Gifts that show you really care -- that won’t cost you a dime

If you’re not sure what to get a friend or a loved one for the holidays, there are plenty of ways to show you really care -- that don’t require you to spend a dime.

A gift you may not have thought of -- but could be greatly appreciated right now -- is the gift of help.

“Some of the best gifts are not the most expensive. In fact, free gifts like acts of service sometimes reflect the most thought and care and can be more meaningful than any gift that you purchase,” said Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers.

Albers said you could make a delicious dinner for that person or do chores for them like walking their dog.

If you need a gift idea for someone who is a parent, you could offer to babysit their children so they can have some alone time. Or, if you have kids too, take them all for a playdate.

If you need a gift for a senior or an older individual, they may appreciate you going to the store for them or doing some of their yard work.

For anyone you care about, if you’re good at organizing, you could clean out a person’s pantry or use your artistic ability to make them a drawing.

As for children, Albers said gifts of service can also be meaningful – especially if you’re on a budget and can’t afford to buy them that toy or electronic they wanted.

“These gifts will come and go. Kids remember how they feel during the holidays, so making them feel loved, supported, is going to be much more giving in the long run than any kind of toy you can get them,” she said.

Albers suggests, if you’re unsure of what to do, try to think about what kind of needs the person has or if they’ve mentioned lately something they could use help with. That could be a good starting point.

Health benefits of giving

Gift-giving also has health benefits for you. Albers said research shows that helping someone or giving them a gift can boost your physical and mental health in a number of ways.

RELATED: Helpers High: How you benefit when you give gifts

For one, your brain secretes the following “feel good” chemicals:

  • Serotonin – which regulates your mood.
  • Dopamine – which gives you a sense of pleasure
  • Oxytocin – which creates a sense of connection to others

Albers said generosity is also good for your heart because it can lower your blood pressure. It can also reduce your levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone that can make you feel overwhelmed or anxious.