You are using an outdated browser.
For a better experience, please upgrade your browser here.

Lend a hand

Give meaningful gifts

One way to help a friend who is having a difficult holiday season is to give them a caring holiday gift. It’s the thought that counts, so don’t worry too much about finding the “perfect” one or spending a fortune: gifts don’t need to be expensive to be appreciated. In fact, they don’t even need to be material goods: studies show that people who receive experiences as gifts feel closer to the gift giver than those who receive things.1

We asked our OptionB.Org community to name the best gifts they received when they were going through a hard time. Maybe you’ll spot something on this list that’s exactly right for a friend or loved one who is struggling this holiday season.

Remember the essentials

1

Groceries, especially fresh produce, healthy frozen meals, or their favorite snacks

2

Gift cards for restaurants, grocery stores, or pharmacies

3

A new outfit or lovely accessory they can wear with pride at holiday functions

4

Extra household goods, especially if your friend has holiday guests: hand soap, cleaning supplies, or snacks and beverages

5

A delicious home-cooked meal

6

If they’re struggling financially and have kids: hand-me-down clothes or a shopping trip for winter outfits

7

Stamps, especially if they are sending holiday cards or thank-you notes

Offer comfort

1

A quilt or scarf—handmade, if you have the time and talent

2

A stuffed animal

3

A cozy robe, sweater, or soft T-shirt that feels like a hug

4

A cup of coffee and good conversation

Help them relax

1

Scented candles or oils

2

Luxurious bath products

3

A gift certificate for a massage

Make it meaningful

1

A blank journal and nice pen for writing

2

Items emblazoned with an inspirational mantra or quote, like a magnet or coffee mug

3

A memory book or scrapbook

4

A meaningful piece of art

5

If they follow a religious tradition, a gift from that tradition—a book of prayers, religious medallion, or candle

6

If they’ve lost a loved one, a gift that memorializes that person, such as a locket with a treasured picture inside

Initiate a favorite activity

1

Tickets to an event you can go to together: the movies, a comedy show, a concert

2

Things to keep their mind busy: games, puzzles, books, DVDs, music

3

A crafting activity that you can do together

4

If your friend likes to garden, a plant, flowers, herbs, or something else they can add to their garden

Help others

1

Is your friend a proud alumnus of their high school or college? Consider making a donation to their alma mater in their name.

2

Think about your friend’s passions and volunteer on your own for a charitable organization that speaks to them. Do they love to cook? Help out at a shelter kitchen. Did they lose a loved one who enjoyed a local park? Spend an afternoon picking up litter there. It’ll let them know that you recognize what makes them unique, respect their values, and remember the stories they’ve shared.

3

If your friend volunteers somewhere, join them or make a donation to show your support.

4

Does your friend have a specific cause or organization they care about? See if you can do some of your holiday gift shopping there. Many charities have online stores offering clothing and accessories, household goods, and pretty much anything you can think of. Look for items where a large portion of the cost goes toward the charity’s mission.

Whether your gift fills an urgent need, warms your friend’s heart, or honors their values, it can mean a lot—especially during sad or anxious times. If you’d rather give the gift of your time or skills, check out other ways to help.

Endnotes

  1. Cindy Chan and Cassie Mogilner, "Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Relationships Than Material Gifts," in NA—Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 42, ed. June Cotte and Stacy Wood (Duluth, MN: Association for Consumer Research, 2014), 101–5.