As a follow-up to Wednesday’s discussion of for whom you should buy gifts, today we will talk about the other aspect of frugality in gift giving: frugal gift ideas.
For me, frugal gift ideas can be divided into seven categories.
Obviously this can be something that you make yourself (a quilt, jam, cookies, a journal) but it can also be something handmade by somebody else. Etsy is a fantastic resource for finding handmade treasures, usually quite inexpensively, and the money goes directly to the creator, not to a conglomerate.
Bought on Sale
Sales, especially the big clearance sales held after the holidays, are an opportune time to stock up on gifts, both ‘just in case’ or for a specific person. I’ve held onto things for more than six months, after buying them on sale. Usually I take advantage of the twice yearly sales in France to buy little things for a gift box; for example I now have a few inexpensive votive candles and holders set aside for housewarming or hostess presents. Bought on sale at Ikea during one of the official sales periods, they only cost me about â‚¬1.
Does your wife enjoy adventure? Give her a gift certificate for a hang-gliding class. Your kid likes music? Buy them music lessons. Grandparents could buy annual passes to the zoo instead of yet another stuffed zebra. In the past, people have paid for magazine subscriptions for my children; this too is a sort of experience. For our wedding present, some dear friends gave us ten sessions of dance lessons (I suspect it was a hint, after having seen the way we cavorted around the dance floor!).
Gift-Certificates or Money
This is almost like an ‘experience’ present, except it’s a little less specific. You have some friends who are getting married, and you’re not quite sure what to get them. You could always give them an envelope with some cash inside (quite the accepted practice here in France; we received almost $2000 at our wedding) or you could get them a gift certificate to a store they like; I recommend Target and Ikea (!). What makes this option frugal is that you get to control the amount down to the penny, only giving what you can afford or wish to spend.
Ah, the dreaded package of socks and another of underwear that every child learns to expect at least once a year. So maybe it’s not the most exciting of gifts, but a gift that is both useful and practical is definitely frugal. And it doesn’t have to be unwanted either. The best birthday present my husband has ever given me is a kitchen mixer like this one; I still use it almost daily, eight years later.
Anyone who is a thrift shop connoisseur knows the joy of stumbling upon the perfect item while thrift store shopping. Even better if it’s the perfect gift for someone else… only it either has to be in such perfect condition that the other person won’t realize it has been used or the recipient has to be the sort of person who appreciates thrift store finds. Either way, a gift from a thrift store is probably the most frugal choice on the list, excepting the homemade option. Even better, some thrift stores now offer gift certificates! This sort of gift is really only for a certain sort of person, those who already enjoy and appreciate shopping secondhand.
For the person who has everything, or even those that just have most things, think of those who have nothing. Honestly, I don’t need anything, and if somebody wanted to buy a cow or a flock of chickens in my name through Heifer International, I would be thrilled. It doesn’t have to be a large donation either, I gave my mom a flock of chicks once, costing $20. I’ve also donated money to local animal shelters in the names of family pets who had died. Choosing the sum of money to be donated myself allowed me to control my own budget while still making a worthy gesture.
What we’re doing this year
I thought I’d share the gifts that we’ll be getting our kids this year for Hanukkah and Christmas. They can’t read yet, so the surprise won’t be ruined! In december my children will be almost six, four and a half and fourteen months old.
We give presents on the first two nights of Hanukkah and on Christmas, some of which come from Santa, some which come from us and some which they choose for each other. So, for each child, that’s two presents for Hanukkah, one from Santa, one from us and two from the siblings, for a grand total of six presents. You see the need to be frugal!
They will each receive at least two books, one each in French and English. The older two will receive a leap pad book for their leap pad system and the baby will get another regular book. I’ve already bought a movie for each of them through my MyPoints membership as well as a small Spiderman guy from the local thrift shop and a new bath towel for my daughter from Ikea’s ‘as is’ section. The final gift will probably be some new item of clothing; last year we bought them new belts, hats and gloves. This year will probably be socks and underwear- how exciting! They will choose the toys to give each other, but I usually try to steer them towards books or playmobiles.
What are your favorite frugal gift ideas? Do you have another category to add here? How would you feel if somebody gave you a gift that obviously came from a thrift store?