I was originally thinking of curating a list of gift ideas for minimalists, but then most of the items were things that could apply to anyone really – so I shifted my focus a bit and thought about the types of gifts that keep on giving. You know, things that can be loved by the receiver over and over again, or even, (if you scroll to the bottom) gift ideas that could benefit the giver too!
– Note: This post contains affiliate links. See more information about affiliates here –
I’ve separated my list into three categories Food, Monetary and Subscriptions… but before I dive right in, let me give you a few of my tips about general gift giving that everyone should probably follow:
- If you’ve received a specific list from someone, stick to the list! If they ask for a pair of blue pajamas in size M from store A, you better try and get those exact specifications. Maybe I’m just a picky person, but if I give a specific list it’s because I’ve already spent lots of time searching for exactly what I want/need and I don’t really expect anything else. If they give you carte blanche and just write “Medium pajamas”, then you have some creative freedom to try and pick something you think they’ll like.
- When you have no idea what they want or like OR you didn’t get a list. Ever participate in an office Secret Santa or get invited to a birthday party for a close acquaintance? Sometimes you’ll get a vague list, but it’s probably likely that you’re not very close to them and will spend way too much time wandering aisles looking for something that might work. For these scenarios, it’s best to stick to more generic gifts that the majority of people will use, such as coffee/tea/chocolate or gift cards.
- When you know everything they like: There’s probably a few people in your life that like certain things and every time you see said things, you immediately think of them. For example, you have a friend who is obsessed with black cats. Every artwork, home décor item, piece of clothing or more that features a black cat would work perfectly as a gift. Sounds like the best person to buy gifts for right?! Well, there could be a few problems; if you know they love black cats, chances are so does everyone else. You might end up buying the best black cat pillow ever, but so did Aunt Martha and their office Secret Santa. How do you mitigate risks with this gift receiver? You can gift something handmade or completely custom that you know they won’t have, or you can go with the original gift idea BUT make sure to send the gift receipt as well (in the case of any duplicates).
- Shouldn’t the holidays be about spending time with family and not giving gifts? Of course! I’m not saying you need to get gifts for anyone at all (sounds crazy right?!) BUT there might be some family members or friends that expect them. It’s always best to ask ahead of time rather than show up to the family dinner empty handed and be greeted with questionable glares. For me, the best part about receiving a gift is ripping open the packaging. Seriously, even it’s an empty box or a huge box with an itty-bitty gift card, the experience is still fun. But yes, I’d rather relax and spend time with family playing games or talking than stare at people opening presents. Unless of course you have hilarious gifts or do a gift exchange game (like “Snowball”), but these things are more about the experience and the fun than the actual gifts.
- I have no money, how can I afford gifts? Great question! You shouldn’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money in order to make the holidays or someone’s birthday special. Maybe you can look around your house and see if there are any items you can donate (to strangers or even family members/friends). This helps to clean up some stuff in your own house, and brings something nice/needed to another person (a great gift that keeps on giving!). OR maybe you borrowed Uncle Ned’s Shop Vacuum for a project a few
weeksmonths ago and haven’t returned it yet (tsk tsk – although I am VERY guilty of this). Feel free to slap a bow on it and put it under the tree (maybe with a nice note offering your cleaning services or help on one of his project in the future too!).
Okay, with a thorough background in some gift giving etiquette, let’s dive into some gift ideas that keep on giving!
Cookie Exchange: I just found out about this magical event called a cookie exchange. You, along with some friends, each bake one or a few types of cookies (a lot of cookies) and then have a get-together and switch up yours for theirs. You get cookies… for cookies! How would this be a gift? Well, instead of hoarding all the cookies for yourself (very tempting) you can instead distribute the different cookies to friends, family members, coworkers etc. Last year I got a tin of cookies as a gift, and honestly I am still thinking about it this year because it was AMAZING! I got 15-20ish cookies, and I ate a few each day until they ran out. Maybe you have too many? You can always freeze them to enjoy later! Check out this blog post with a few cookie exchange recipe ideas. Did I mention that this is a cheap gift option, and might even be FREE if you have all the supplies already!?
Truffles/Chocolate: A couple of years ago I made a bunch of homemade truffles and distributed them to the usual gift recipients. I used this healthy recipe, this cookie dough recipe, this delicious one, and a few more. It was something unique and homemade, so I kept the costs down, but there was a downside in that they had to be refrigerated or they might soften. Not that big of a deal, but you could always make something hardier like solid chocolates or other baked goods. OR you could buy the store packs of chocolates, or even buy various bulk candies + wrapped chocolates and make your own packages. If your receiver doesn’t eat or like chocolate/candy/etc. they could always share it with their family/friends.
Hot Chocolate/Coffee/Tea: Chances are you know someone who drinks one of these hot beverages? Me, I’m a hot chocolate person all the way (tea and coffee are just gross) but the Husband loves his coffee (and so do the majority of people apparently). If you know someone has a Keurig or Tassimo, feel free to gift them their little beverage cups for the appropriate machine, if they grind their own beans, get whole beans. This is a great option as a generic gift for those people you have no idea what to buy for, but feel free to get more specific if you know exactly what they drink. I don’t buy myself any hot chocolate anymore because I know it’s something I’ll receive at Christmas (which reminds me, my supply is getting low… hint hint!). And I just love getting different flavour options too (which you can definitely do with coffee and tea as well). Similar to this is a gift of alcohol, but always make sure they like the type/brand of what you are buying (and they actually drink).
Meals: Food is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving, because people need to eat all the time! Have you ever thought about giving someone a homemade meal, or treating them to a restaurant? For the latter, you can choose a mutual date/time/location and either bring them out, or meet them there. Depending on your budget, you can make this a one-time event, or set it up as a monthly “date” and treat them continually throughout the year. This also gives the receiver (and you) some additional time to spend together! Thinking about giving a homemade meal or two? Why not make a casserole or lasagna in a disposable aluminum dish and freeze it. Make sure to write instructions on the package detailing the cooking instructions (oh, and that they have room in their freezer!). I know for me, having pre-made dishes in the freezer ready to go helps when I’m busy. Other options could be providing non-perishable meals that just need a few simple added ingredients to make whole.
Cash: I know that for some, giving cash as a gift is not an option, whether they think it’s too tacky or impersonal, they’ll never give cash. You know who probably loves cash gifts? The receiver! They can spend the money on anything they want; and I know for me, I usually do end up spending my Christmas/Birthday money on a gift I did want that year that I didn’t receive. Maybe you’re hesitant they’ll spend the cash on something … useless (?), or if you’re gifting cash to children, you don’t want them to spend it on candy and junk food. Other options could be to contribute to a bank account that they can only access once they’re a certain age or treating them a shopping trip and paying for their purchases (so you know exactly where the money is going… and you can spend more time with them, win-win!). You can always say “use this money to buy X” but I know in the past I’ve asked for cash to help pay for something, then have had to use it for something else (so it might be frustrating as the gift giver to see that they never ended up buying what they said they would). There’s also some creative ways to give cash, if you want to go the extra mile.
Gift Cards: This is very similar to cash, except that you pretty much know exactly how the money will be spent (sneaky sneaky!). They have gift cards for almost anything, and a lot of times it’s much easier to give a gift card then spend time picking something at the same store, that they might already have or not like. Some good options: grocery stores the receiver shops at, their favourite clothing store, or a specialty boutique/vendor you know they like. For example, I love using Scentsy products, but if someone had to buy a scent for me, maybe it’s something I already have, or worse, something I will not like. Scentsy has gift certificates, so that way I will be able to buy exactly what I want (oh, look another gift hint!). Other gift card options could be to local coffee shops or restaurants, again, pretty much anything!
Lottery/Scratch Tickets: What’s the ultimate gift that keeps on giving? Winning the lottery! Why not give the best gift of all by sending your loved one the potential for millions of dollars? I’ve been getting scratch tickets from Santa in my stocking for as long as I can remember, and it’s become a holiday tradition to sit at the table on Christmas morning and scratch the tickets, hoping for some cash (what, you guys do something more traditional?). The only caveat for giving this gift is if your receiver actually does win lots of money, so if you are gifting lottery tickets (or similar) make sure you’re prepared for that situation. It’s best not to expect anything back at all… but I’m sure not everyone would be so humble if little cousin Timmy won a million dollars and didn’t throw a little something their way.
Subscriptions literally fit the definition of something that keeps on giving, am I right? There’s the usual subscriptions you think of like magazines/newspapers, but it’s always best to make sure your receiver would actually want to read those on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, or else they’re just going to slowly add garbage to their house. You could always go out on a limb too and get the ‘ole gym membership, but this one might be a touchy subject! Let me introduce you to a few types of subscriptions you may or may not have heard about yet:
Bark Box: Know someone that has a dog? Of course you do! Bark Box is a subscription service that sends a monthly gift to the drooling four-legged member of the family, and includes treats and toys. For us, Tootsie has a lovely habit of destroying her toys in less than a week once she gets them, so having new toys delivered would solve the problem of us running out, and her turning to the Husband’s socks as a backup. If you are signed up for Groupon, I’ve seen Bark Box subscriptions show up every now and then, or you can just sign up now on their website and choose the gift option.
Snacks: Did you know you could get snacks delivered to your house? And not the junk food, I shouldn’t be eating this but it’s all I have kind, I mean actual healthy snacks? I found this post detailing the best healthy snack delivery services, but make sure that you check their delivery policies before you sign up (some don’t ship to Canada). A service that some other bloggers recommend is Nature Box, and I’ve browsed some of their snack options and am really intrigued. (There’s something called dark cocoa nom-noms and I’m not sure if they are healthy, but I can pretend right?).
Meals: Same sort of concept as the snack option, except that you get full meals sent to your house on a regular basis. Which is like giving the gift of food/homemade meals, but your receiver doesn’t have to make room in their freezer or cupboards for this. This blogger wrote about some options for vegetarians, but most of those services cater to regular dishes as well (in case you were worried). I’d be interested to try some of these, and I can see if definitely being a benefit to people who have problems planning meals (and/or are busy, etc.).
Gifts that Keep on Giving (to the gifter!)
I mentioned that I would share how giving gifts could benefit the giver too. And I don’t just mean the happy feeling you get when someone likes your gift (’tis better to give than to receive and all). But there are some ways that you can benefit yourself and still get great gifts for your friends/family too. Some may call it sneaky, but I just call it being smart!
For example, if you sign up with Ebates, you can buy things online AND get cash back on your purchases! So, I can buy things I would normally get anyways, but I would be rewarded with a percentage back from what I bought. Thinking of travelling too? There are many hotels, car rental places and even airlines that offer cash back deals through Ebates. I made the mistake of signing up for this great site when I was trying to cut back on my purchases, but now that the holidays are approaching – I will be taking advantage!
Other Gift Options
Still wondering what to gift your friends and family? Here’s a list of clutter-free gifts if you’re thinking of going along that route, or you could always treat them to events like going to the movies, watching a sports game, whatever!
You could always do some DIY gifts if you like sewing or making things, and in the past I’ve always made homemade candles for people (to either burn, or use as decoration). What other gift ideas can you think of?