EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the latest installment of The Single Life, a monthly column written specifically for singles.

Let’s face it, the holidays can be expensive. Pricey Christmas concert and event tickets, the latest Christmas movies, not to mention gift-giving . . . they all take money, sometimes sleigh-loads of it.

In these tough economic times it behooves us to be creative with our cash. Fortunately, it is possible to celebrate the season without breaking the bank. Below are a few suggestions for holiday gifts and activities that can help keep your season and your wallet merry. This is just a starter list, so if you come up with other genius ideas (and I’m sure you will!) do please share them in the comments section below. 

Low- (or No-) Cost Gifts

They say it’s the thought that counts; sometimes a little thought will lead you to the best gift ideas—and many of them cost little or nothing. Here are five ideas to get you started:

Shop: If you’re long on time and short on cash—but have a friend or family member with the opposite problem—offer to act as their personal shopper. For busy people, especially those who hate to shop in the first place, having you take their place in a crowded store would be appreciated far beyond any gift you could wrap. But speaking of wrapping . . .

Wrap: Do you have mad gift-wrapping skills? The wrap-challenged among your acquaintances may well appreciate the gift of your expertise when you offer to wrap their packages for them. You’ll enjoy operating in your creative gift, they’ll enjoy not having to fuss with tape and ribbon, and their gift recipients will enjoy opening a beautifully-wrapped gift for a change. If wrapping’s not your thing, you could always . . .

Babysit: Do you know someone with young children? Betcha their parents would love some adult time. They may want to go shopping without kiddies in tow, attend an office Christmas party, enjoy a date night, or just take an uninterrupted nap. The parents in my circle say keeping their kids occupied for a few hours would be one of the best presents ever. FYI, this is also a great gift for people who are caretakers for elderly parents or special needs family members. But if that doesn’t work for you, you could always go with a classic gift category and . . .

Cook: Do any of your friends or family eat? (Yes, that IS a trick question!) Everyone eats something, sometime, which is one reason food is always a popular gift. It can be presented a number of ways, including . . .

  • The ever-popular baked goods, candies, and other homemade treats, wrapped in plastic or tucked in a Christmas tin. It’s popular for a reason—who doesn’t love a yummy Christmas treat?
  •  How about a dinner kit for someone to enjoy now or later? I have a killer lasagna recipe that’s inexpensive to make, easy to freeze, and universally popular. Add a salad and a loaf of bread and poof! Dinner accomplished.
  • In lieu of gifts, have somebody (or everybody) over for a meal. I recently did this for a group of friends who all have December birthdays. We ate, laughed, talked, and enjoyed sharing an evening together. While we’re on the subject of parties . . .

Help: Do you know someone who is throwing a party, dinner, etc., and is perhaps a tad on the frazzled side? They could probably use a sous chef, flower arranger, decorator, dishwasher, etc. In other words, they could use some help to pull off their big event. Even those who aren’t in party mode may need help with something that falls in your area of expertise, whether it’s home repair or reorganizing the kitchen.