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Gifts that Make a Difference (meaningful and low-cost)
Gifts that Make a Difference

The best gifts can be
useful, meaningful,
memorable, and inexpensive...

a warm embrace, a phone call, a listening ear, a book you read and loved,
a visit, a kind remark to lift and strengthen another,
a letter, cookies from your oven, or
flowers from your yard...
to show you care. 

Family Service

Family service projects will provide the best, most memorable holiday moment for the family.  Children may soon forget the many things they learned in a classroom, or received from others, including gifts; but, they will not likely forget their feelings surrounding the impressionable experiences of serving and giving to others.  They will long remember the joy they brought into the lives of those they have served.    (see Charity in the Family)  

  • Pets.  Adopt and gift one of the many abandoned or orphaned pets in one of the local animal shelters.

  • Give an ID collar to your pet.

  • Teach your family about charity, and why it matters.  Then, as a family, plan some service projects and gift your time and means in the community.   (View "Charity - Why It Matters")  

  • Write thank-you notes to extend kindness and appreciation to others.  This will not only warm the heart of the receiver, but it will also remind you of your blessings as you remember and express gratitude for those who have blessed your life.

Children and Youth
  • Give an adoptable foster child the gift of belonging to a loving family.  Consider adopting one of the hundreds of adoptable foster children in Washington—and make this the most memorable Christmas for them and you.  
  • Camping equipment and an application to join a Boy Scout Troop.

Community Activities
  • Classes.  Look under “Things to Do” for places to sign up for classes and workshops such as art, pottery, sewing, quilting…  (This list will grow!) 
  • Make lasting memories by participating in community events.  See the Calendar.

Cultural Arts

  • Lessons for music, art and dance will bless lives.

  • Plan an activity for a handicapped friend that is catered to his/her capabilities.

  • Special gifts for those with disabilities.  Contact the organizations which work with specific disabilities.


  • Give the gift of music with a musical instrument and music lessons.  (Instruments are expensive, and do not have to be new.)  
  • Shop thrift stores to give a second life to a treasure, and benefit the charities which sponsor the stores.

  • Donate new or gently-used medical equipment - crutches, wheelchairs, or walkers to a charity thrift store where people who cannot afford to purchase new equipment may purchase those items inexpensively. 

  • Donate old eyeglasses to a nonprofit which gives them to people in need.

  • Donate your unused items to organizations which serve those in need. 

  • Share the joy of reading.  Books make excellent gifts for infants, children or adults, with thousands of topics to personalize the choice from baby sign language and how-to books to gardening and the arts. 
  • Personal Libraries.  Help children start their own library of special books.  

Emergency Preparedness
  • Prepare an emergency kit for a car or the home. 
    (See a list of ideas under Family Emergency Preparedness.

  • Give your friends and neighbors the gift of emergency preparedness.  Review emergency response plans for people living in your area.  Invite your neighborhood to discuss ways they can prepare for an emergency. 

  • Give your family or loved ones the gift of a 72-hour kit for emergencies.

  • Check out the “healthy toy” information under Chemicals.  

Family and Friends
  • Give gifts that the entire family can enjoy together, like board games. 

  • Offer to help an elderly person run errands.

  • Remind someone that they have value.  Point out a virtue in someone they don’t see in themselves. 

  • Write a thank you letter to someone who has positively impacted your life.

  • Parents.  Make plans to take each of your children on a 1-on-1 activity. 

  • Mothers.  Make a list of all the things your mother has done for you.  Send it to her.

  • Identify a motherly person in your life and take her flowers.

  • Is there a family member you haven’t talked to lately?  Call them.

  • Visit a family member.

Food & Hunger
  • Gardening tools
  • Offer to plow or till gardens for others.

  • Invite a widow or widower to dinner.

  • Donate non-perishable items to a local food bank.

  • Invite a neighbor on a tight budget to dinner. 

Health & Medicine
  • Home health monitors for readings of blood pressure, heart rate, etc.  
  • A doll purchased from the Discovery Shop will help support cancer research
  • Chrochet/knit a very soft hat for someone who has lost their hair due to cancer treatments

  • Sign up to be an organ donor.

  • Give blood at your local blood bank.

  • Visit a nursing home.  Studies show that 60% never get visitors during their stay.

  • Personal Journal, scrapbook or photo album.  (see Journals on this site)
  • Research your family’s history at one of our local genealogy libraries, and give copies of stories and genealogy to family members.  (see Genealogy on this site)

  • Write your life story, and give copies to your family.  (see Life Stories on this site)

  • Learn about an ancestor and share their story.  For help, try FamilySearch.org

  • Pass down something you learned from your parents or grandparents.


  • Identify someone that will be alone for Christmas.  Invite them to attend a church service with you on Christmas Day.

  • Find a picture of Jesus Christ that inspires you and place it in your home where it can serve as a reminder.

  • Give a simple gift to your mail carrier to raise spirits during their busiest season.

  • Participate in a local sub-for-Santa for a family that could use some holiday cheer.

  • Plan a special Christmas Eve program with your family and friends.

  • Leave an anonymous gift for a family member. 

  • Collect winter clothing (old or new) for your local homeless shelter.

Laws and Public Safety
  • Peek-hole device for the front door, or motion-sensitive outdoor lighting to protect against a home invasion.   
  • Helmets for children and adults.  (see Helmet Laws)  
  • Mail box that locks to prevent stolen mail and identity theft.  
  • Alarm or steering wheel collar to prevent vehicle theft.  
  • Electric engraver to identify valuables in the event of theft.  

Patriotism and Military
  • American flag to hang in front of a house

Politics and Voting

Projects for Grandparents
  • Introduce your grandchildren to the many creative things they can do with their minds and hands, using yarn and needles; tools and wood; beads and string, etc.   
  • Give grandchildren some family heirlooms while you are still around to tell of their meaning to you.  
  • Warm quilts to read books with.
Projects for Kids
  • Bake cookies to give away.  
  • Make a handmade card or bookmark.   
  • There are dozens of ideas under "Projects for Kids," and most of them can be done at little or not cost.  

Recreation and Fitness
  • Swimming lessons (or golf, tennis, bowling, ice skating…)
  • Exercise/fitness class, or a physical fitness facility membership.  

Religion Supports the Family and Community
  • Take your family to Church on Christmas day, or any other day.  There are over 400 Churches to choose from in Spokane County.  Need help deciding?  (visit Religion Supports the Family

  • Invite someone to attend a church service with you.

Share your ideas with SpokaneCares.org
and we will add them to this list.