart.

The reason all this happens is that there are so many gifts to buy around that time. Crammed into the space of a few weeks, we find Christmas Day, Pancha Ganapati, Saturnalia, Hanukkah, Yule, Yalda, New Year’s Day, Hogmanay, Dongzhi Festival, Epiphany, Orthodox Christmas, Lohri and more celebrations which require people to part with their hard-gotten money. How dare anyone celebrate their birthday at the same time as all that chaos?

Rather than saving up all year for the gift-giving frenzy, there are other ways you can deal with it. In fact, you might never spend money on gifts again.

One of the nicest ideas, if you can pull it off, is to cook a meal. You don’t have to do a cake – you could just prepare some buffet snacks. Spell the person’s name out in spaghetti to let everyone know who it’s for. Apart from winning the gratitude of the receiver of the gift, you’ll also win over whoever is responsible for the catering, as you’ll have just taken care of a large part of it. And then you’ll have all those happy people who have managed to grab a plate and start filling their mouths and bellies with your delicious meal. Cooks and chefs give great gifts.

If you are good at creating stuff, but not in the kitchen, you might have already invested in some home tools, some of which you can see only here. If so, you’re probably a dab hand when it comes to rustling up a new cabinet or a table and chairs. Over the course of the year you can save all the oddly-shaped bits of wood that you couldn’t use and shape them into gifts whenever a birthday or other celebration is coming up. What was once the unfitting and unwanted end of a baseboard can be cut into a heart shape with someone’s initials drilled into it. The leftover bits of wood from the dog’s kennel can be shaped into a heart and glued together as a romantic token.

If you’re really not very good at making things or putting them together, and there isn’t a creative impulse anywhere in your soul, you could still shock everyone by dropping the most amazing gift bomb that nobody was expecting. All you need to do is remember some soppy lines from a book or a poem which you can then dedicate to the person whose birthday it is. As an example, for your best friend, you might want to read some lines from Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’:

“I think… if it is true that there are as many minds are there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”

Or for your son or daughter as they approach adolescence, some lines from Nietzsche’s ‘Thus spoke Zarathustra’:

“I have learned to walk: since then I have run. I have learned to fly: since then I do not have to be pushed in order to move. Now I am nimble, now I fly, now I see myself under myself, now a god dances within me.”

The more thought you give to choosing the right passage, the more likely it will be appreciated.

Aside from these ideas, there are countless other gift ideas which cost very little – a beautiful photograph, a heartfelt letter, a song sung from the soul – all of these will move the recipient far more than one of a pair of socks.