Gifts that matter

Some of the best presents cost nothing at all. If you’re time-rich but cash-poor, let Annalisa Barbieri and Nicole Jackson inspire you.

Compile a photo album

Gather together photos of the recipient from family and friends, scan them into your computer, print them out and put them in an album (or use the originals if you’re allowed to keep them), adding comments from various people about the person you’re giving it to.

Share your favourite walk

Draw a map of your favourite walk — either marking it on a map or sketching it onto some nice paper. It could be a country walk, a pub crawl, even a shopping walk. Annotate it, pointing out your most-loved views/trees/ picnic spots/pubs/ tea rooms/ shops. Draw silly little pictures (or great ones if you’re adept) to denote places of interest, or write notes with interesting information. Many places may be having sales, so if the walk has a retail edge, see if any apply to the places on your walk and include them in the package. Present the whole thing rolled up in a scroll and tie with some ribbon.

Write a recipe book

Write down all your favourite hand-me-down recipes; include anecdotes about their heritage, why they are special and when you made them. You can also tear pages out of magazines and make up a personalised recipe book according to a person’s tastes. You can supplement this gift by offering to teach an inexperienced cook how to follow the recipes, or by presenting

it along with one of the things featured — a cake, perhaps.

Plant a window box

Jane Perrone, the Guardian’s gardening editor, suggests planting a window box or container with two types of bulb that come into flower at different times but won’t clash if they overlap for a couple of weeks; for instance daffodils and tulips, or snowdrops and late-flowering crocuses. A bare box of soil is a bit disappointing, so include some winter plants to add colour and interest until the bulbs come up.

Write a story

Write a story for a child. Include them in it and make it about a favourite subject — for example, princesses or pirates. Illustrate it with drawings (once you get started it’s great fun), or a collage in which you could include photos of the child or pictures printed from the internet.

Give a massage

Give a foot massage. This is an especially lovely thing to do for a woman who has just given birth (by the time the baby is born she may not have been able to see her feet, let alone attend to them, for some months). Mix a few drops of the recipient’s favourite essential oils with some almond oil. If you are a bit squeamish about feet, you could give a hand massage. Use any hand cream, massage it in thickly, wrap their hands in cling film, then a warm blanket, and leave them relaxing for 10 minutes, for added deep moisturising.

Pass on a book

Pass on books you have read and loved. Write a note inside saying when you bought it, what the book has meant to you and why you are passing it on. You could laminate your note to double up as a bookmark.

Give your time

Think about what your forte is and pass it on in the form of vouchers the recipient can ‘cash in’. Nearly everyone has something they need taking up or taking in. If you are handy with a needle you can give them a certain number of hours of sewing. If you have a good eye, offer to act as a personal shopper (men particularly appreciate this). In one consumer study, children rated ‘more time with their parents’ over the latest toy, so give your children

‘playtime’ vouchers (make any rules you deem necessary, such as ‘weekends only’, so they don’t try to ‘cash them in’ just as you’re going to work).