When I think about all the Christmas gifts I've given, my favorite is one that cost no more than a couple dollars. When I was in my mid twenties I bought a small hardcover blank book. Beginning several months before Christmas I filled it with memories of my mother. I included silly jokes that the two of us shared, anecdotes of times spent together, and reasons why I loved and appreciated her. The quality of the writing was not very good and I didn't fill the book completely as I had hoped, but when Christmas Eve arrived I wrapped it up and placed it under the tree. My mother was oblivious to all its imperfections and it became one of her most treasured possessions.
Several years later I did the same thing for my father and mailed it out to Colorado where he lived. His wife later told me that when he unwrapped the book and began reading, it was the only time she ever saw him cry.
Both of my parents have died now. I'm so glad I took the time to make these books for them while they were still alive. It's true that you don't need money to give a meaningful gift.
On the other hand, the best gift I ever received was not handmade.
As a child I was fascinated by balloons. I wanted to grow up to be a balloonman. Then one Christmas when I was a teenager I received only one small package beneath the tree. When I unwrapped it, it was a bag of balloons. "Go look in the garage," said my mother. Next to our car I found an industrial-sized tank of helium. For the next six months I was the balloonman I had always wanted to be, sending notes up into the sky, making a tiny gondola to carry the neighbor's hamster, and flying anything that was light and could be filled with helium (balloons, baggies, plastic gloves).
Sometimes the best gifts are free, and sometimes they're the result of creative thinking.