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As we get older, it gets a lot harder to maintain friendships. We may live far away from our best friends, they may have kids and less time to spend with us – things just change as we get older. However, just because we don’t spend as much time with our friends as we did when we were in our teens or early twenties doesn’t mean we love them any less!
On the other hand, not seeing your friends as frequently also may mean you’re not really sure what to get them this holiday season. Are they still into cashmere sweaters? Do they still have that clunky old vacuum, or did they upgrade? Is their spouse still into that one football team? If you ask your friend too many of these questions in a row, they may get suspicious – and half the fun of presents is the surprise on the other person’s face, so you don’t want to give away what you’re getting them.
Luckily, I’ve spent years away from some of my best friends and also don’t speak to them as frequently as I like, but I’ve done pretty well at surprising my far-flung friends with some awesome gifts. I take gift-giving seriously, because I love giving gifts to loved ones.
Whether you speak to your friends everyday (lucky!) or see them less frequently, here are five inexpensive ways to celebrate your friends this holiday season.
Five Inexpensive Ways to Celebrate Your Friends
1) Make Time in Your Schedule for Them
Sounds easy, right? While this inexpensive gift may seem cheap (it’s free!), it actually can be very difficult when it comes to your time budget. What’s a time budget? It’s your 24 hour day.
When you subtract out eating and sleeping, roughly 10 hours I would guess, you have 14 hours in your day – for work, family time, errands, etc. Suddenly, fitting in an hour or so to catch up with your friend starts to get expensive in your time budget!
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However, this free gift to your friend is worth it, so subtract this time from your time budget. Hop on the phone or schedule a coffee date to chat and listen. Really listen to your friend about what she’s doing, eating, loving, etc. You can chat about Oprah’s “Favorite Things” as an opportunity to see what she likes (or doesn’t like!) You’ll likely find lots of inspiration just from catching up with your friend as far as future gifts.
Also, if this is all you can afford for your friends – that’s okay too! Sometimes the gift of catching up and being that one person she can talk to about everything, without feeling judged, is the best gift you could possibly give.
2) Creep on Their Social Media – and Gift from What You Find
If you have money in your budget for a gift for your friend but aren’t sure what to get, it’s time to be a “typical Millennial” – and creep on her social media feeds. Scroll through her Facebook or Instagram (or if you’re braver than I am, her Snapchat…) and see what she’s into.
Consider event-giving gifts, if you can get a gift card for them. If she’s really into local food, you could get her a gift card to an apple orchard (yay apple picking!) or her local farmer’s market. If you’re super lucky and live in the same city as your friend, go with her and surprise her with a gift card to the farmer’s market – treats on you, and maybe she’ll share!
3) Mix-and-Match Gifts
Mix-and-match gifts have always been a home run with my friends, and they’re very inexpensive! Since all my friends live in snowy climates, I usually like to make them mix-and-match gift baskets with a “Stay Warm, Suckers!” theme. (It’s Stay Warm, Suckers because I live in Phoenix, where our winter temps are in the 70s… haha)
These gift baskets can include many things, but mine are pretty traditional: think hot chocolate mix, tea, coffee, a mug or two (I usually send a funny, joke mug or a really classy mug), fancy marshmallows, etc. Then I wrap it up in a basket (you can get them for very cheap at your local thrift store), some pretty ribbon, a card (so they know it’s from me), and ship it!
4) Share Your Hometown with Them
One bonus of living far from your friends? Your hometown has stuff they can’t get! Okay, with Amazon and eBay, you can probably have almost anything shipped anywhere, but go with me here.
What is your city known for? Really think about the cool things that make your city unique. In Arizona, there’s this gag gift (I hope) that people not from here really seem to love: scorpion lollipops. According to the Amazon reviews, I guess people do eat these, although I haven’t ever. However, they’re really popular with friends in other states, so that’s one clever gift that they wouldn’t find elsewhere.
In your hometown, you may be known for a dip or salsa, wine, even a local beer. Think about what your friends would like to get – and it doesn’t have to be food!
5) Cook Them Something or Plan a Trip
If you’re lucky enough to live near your friends, schedule a time to get together and bring them a delicious meal you discovered in 2017. Or, if you have a homemade favorite you know your friend loves, bring that! Pair it with some wine, cider, or her favorite beer, wrap it up with a bow, and bring it by! She may want to share it with you, but the goal is to give it as a gift. Who wouldn’t like a day off cooking – and with a delicious meal? Ooo, you’d be my best friend!
For those of us who don’t live close to our best friends, plan a trip for the next year! The good thing about far-flung friends is you have a place to stay when you visit them! The key here is to fully involve your friend in your plans: tell them you’d like to visit them, ask what times are good and if you can crash on their couch or in the guest room for a few nights. Two nights, three day minimum – don’t overstay your friend’s hospitality!
Weekends are good for this, because your friend will have time to make room in her schedule to play tourist. With the money you save on a place to stay, bring a bottle or two of wine from your city/state (or something else from your region you know she’d like) AND pay for at least one meal while you’re visiting your friend. Trust me, it will still be cheaper than shelling out for a hotel!
It’s Not Necessarily About Giving a Gift – It’s About Celebrating How Much They Mean to You
I’ve done a variation on all of these gifts for years, and my friends have always enjoyed it (some enjoyed the scorpion lollipops more than others…). Other than the traveling gift, all of these gifts are very inexpensive yet still show your friends you love them, miss them, and are happy they’re part of your life.
This quote is attributed to a lot of people, but as an only child, it’s one of my favorites: “Friends are family you get to choose.” So treat your friends like the family you love – and use these 5 inexpensive ways to celebrate your friends!