The Best Gifts You Can Give Yourself That Don’t Cost Time or Money, but Will Change Your Life

Gift box

We celebrate almost every occasion with gifts to others and ourselves.

We want to have or experience various things. But we don’t always get what we want. There are things we can’t afford. And there might be practical considerations (not enough time, and too many responsibilities) that stop us from going after what we desire.

The limitations of time, money, and responsibility can lead to feeling like we’re missing out; we can’t be happy or complete without getting what we want.

With a birthday coming up, I thought about what I want this year. Usually I don’t want much (other than something sweet to share with my family). What gift can I give to myself that didn’t require money or more time?

As serendipity would have it, I had an experience that clarified this idea.

I have a chronic and nasty habit of biting the inside of my mouth and lips. I stopped in the past, but eventually started again. Even with disappointed looks and judgment from family, I still did it. Shame was not an effective motivator. And discipline alone didn’t work either.

I’ve wanted to stop this habit for years, but haven’t succeeded. My guess: my reasons for stopping were not strong enough to make me stop for good.

A week ago, and after another disappointed look from my partner, something clicked. I decided to stop. This time it wasn’t because of disappointing others (that’s a bonus), but as a gift to myself—as an act of kindness and generosity. I gave myself something I’ve wanted for a long time, something that will free me from a painful habit. And because it’s a gift, I won’t take it back.

So far so good. I’ve been celebrating this gift every day.

From this idea of stopping a bad habit, I started looking into the things that can transform our lives, but don’t require time or money. They will of course require energy, like everything else in life.

Transformational gifts that don’t cost anything

All of the things listed below are related and influence each other. They will not cost you a dime and they won’t take any more of your time. The only things required are the desire to do them and focused energy—no special tools, special time, or place.

Attention and awareness

One of the most profound things we can experience is focused attention.

Living life is the sum of noticing and attending to what we’re experiencing, without judgment or analysis.

To be fully one with the experience in this moment doesn’t cost anything. And it will change your life forever.

The more you notice and pay attention, the more you appreciate, and the more you come alive. The gift of attention is within everyone’s reach.

Changing harmful behavior or annoying little habits

Anything we do that is harmful and excessive can be replaced with something else.

In my case I replaced the habit of biting inside my cheeks with applying lip balm more frequently, or chewing gum.

Instead of nail biting, one can hold a pen for a few seconds till the urge passes.

On the surface, these habits may not appear to be too harmful. But over the years their compounded pain can be severe. They may also trickle into other more significant areas of our life, and erode our self-confidence when dealing with change.

The opposite is also true. Small changes add up over time and may inspire bigger changes.

Mental processes like worry or procrastination are tricky. How can we take action to overcome procrastination without spending more time?

Noticing the mental process as it runs can be a great gift and a catalyst for bigger changes that require time. Just notice.

When stopping a negative behavior, it’s best to make a decision, stop and see what comes up. You don’t need a fully detailed plan, especially if your plans didn’t work out in the past. As you notice and do something else, another idea might come up and you can try that instead.


Being kind and forgiving doesn’t cost a thing. It’s a choice we can make every single moment.

If you’ve been holding a grudge, or have been feeling bitter and resentful, give yourself the gift of kindness by setting yourself free from unnecessary suffering over something that happened in the past.

A smile, a gentle touch, or even a deep breath can reshape this moment.

Letting go

Letting go of expectations (of the future) and painful memories (of the past) is freedom.

You can let go of whatever you think should happen. Imagine doing what you’re doing and not worrying about how it’s going to turn out, or what others would think. It’s a wonderful gift.

When we let go of the past, we can forgive more easily. And when we let go of holding on to nostalgic memories and what was, we will awaken to the life we have right now.

Letting go doesn’t stop with the past and the future, but includes the present. Another act of kindness is to let go of judging ourselves and others.

Acceptance and surrender

After letting go comes surrender and accepting life as it is.

To accept how you feel, what you’re thinking, and where you are (the way you are) is power.

Surrender is trusting that life always has your back. You allow life to unfold, moment by moment, without wishing things were different.

And when we surrender to life, we give ourselves the ultimate gift—peace.

All roads lead to love

Attention is an act of love of all there is. Changing harmful habits is an act of self-love. Kindness and letting go are expressions of love towards ourselves and others. And surrendering to life is the most powerful and respectful act of love there is.

Our lives are in a constant state of influx and change. This is good news because we can change any thing at any given moment, if we make a conscious choice to do so.

The gifts of change are probably the ones that matter most. They don’t come wrapped up nicely in boxes, can’t be bought or sold, and are not too small to matter.

Think of something you can do for yourself that would be a kind and generous gift no one else can give you, something that won’t cost you money or time … something that you can do right now. What would that be?

Transformation starts with a single different choice.

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