Times may be tough for you right now. There are rising costs due to inflation. Changing job situations may mean that your finances are in rough shape. But don’t worry – there are ways to get free Christmas gifts to help you out!
Christmas is also the season for giving, and lots of people are ready and willing to help. Nonprofit organizations and grassroots communities regularly band together to bless others with free Christmas gifts and other necessities.
Table of Contents
- How to Get Free Christmas Gifts
- 1. Marine Toys for Tots
- 2. The Salvation Army Angel Tree
- 3. Catholic Charities
- 4. United Way
- 5. USPS Operation Santa
- 6. Prison Fellowship Angel Tree
- 7. Lions Club
- 8. Operation Homefront
- 9. Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- 10. YMCA and YWCA
- 11. Santa’s Little Helpers
- 12. Freecycle
- 13. Craigslist
- 14. Buy Nothing Project
- 15. Earn Free Gift Cards
How to Get Free Christmas Gifts
If you need a little help with your holiday preparations this year, that’s OK. There are plenty of ways to get free Christmas gifts for your family and loved ones.
And if you’re in a position where you can help, here are some ideas for how you can do that!
1. Marine Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots is probably the first place you think of to get free Christmas gifts, especially if you have children.
This program was started in 1947 and has distributed over 600 million toys to date! Its mission is to collect new, unwrapped toys and to then distribute those toys to less fortunate children at Christmas.
To request your free toys, you’ll need to connect with a participating Toys for Tots program near you. Visit the Toys for Tots website, then click Find Your Local Campaign. You’ll need to select your state and your city/county.
Once you’ve entered that information, you’ll be directed to your local campaign website where you can find contact information as well as instructions on how to request a toy.
Be sure to register as early as possible for the best chance of getting your free gifts in time for Christmas.
There are over 800 campaign sites across the United States, so chances are good that there’s one near you. Most programs assist children up to age 12, but some communities may have a higher age limit.
2. The Salvation Army Angel Tree
You know of Salvation Army because of its holiday bell ringers and red buckets, but that’s not all that they do during the Christmas season.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree is another popular program that gives out free Christmas gifts. They partner with Walmart to collect toys and clothing for millions of children and families in need.
If you need help from Angel Tree, you’ll need to contact your local Salvation Army for more information and to get started.
Go HERE and enter your zip code, then click Find Local Salvation Army. From the list that comes up, look for one that offers services like Emergency Financial Assistance and Seasonal Services.
You’ll then need to call the Corps Community Center and fill out an application for assistance. Information you may need to share includes photo ID, proof of residence, birth certificate, clothing and shoe sizes, and toy wishes.
Once your application is accepted, each of your children will be assigned a tag and their “wish” is hung on trees. Donors can pick a tag off the tree and shop for the items, then drop them off at the Salvation Army.
No private information is shared with the public; donors are only given a first name and wish list. This is intended for children up to age 14, but again, the age range can vary by the local organization.
As with all these programs, the earlier you sign up, the better!
3. Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities USA was founded in 1910 and organizes church members to serve people in need. Their belief is that the collective efforts of the church can change the course of poverty in our nation.
One of many programs their chapters organize is a Giving Tree in which people can receive free Christmas gifts of clothing and personal items. Donors select a requested gift, shop for it, and drop it off at a designated location.
I did a quick search and found that besides offering free Christmas gifts, my local organization offers children’s services, early childhood care and education, housing, shelter, and more.
Some organizations may provide food to give families a holiday dinner (Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving), and some may have an Adopt a Family program in which needy families are matched with donors.
Click Find Help on their website to discover ways you can receive assistance.
4. United Way
United Way has a goal to advance the common good in communities across the world. There are 1,200 United Way communities around the world in 40 countries and territories!
Visit their website to find your local United Way. Different communities may provide Christmas baskets, Christmas clearing bureaus, Christmas meals, holiday adoption programs, holiday donations, and holiday gifts and toys.
Besides requesting free Christmas gifts, you can contact their 211 service for information about local resources and services near you. Calls are confidential and can be anonymous.
They also have a website, 211.org, that you can browse for further assistance. Most programs require you to have some sort of financial need, but requirements vary by the local organization.
5. USPS Operation Santa
USPS Operation Santa is a fun way for people to answer letters to Santa that are sent through the United States Postal Service.
There’s no income requirement for this program – your child just needs to write a letter to Santa! Postal workers then verify and scan the letters, then add them to the Operation Santa website.
Donors look through the letters on the website and choose to adopt the ones they love. They can then shop and send gifts anonymously from a participating Post Office location. (Donors must pay for shipping.)
Your child’s letter to Santa should be placed into an envelope with a postage stamp.
Send the letter to the following address:
123 Elf Road
North Pole 88888
Operation Santa offers some fun letter-writing tips and templates to get your child started HERE. And no worries: all personally identifiable information is redacted before it’s put up on the website.
Be sure to include your clearly written return address and include an apartment number if applicable. For the 2022 program, letters to Santa must be postmarked by December 12 to be included.
There’s no guarantee that your child’s letter will be chosen, but it does look like most letters get snatched up quickly.
Fun fact: The Operation Santa program began in 1912, and there’s a Dear Santa movie documentary that gives some background on this tradition!
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6. Prison Fellowship Angel Tree
Prison Fellowship Angel Tree is a program that helps incarcerated parents give free Christmas gifts to their children.
The Prison Fellowship program equips churches to strengthen relationships between incarcerated parents and their children through the Angel Tree Christmas program as well as by sending kids to summer camps and sports camps.
Like the other giving tree programs on this list, donors simply choose a tag off a tree to shop for, and then the coordinating churches deliver the gifts to the children. Angel Tree also receives toy donations from local drives.
Incarcerated parents can get more information and register their children through their prison program.
7. Lions Club
Lions Clubs International has a mission to serve together to make a lasting impact and change lives in their community.
There are numerous chapters across the globe, so you’ll need to find your nearest chapter for details. Chapters generally partner with nonprofit organizations to distribute free Christmas gifts.
I did a quick search near me and found several Lions Club chapters that are currently operating clothing, food, money, and toy drives for those in need.
You can contact your local Lions Club chapter to see where they donate the toys they collect. Some chapters may even collect free Christmas trees to brighten a home or sponsor a holiday meal in which anyone can stop by and eat for free.
8. Operation Homefront
The Operation Homefront Holiday Toy Drive helps bring holiday cheer to military families. They partner with Dollar Tree to collect toy donations which are then passed on to military children.
Since the program was started over a decade ago, they’ve helped over 1,000 military children each year!
To request your free Christmas gifts, you’ll need to create an account or log in to My Operation Homefront. (Military families only, of course.) If you’re eligible, you’ll have the option to register in your dashboard.
Besides the Holiday Toy Drive, Operation Homefront also sponsors other events year-round to help military children and families stay connected.
9. Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America helps children and teens in need by providing a safe space for them to go after school.
Chapters offer free or low-cost programs in the arts, character, education, health, sports, workforce readiness, and more.
You’ll find that different chapters have a variety of programs, but many collect donated gifts during the holiday season to distribute to the kids they serve each year.
My local chapter of Boys & Girls Clubs of America offers a Kids Can Give program in which each Club member can bring gifts home to their families and gift-wrap them with the help of staff members and volunteers. How heartwarming!
Other chapters may have similar programs and/or host holiday meals. Contact your local club for more details. Note that you’ll most likely need to have a lower income to qualify for membership.
10. YMCA and YWCA
Individual chapters can make their own decisions on what to provide, with many providing clothing, educational items, meals, and toys to members with low incomes.
In some cases, the YMCA may set up a shop of sorts from what is donated, then parents can come in and choose gifts for their own children.
To find out what’s available near you, contact your local chapter.
11. Santa’s Little Helpers
The Santa’s Little Helpers on Reddit is a group of people that have committed to blessing others in need with free Christmas gifts.
It’s not as simple as just hopping on and saying that you want something, though – you need to create an Amazon Wishlist, register for a Reddit account, and fill out their registration form.
In the registration form, you need to attest that Christmas would not happen for your family without the help of Santa’s Little Helpers and that you’ve considered potential help from family, friends, and other groups.
You’ll also need to submit a group picture of yourself and all members of your immediate family that you’re requesting for as well as proof of your mailing address.
After your registration has been accepted, you’ll create a new Reddit post and tell your story in a paragraph or two, linking to your Amazon Wishlist so people can choose what they would like to gift.
They do ask that you update your post as you receive gifts and send thanks to the people who helped you, of course!
Freecycle is a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people who exchange items for free in their neighborhoods and communities. The goal is to keep stuff out of landfills and build relationships.
You’ll need to find a group near you to join, then you can either just wait for someone to offer up items that you want or create a Wanted post to make requests.
It’s best to be specific and ask for something, like Barbies, train toys, coats, etc. Larger items like bicycles and play kitchens are commonly offered up here since these can be difficult to pass on when people don’t need them anymore.
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You’ve no doubt heard of Craigslist as a marketplace for selling items, but did you know that people can give away items for free on Craigslist? Look for the “Free” section under the “For Sale” category on every Craigslist site.
It’s common to see large items like carpet remnants and large furniture in the “Free” section, but a quick search for “toys” brought up a lot for me, too. This is a great place to look for outdoor toys and gently used items.
14. Buy Nothing Project
One of my favorite ways to get a lot of stuff for free is through the Buy Nothing Project. This is a gift economy platform that primarily operates through Facebook, but they also now have a mobile app with a web platform coming soon.
Buy Nothing Project has a mission to build community by connecting people through hyperlocal gifting.
There are three types of posts that members can create:
- Gift Post – give away things others can use
- Ask Post – ask for things you could use
- Gratitude Post – express gratitude in your community.
Everything is exchanged completely free, with no strings attached.
To get started finding free Christmas gifts, just download the Buy Nothing Project app or search Facebook groups for “Buy Nothing” in your area.
15. Earn Free Gift Cards
If you’re up for expending a little effort to get free Christmas gifts, you can earn free gift cards by performing various online activities. The sky’s the limit when it comes to your earning potential!
You’ll want to read our full post for a bunch of ideas on how to get started, but here are just a few to think about:
- Browse In Stores with Swagbucks
- Shop and Earn with Swagbucks
- Search and Explore with Microsoft Rewards
- Read Emails and Complete Offers with InboxDollars
- and more!
Even when times are tight, it’s possible to provide a special Christmas experience for your family.
And some of the simplest experiences are the best. Driving around to look at holiday lights, enjoying a hot cup of cocoa, making homemade Christmas gifts, listening to festive music, and watching a free Christmas movie can be wonderful ways to celebrate, too.
If you are looking for free Christmas gifts, there are plenty of organizations and communities that will help you bring cheer to the holiday season.
What other ways can you think of to get free Christmas gifts? Please comment below to share your experience!