Christmas can sometimes leave a sense of sadness, especially if you don’t have money in the budget for gifts. Luckily, there are several places for free Christmas gifts for those in need.
If you are in need of Christmas gifts for your family, or know someone else who is, we’ve done the research to find places that offer free Christmas gifts.
Where to Get Free Christmas Gifts
All of the places listed here offer free Christmas gifts. Each suggestion has its own rules and requirements for when you can get your free gifts, how to apply and other qualifications.
1. United Way
The United Way can help you get free Christmas gifts either by helping directly or by connecting you with organizations in your area that can help.
United Way or their partner organizations may offer free Christmas gifts, free winter clothing, free food and more.
It’s a one-stop shop for many types of needs, from natural disasters to personal disasters and more.
In addition, United Way has offices around the entire United States and the entire world. This means that no matter where you live you can get help or assistance.
And if United Way can’t help you directly, their partnerships with other organizations around the globe means they’ll know if there is an organization in your area that can help and they can connect you with that organization.
2. Dream Foundation
The Dream Foundation works to help families who have lost or are in the process of losing a loved one due to a terminal illness.
Qualified recipients include residents of the U.S. and Puerto Rico with a life expectancy of 12 months or less who do not have the funds to provide for their dream on their own.
Apply to the Dream Foundation’s Dream Program to get free Christmas gifts for your children. You will have to specify that you are looking to be a part of the Dream Toy Program.
You can also apply to benefit from other parts of the program as well. The application must come from the terminally ill adult in the family who wishes to benefit from the program.
If you want to help provide toys through the Dream Toy Program, you can donate online. If you live in the Santa Barbara, California area you can apply online to be a volunteer.
3. USPS Operation Santa
The United States Postal Service’s Operation Santa program began in 1912. Over 100 years later, the USPS still works to coordinate helping families and kids who need Christmas gifts.
The Operation Santa program doesn’t give gifts to every child (or adult) who applies. However, they do give gifts to families and children who are struggling financially.
To apply for Operation Santa gifts, start by writing your letter. Your letter should briefly outline your financial struggles or the incidents that prompted you to need help with Christmas gifts.
Then, write about the types of toys and clothes you want for your child for Christmas. Include sizes and colors for clothing and types of toys.
All mailings have a deadline; it’s December 11th for 2023. Know that not all mailed letters get chosen to get free gifts.
Be sure to put your return address on your envelope so that Operation Christmas elves know where to send your gifts if your letter is chosen.
4. Toys for Tots
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program has been in existence since 1947. Started by Maj. Bill Hendricks and his wife Diane, the organization distributed over 5,000 toys that first year.
To date, Toys for Tots has given away over 600 million toys. You have to go through your local Toys for Tots chapter if you want to apply for free Christmas gifts from Toys for Tots.
When you visit the Toys for Tots home page it will direct you to your local chapter. You may qualify to get gifts from the program if:
- You have children through age 18 who are still in school
- You’re the custodial parent of your children
- The children live at the address provided
- Your children would not have any gifts this year if it weren’t for provision from Toys for Tots
Applications for Toys for Tots are usually given through outside social services agencies and charities.
Your local chapter’s web page can tell you where you can apply. Get your application in as soon as possible in order to have the best chance of being chosen as a gift recipient.
5. Family Giving Tree
Family Giving Tree has been in existence for over 30 years and supports people in need of free Christmas gifts if they live in the Bay area. This organization works with over 300 social service agencies in the San Francisco Bay area.
If you live in the area, contact a local social service or charitable agency near you to ask about getting free Christmas gifts from Family Giving Tree.
All applications and other steps will be handled through the agency that partners with Family Giving Tree.
Related Article: How Much To Spend Per Child At Christmas
6. Salvation Army’s Angel Tree
The Salvation Army is a charitable organization that was founded in 1865. The charity’s Angel Tree program works to provide free Christmas gifts for those in need.
You’ll have to visit the Angel Tree website to find out if there is a location in your area and if you qualify for the free Christmas gifts.
Note that this organization, like others listed here, may ask you to provide documentation to prove your identity and to prove you have a need for financial assistance in the form of Christmas gifts.
These steps were put in place by charitable organizations so that they can ensure their free gifts go to families who are truly in need.
7. Operation Homefront Holiday Toy Drive
You can contact Operation Homefront if you are a military (or veteran) family in need of free Christmas gifts.
Operation Homefront was established over a decade ago for the purpose of strengthening and supporting military families.
From housing assistance to critical financial assistance to veteran support, the program works to come alongside military and veteran families to help provide for their needs.
Visit the Operation Homefront website and go to the Family Events page to find out how to apply for the organization’s Holiday Toy Drive program.
8. Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree
Prison Fellowship is a ministry that helps to restore the criminal justice system and those it affects.
One of the branches of the organization’s restoration goal lies in its Angel Tree ministry. Angel Tree Ministry provides gifts for children of incarcerated men and women, including Christmas gifts.
The organization also provides summer camps and sports camps for these same children.
Visit the Angel Tree web page on the Prison Fellowship website to learn more about the program and how you can apply to receive gifts from the program.
9. Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Boys and Girls Clubs of America has chapters throughout the United States. Some of those chapters provide Christmas gifts through their Kids Can Give program.
Kids served by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America can “shop” for gifts to bring home to their families for Christmas. Gifts are provided by generous donors.
Get your child involved with Boys and Girls Clubs of America if they need mentors in their lives.
10. Lions Clubs
Lions Clubs International was founded in 1917 and exists as a non-political service organization that has chapters across the world.
The Lions help with a variety of needs in the club’s specific community. They are connected with local organizations to help give free Christmas gifts to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have Christmas gifts.
With a membership of over 1.4 million members, the group makes quite the impact on local communities at Christmas time and throughout the year.
Contact your local Lions Clubs chapter to ask about getting free Christmas gifts.
11. Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities was founded in 1910 and provides a variety of services to local residents in need.
Along with adopt-a-family programs to help families in need to get Christmas gifts, holiday meals and other items, Catholic Charities also helps in the areas of:\
- Financial assistance for housing
- Food shelf assistance
- Social enterprise initiatives
- Disaster relief
And other services. Reach out to your local Catholic Charities office to find out specific details about qualifying for free Christmas gifts via adopt-a-family programs and other initiatives.
12. Local Independent Charities/Businesses
Last but certainly not least, reach out to local independent charities and businesses to find places for free Christmas gifts.
Many non-chain charities and businesses such as local banks have programs where they sponsor families for Christmas each year.
The goal of such programs is often to support families who have been through tough times or are struggling financially.
But all such programs vary in the qualifications they set, so don’t hesitate to do some research to find out if you may qualify to apply or participate in some way.
13. Santa’s Little Helpers
Santa’s Little Helpers is an online community through Reddit that organizes free Christmas gifts for kids in need.
If you are struggling to provide Christmas gifts for your kids this year, visit the Santa’s Little Helpers Reddit page and apply to get your kids some free Christmas gifts.
Once your post is approved, Reddit members can view it and choose whether or not to fulfill your request.
There are no guarantees that your request will be approved or that a Reddit user will grant your request.
However, the program has been in operation since 2013 and continues to flourish. You do need to join Reddit to post your request for free gifts and to fulfill gift requests as well.
14. Online Garage Sale Freebies
Another place you might be able to find free Christmas gifts is to search the “free” sections at online garage sale sites such as Craigslist, OfferUp and Facebook.
You might be surprised at all of the items you find for free on these types of sites.
When I searched online at sites in my area for research purposes, here are some of the freebies I found on Craigslist and Facebook:
- A variety of clothing
- ballet shoes in great condition
- Hair clips and hair ties
- Free backpacks
- A kids’ drawing table
- A train table
- Free dolls
And many other free toys and games. Many of the options were in very good condition. Of course, you’ll want to clean and sanitize the items before bringing them into your home.
This is especially true of clothing, hair accessories and stuffed animals.
15. YMCA or 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.
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.
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.
18. 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.
There are many places for free Christmas gifts if you know where to look. Check with the organizations listed here or talk with independent charities and businesses near you.
There are some great ideas online that can help you get Christmas gifts for free.
Some ideas include playdates at the park with your kids, baking days, movie nights at home or craft-making days. Make an experience gift for your loved one that doesn’t cost you a dime but will bring years of memories.
As the old saying goes, the best things in life are free.