Seven Priceless Gifts for Those You Love (For Under $20)

“Expect not and you shall not be disappointed!” It’s what my Mother would say when my sister and I would realize as kids that our dad got her nothing for Christmas, or her birthday, or anything else.

Even when though I was terrified of him as a child, I would often beg him to get my Mother something for Christmas. He would blow me off with something like: “She doesn’t need a gift, she’s got me!” Even as a child I remember thinking that that was no prize at all!

She had a great attitude, and oooh’ed and ahhh’d over all of the little things my sister and I would make her for special occasions.

By the time I was in graduate school, I was no longer terrified of my dad. They had moved into a restored antebellum plantation home, and I knew from phone conversations that she had found some furniture that she had fallen in love with.

I went home early for the holiday and I told my dad, “Come on, you’re taking me shopping.” He rolled his eyes, but I took his hand and drug him to the garage where we jumped in his truck. On the way I said, “I know mother told you about the living room furniture she wants, but was looking for something cheaper because you moaned and groaned about the price. But we are going to that store, and we are going to buy it! Then we are going to take a photo of it for you to wrap up in a box.”

He moaned and groaned all the way to the furniture store, but he bought the furniture. We took the photograph with an instant camera, and we took it home where I helped him put it in a box.  He informed me he wasn’t wrapping the gift, and I gave him “the look“ that he had always given me, and he grabbed the paper and said, “Well … are you going to help me?“ I laughed, and I helped him by giving instructions and holding the tape dispense.

My Mother was delighted and in tears about furniture that she had dreamed of. But the thing that meant the most to her was that he wrapped the gift. (And it looked like he wrapped it!)

The lesson I learned that Christmas was that the greatest gifts are the gifts that cost very little, but they are worth $1 million. It wasn’t the furniture; it was him actually wrapping a gift for her that was priceless.

Since that time, I’ve been helping people who are strapped financially to people who are millionaires many times over to think differently about their gifts.

Here are seven meaningful gifts for that will be priceless to those you love and cost less than $10:

1. Frame a photo of the two of you together with a sweet sentiment printed on it.

A framed photo with someone you love is a great gift. You can get a print done at Walgreens for almost any size for about $3. And you can pick up a frame at the Dollar Store, or find a nice one at any department store.

Then whether you write your message with a permanent marker pen on the photographs, or go into some program like on your computer and overlay the print before you send it to Walgreens, it’s a perfect gift!

It could be a photo of a recent gathering, or a photo from many years ago.

One year for Christmas, one of my daughters had a photo printed of both of us from many years before. She had written on the bottom of the photograph in her own handwriting: “Mom, I loved you then, and I love you now!“

It’s a photo and a gift that I have cherished through the years. 

I promise you this will not disappoint anyone. Whether it’s a coworker, your spouse, or a family member! The personal touch warms anyone’s heart!

Who can you do that for this Christmas? I can almost guarantee you that it will be their favorite gift! 

2. Give 12 days of Christmas, each with a favorite memory.

I have done this many times starting 12 days before Christmas, and doing a 12 day countdown. Each day, I sent a card, note, text or email with one of my favorite memories of the two of us.

I am doing that this year for someone who used to work for me. I sent her an email with a photo of two of us. It said: “On this 12th day before Christmas, I was remembering one of my favorite moments with you. We were in New York City in the first of December and I had done a speaking engagement. We were out walking near Central Park, when we both saw a horse drawn carriage parked a few blocks down. We glanced at one another, and without one single word, we both started running toward the carriage. I remember we both felt like princesses riding around New York City that night!“ I have 11 more lined up for her.

It’s not too late if you start right now! Countdown 12 of your favorite memories with someone special to you, recounting one each day for the 12 days until Christmas day!

You may have to reach back into your memory, but knowing that you remember 12 special moments with that person will not only warm their heart, but make them smile! 

Who can you gift with this priceless gift this holiday season?

3. Choose one thing about you that you think they would appreciate a change in, and give a symbolic gift as a commitment.

Committing to growth in an area of your life that will ultimately enrich the relationship is a gift that anyone would treasure.

A few years ago, I was helping a young man design the perfect Christmas gift for his wife that he dearly loved. They were short on money that holiday season, and I had gone through some of these ideas.

He latched onto this one, because he knew that she did not really enjoy the weight that he had put on when he stopped smoking. She was very proud of his smoking cessation, so she never complained. But he knew in his heart that she would appreciate him returning to the body that she fell in love with.

He decided that he would give up all desserts until he returned to his original body size. It was only about 30 pounds, but he knew it would take some time.  He struggled a bit with how he would gift her with this.

I asked him what his favorite sugar treat was, and he blurted out without a bit of hesitation: “Twinkies!“

I suggested that he wrap up a package of Twinkies, and write a note about giving these to her since he was giving them up to reclaim his original body for her this year!

He took it a step further, and spent the little bit of money he had on the Twinkies, and a piece of lingerie from Victoria’s Secret.

He asked for a large pink box at Victoria’s Secret. He placed the lingerie, wrapped in pretty pink tissue, on top. Then wrapped the Twinkies with his note, and placed it in the bottom of the box.

I laughed out loud when he told me how he delivered it, and he said she laughed out loud, then read the note and cried. He announced to me that he was down 7 pounds and almost 2 weeks into no sugar treats or Twinkies!

Perhaps your kids have complained about your anger. Put a note in their stocking and tell them that you are gifting them with an anger free dad. And that you are taking a course or reading a book on anger management.

Not only will you grow when you choose this gift, but your relationships will grow richer and sweeter!

Who can you gift with a change in you that you know they desire? Get creative on your delivery of the gift!

4. Give the gift of gratitude.

I encourage people to turn this into a handmade gift. Put away your computer and fancy printer, and get some sheets of construction paper and make a little booklet.

On each page, write what you are grateful for about them. It is a gift they will treasure forever.

One summer over 30 years ago, I had directed a camp for emotionally disturbed children. It was always a challenge at the beginning of camp because there were many tears, much yelling, and lots of fights.

But I knew with lots of love, plenty of patience, and good modeling and teaching, their behavior would change dramatically. It happened summer after summer and was such a beautiful thing to be a part of.

That particular summer had been very challenging. But the breakthroughs were absolutely astounding.

At the end of camp, one of my rowdy little guys came to me and asked me for some paper and markers. When I asked what it was for, he had a mischievous grin and said, “Don’t worry… I promise I’m not going to mark on any of the walls or do anything bad.“

After tussling his hair, I gave him the pen and markers. Little did I know that in a few days in their graduation ceremony, each camper would have written what he or she was grateful to me for. I cried as I read it, and I still have that little booklet out on my bookshelf and review it from time to time.

A box full of hundred dollar bills could not have held a candle to what that gift meant to me.

Who can you make a little gratitude book for this Christmas? Tell them you are grateful for things they have done, for things that describe who they are, for special things you note about them. It will likely be on their bookshelf many years from now.

5. Give them the gift of your presence. 

The greatest gift that you have to offer is your presence.

In the beginning of the school year, I was invited to teach a class to middle school and high school kids about “The Power of …”. For each of the six weeks, the last word of the phrase was filled in with words that begin with a “P.”

The first week with the “Power of Purpose.” The second week was the “Power of Presence.”

The week after I taught about the “Power of Presence,” the Director of the co-op called me to ask my permission to give my phone number to the dad of one of the 12 year old boys in my class. Although I was curious about his dad’s desire to speak with me, I told her to absolutely share my phone number with him. Less than an hour later, I received the call. 

The dad reported that his son’s birthday was the following week. He had asked his son what he wanted for his birthday and the son had told him that he wanted his presence.

He said he had told his son, “Son, which of my ‘presents’ are you talking about?“ He said his son had replied with slight disgust: “Not your ‘presents’ dad! Your ‘presence’.”

The dad reported, “I asked him what he meant and he tried his best to tell me about your class. But now I’m in a dilemma. It’s what he wants for his birthday and I have no idea what it is.”

With a slight chuckle I assured him I could help. I asked him what kinds of activities his son enjoyed. He started with: “Anything outdoors!”

After a few more questions to gather more info, I said: “Here’s my suggestion: take an entire day off, rent some kayaks, and take him to a river with a few rapid areas, and enjoy the adventure. No cell phones, no news or sports radio on the drive to and from (unless he requests it). Just focus on your son. Get to know him.”

As most people respond when I teach them about “presence,” he objected about the cell phone. I told him that he absolutely could not be present with his son with his cell phone active. (Of course I assured him he could take it along in case of emergency. But it should be OFF otherwise).

As most people do, he began negotiating. “Well I could leave it on, but turn the ringer off.” I commented, “You cannot do that and be present.” He continued negotiating: “Well, I could leave it on and turn vibrate off too.” Once again I stated, “You can do that, but you will not be fully ‘present,’ and fulfill your son’s desire.”

Although he was clearly unhappy about the instructions, he agreed to pursue the plan.

The weekend after his birthday, the now adolescent boy burst into the classroom before class began. He was so excited to report to me. He could not overcome his exuberance as he told me the story: “I told mt dad all about the power of his presence, and that’s all I really wanted for my birthday!”

He continued, “You will never believe this! He rented kayaks and we went down the river together. With an ice chest full of cold drinks, lots of snacks, and it was the best birthday ever!“ I smiled and gave him a big hug and said: “Your dad must really love you!“

You can make someone’s Christmas the best ever with your presence. Spend time with them, turn your cell phone off, turn the television off, turn sports off. Give them your full interest and attention doing something they enjoy!

Not only will it be the best present that you could ever give, but it will be quite rewarding for you as well! Who can you be present for as your present to them this year? 

6. Give the gift of intentionality. 

What is intentionality? I define it as making an ongoing plan with great purpose to benefit your self and another person or another group bringing fulfillment for all involved. 

The first time I ever heard the word intentionality was in a talk by Zig Ziglar. I remember him saying, “All great leaders live in intentionality.”  Then he said some thing that really got my attention, because it was something that stepped all over my toes.

He was giving you an example of intentionality in relationships. “Most of you think you have plenty of time before Christmas to figure out the gift you will give your wife, your children or coworkers because it’s over three weeks away. But people of intentionality begin the plan of next year‘s Christmas gift or next year‘s birthday present on the day after the special day the year previous… like planning next year’s Christmas gift the day after Christmas. Or the day after your wife’s birthday, you begin planning for next year’s gift.”

Most of us really know what our spouses or partners want from us. I can’t think of a wife who would not love to hear from her husband that he would intentionally plan a date weekly for a year. Or a wife who would say: “I will prepare the snacks and watch sports with you on Sunday afternoons this year.”

Living with intentionality certainly leaves room for spontaneity. But it doesn’t just go through life hoping things happen. You must be intentional to enrich your relationships, to improve your finances, to grow spiritually, or do whatever it is that would make you become your best.

Give someone the gift of your intentionality. Of course, you must follow through on it! But you will have a friend or a love for life for such a gift!

7. Give the gift of love.

There is not a human being on the planet does that does not want to be loved.

Last year I had a delightful woman come to me just before the holidays and was talking about her struggle in her relationship. It was just before the holidays and she said one day in session, “It’s impossible to get him a gift. If he wants something, he just goes and gets it. If I give him anything he doesn’t like it.“

Because there had been some challenges, I suggested that she wrap him a gift with a note committing to “love him well” for the entire year. Of course her response at the moment was, “For a whole year?“ I said, “Why not?“

She confessed, “I don’t even know how to do that!” I said, “I like to use the classic definition of love and here’s what it says:”

Love is:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not want what belongs to others
  • Does not brag
  • Is not all about self
  • Does not dishonor other people
  • Does not protect only themselves
  • Does not only focus on their own interest
  • Does not easily become angry
  • Does not keep track of other people’s wrongs
  • Is joyful when the truth is spoken
  • Always protects the one they love
  • Trusts
  • Keep hope alive, regardless of circumstances
  • Is loyal
  • Never gives up

I told her I had a daily Love Check Up she could use to check herself at least once a week, and score herself on how well she was “loving him well” in order to keep her promise. 

She took on the challenge, and we have touched base several times. She reported that her scores remained above average once she got started, although certainly not A+.

But she must have done a great job, because I received an email from her husband last week, stating that whatever I did on this “love him well thing“ had definitely got his attention. And that he would like to gift her with the same thing this year.

I shared with him the definition above, and challenged him with the weekly check up. I emailed the Love Check Up to him. I can’t wait to hear how he surprises her with his gift of love to “love her well all year.” (If you would like the love check up to use yourself, private message me at with your email and I’ll be glad to send it to you).

Someone would cherish your gift of committing to “loving them well all year.“ Who will you ravish with that gift?

I hope you’ll look at the holiday season differently this year. I’m certainly not suggesting that you give absolutely no other gifts other than the seven I shared. I’m just saying that these are million dollar gifts that come from your heart and warm someone else’s.

I would love to suggest that you give each of these gifts this holiday season. Maybe not to the same person, but they are gifts to be cherished for a lifetime!

Happy, happy holidays, and I hope you also get gifted with at least one of these million dollar gifts yourself!