12 December 2022


Amy Parfett


16 gifts of your time to give your parents that won't cost a cent

They say it’s the thought that counts. And nothing could live up to that old adage more than giving a gift of your own time and skills.

Thankfully, that’s why Gravy exists: to formalise the beer economy and make it possible to give and receive gifts of human effort. And since life's busy and we know full well that gifting is often a last-minute job, we’ve put some thoughts together for you.

Here are 16 gifts of your own time and skills that you can give your parents this year - most of which won’t cost a cent but you can guarantee will catapult to the top of the ‘Best Gifts’ list for the year… perhaps decade. Gather your siblings and group gift any of these together for maximum impact, but more importantly, maximum connection.


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1. Garden working bee

A classic crowd-pleaser: so many people’s folks always need more help in the garden. And whether you’re green-thumbed or not, almost everyone can hold a rake/push a lawnmower/trim a hedge/pull out some weeds/spread some mulch/accompany mum or dad to the nursery and mull over the benefits of kikuyu vs. buffalo.


2. Build a veggie garden

A follow-on from the previous idea, this is a gift with some sustainability chops associated with it too. Depending on your level of handiness, this could mean building a garden bed out of timber (or you can buy ready-to-plant beds made out of aluminium or timber, or go the Vegepod option). Extra brownie points if you plan out the garden with their favourite fruits and veggies to grow.


3. Cleaning out pantry/fridge for them

No one particularly enjoys this task but damn, do you feel better about life afterwards. It’s a gift that continues to give every time you open the cupboard or fridge.


4. Help painting the house

Whether you put your hand up to assist on a full exterior job or you’re willing to tackle an internal room or two, painting (and all the associated cleaning, taping and prepping) is a serious job and one that’s made light(er) work with more hands.


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5. Family games night

Pick your challenge of choice - whether it’s cards, Trivia, Pictionary, Monopoly or umpteen others - and start an annual family tradition. A games night is an amazing gift for many reasons: it’s quality time spent together, it’s an opportunity to kick your brother/sister’s butt and all it costs is a good attitude.


6. Join the organ register

Of course we all hope this isn’t a gift you’d be giving anytime soon but making a pledge to join the organ register is not just a kind gesture - it’s potentially life saving. We know considering your own mortality isn’t the nicest thing to think about but given that one donor can save or greatly improve the lives of 10 or more people, why not add this to the list of gifts you give your parents this year?


7. Go give blood

“Happy Birthday/Anniversary/Merry Christmas Mum and Dad - we saved up to three lives as a gift to you”. We reckon it’d go down a treat. And giving blood on behalf of someone else is one of those triple-win gifts: you feel great, your folks will feel proud and great, and the recipient of the donation will hopefully remain alive (which is great). We joke, but this is truly a winning gift to give.


8. Fancy dinner date night at home

If your parents are still together or in happy relationships with different partners, why not throw a little fuel on their flames by designing them a romantic date night at home? You and your siblings cook and cater, pour the vino, provide conversation cards or a rom-com to pop on the box and let them put their feet up and enjoy some quality together. Just make sure you get out of there before things heat up too much.


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9. Finally clear all your shit out of their house

This one gets my mum’s tick of approval: if there’s anything that grinds parent’s gears, it’s their adult children being in a state of perpetual move-out. A pledge to once-and-for-all change this status is a gift that will continue to give.


10. Organise their garage

For some, garages are a place of pride and joy where everything has it’s place. For others, garages are a private zone of hoarder hell where decades of useless junk has Tetris’d its way into every spare crevice. If it’s the latter, an offer to sort through the layers, take a trip to the tip and box the rest up is worth its weight in gold.


11. Wash their car/s

Simple, useful, effective. This could be a stocking filler gift, or add an offer of ‘internal detailing’ and make it the main event. You might even find a few gold coins down the side of the seat for your efforts.


12. Lend your vocational skills (eg. haircut, car service, build a deck, review all the create an artwork)

Think about what you do for a crust and how you could give those skills as a Christmas gift to your olds. This is fairly straight-forward if your work is hands-on (e.g. creative/designer/tradie) but even if you’re tied to desk all day, gift your “negotiation skills” by calling up their phone or internet provider and securing them a better rate, or gift your “time management” or “research” skills by planning their next holiday itinerary for them. Think creatively.

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13. IT support

At the risk of sounding ageist, some parents may need a little IT support. Whether it’s figuring out a gadget or resizing the text on a mobile for legibility, providing an ‘IOU’ for any future tech struggles is a legitimate gift


14. Help KonMari their wardrobe/house

That is, help them organise and declutter their outfits or their entire home until all that’s left are items that spark joy. It’s always easier to do this for someone else than for yourself so BYO garbage bags and prepare to make a trip (or three) to the local Salvo’s donation bin.


15. A deep clean of their house

Glove up and get to work: this gift is best tackled with a great playlist and a commitment to move furniture, track down every last cobweb and spray and wipe the bejeezus out of every surface. Bonus points if you send your parent/s out for a nice lunch while you’re hard at it.


16. Donation to a charity close to their heart

This one technically isn’t a gift of time but we’re including in case you’d like to bolster a gift of your time and energy with a gift of funds too. Rather than spending money on things that your parents don’t necessarily need, you could pool some cash together as siblings and put it toward a charity or good cause that is meaningful to your parent/s (hot tip: this is easily done via Gravy).


Gravy is a one-of-a-kind group gifting platform allowing you to collect gift funds effortlessly and give or receive anything… including human time, skill and good deeds.

It’s 100% free to create a collection - for birthdays, for a wedding registry, for a baby shower or for whatever occasion you please. Get started here.