Christmas Gifts That Keep on Saving

Photo by Neil Brooks

Forget about jelly of the month club. Give gifts that will keep your frugal friends and family members saving all year long.

  1. Rechargeable batteries. Keep powering toys, flashlights, and other gadgets with less cost to you and the environment.
  2. Glass storage containers. Packing lunch and storing home-cooked leftovers is so much easier with the proper containers, and glass ones are healthier and easier for re-heating food.
  3. Cloth napkins. All I want for Christmas is new cloth napkins. I love cloth napkins, not only for their cost effectiveness, but because they work so much better than cheap paper napkins.
  4. 3. College fund contributions. This is the gift that keeps growing with the child, and adds value throughout his or her life. While toys and clothes begin depreciates as soon as a kid touches them, compounding interest will grow your gift over the next decade or more. And it’s tax deductible if you contribute directly to the fund.
  5. Wool. Barring wool allergies, wool sweaters, socks, or scarves are a great way to help a frugal gift recipient stay warm throughout the winter, ‘cause you know they’re too cheap to turn up the heat. Wearing wool saves us hundreds of dollars a year in heating costs, and of course we buy it at thrift or outlet stores. (But you might not want to give thrift store socks for Christmas. Just sayin’.)

    Neil's thrift store wool collection (minus the one he was wearing).

    Neil’s thrift store wool sweater collection (minus the one he was wearing).

  6. Camping gear. Open the Door to a Lifetime of Vacation Savings by lowering the entry cost of camping. We save over $1000 a year on vacations by camping, but wouldn’t want to without our tent, camp stove, air mattress, and sleeping bags.
  7. Kitchen tools, such as a good chef’s knife, meat thermometer, or cast iron pan. For those scratch-cooking every day, having the right implements can make saving money so much more enjoyable.
  8. I don’t know much about tools, but I know you need them to DIY home and car repairs, maintain a yard and garden, or split wood for free fuel. Neil’s received everything from a soldering iron to potting soil to a long-handled ax as gifts, and these are the presents he doesn’t return. He also received a ton of free wood as a gift from a friend, which I forgot to mention in our firewood post.
  9. DIY reference materials, such as books on gardening, DIY home repair, cookbooks, backyard chickens, honey bees (our next venture) or any other book supporting a money-saving hobby or endeavor. Here’s my favorite Indian cookbook. These are the types of books that I’d rather own than get from the library since we consult them so often.
  10. A bike. Biking for frugal transportation seems to have made a comeback via the illustrious Mr. Money Mustache. At least, this is what sold Neil, and since then he saw fit to gift me a bike (purchased on Craigslist). You can read about my embarrassingly ungrateful initial response on my personal blog. I’ve repented, and this year my other wish (besides cloth napkins) is a bike hitch so I can haul the kids around in our (also from Craigslist) bike trailer. Helmets are also a good gift for anyone whose brains or beauty you wish to preserve.

What other gifts keep on saving? What is the most useful gift you’ve ever received?


This post may contain affiliate links. Just kidding–it’s chock full of them our first time trying it. All links are for things we own & love, or a similar item.

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28 Responses to “Christmas Gifts That Keep on Saving”

  1. Hannah says :

    Helmets are an amazing gift! Helmets are one thing that I personally wouldn’t buy used (I’ve been in a few bike wrecks, and the helmet looked fine until I cracked it open to see the damage), and I think any parent would be pleased that their kid can ride around in safety.

    I asked for glass storage for Christmas, and my mother-in-law said, “I’ll give you cash, and you can lie to me about buying something fun.”

    • Kalie says :

      Yikes–I’m glad you were wearing a helmet!

      That’s funny about your MIL because mine always specifies that my birthday gift needs to be spent on something for me. (I think glass containers qualify since they make my life easier).

  2. Mrs. Groovy says :

    Hi Kalie, great list of items! Sometimes we hesitate to give practical gifts, don’t we? The most useful gift I received was a Ball electric water bath canner from my mother-in-law. She knew how disappointed I was when I took a canning class, only to realize my glass-top electric range is not conducive to canning. It won’t stay at a constant high temperature, and a canner can crack the glass. But an electric canner solves the heat problem and can be placed on a counter-top!

    • Kalie says :

      I know, we seem to need to give one another permission to give and request practical thing.
      Wow, an electric water bath canner sounds like a great gift that would help save money.

  3. DC YAM says :

    We’ve started to get rid of all our plastic storage containers and replacing them with glass. It’s more expensive but such a better choice long-term. Definitely looking forward to having all the plastic ones gone!

  4. Tonya says :

    I know most people find them impersonal, but I like gift cards. Yes they don’t last forever, but at least I can get what I really NEED!

    • Kalie says :

      I also really like getting gift cards to stores where I need to shop. Though gift cards are a bit of a liability. Just 5 minutes ago I found a $25 Kohls card I didn’t know I had.

  5. thesingledollar says :

    I LOVE this list, and especially that it starts with rechargeable batteries. I asked my parents for flannel sheets and a few pairs of wool socks this year (since I wore out my previous sets of both — I mean really wore out, since they all have big holes in them.) I’d like to recharge my sweater collection next year, too. I would also love to get glass containers; I’m not really into the idea of using more plastic than I have to, even though they’re a little heavy for hauling around to work.

    • Kalie says :

      Flannel sheets are a great idea. And I can never have enough wool socks. Mine were also full of holes, but I just scored 2 pairs at the thrift store.

  6. Abigail says :

    My in-laws buy ice. It’s not a lot, but at $2 a bag it adds up. So one Christmas I bought them reusable ice cubes.

    • Kalie says :

      What a good idea. The best gifts are those thoughtful, personal, and practical items. If only I could always come up with the perfect idea.

  7. Josh says :

    We use cloth napkins now. I thought it was weird when I started dating my wife as her family used them. We grew up using paper & the only time we had cloth was at Chinese restaurants. We visited company the other week and they had paper napkins & I almost blurted out that I was missing my napkin.

    • Kalie says :

      Cloth napkins just work so much better. Our last ones were actually “shop cloths” that were even more absorbent, though they didn’t hold up as long.

  8. Our Next Life says :

    Wait, did you just copy down my Amazon wishlist??? Just kidding. 🙂 But I definitely have the first few items on my wishlist, because I really want rechargeable batteries, but they’re expensive, and as we get more and more into buying our groceries from the bulk section in reusable containers, I’m always wanting a few more of them. (And, I asked for and received the napkins last year!) 😉 This is a great list, and a good reminder that practical gifts are always a far better value than the shiny new objects of the day.

  9. Cat says :

    Great list! We like to give (and receive) Christmas gifts like these since they are things we can use for a long time.

  10. Julie says :

    Don’t forget about magazine subscriptions and memberships to zoos and museums.

  11. Mark says :

    I love the idea of rechargeable batteries. My 7 year old is really into electronics. The problem is that I’ve bought them twice now because he loses them. I guess I jumped the gun on that one!

    • Kalie says :

      They do become very expensive if lost! We keep a log, but our kids are still pretty little so it’s easier for us to control where the batteries end up.

  12. Amy says :

    This is an awesome list, especially 1-5. I’ll admit that you lost me a little at camping gear, though. 🙂

    I would add reuseable baggies – shopping, produce, and sandwich/snack.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, camping isn’t for everyone.

      Reusable bags are a great idea. We go through a lot of disposable sandwich bags around here and I’m sure it’s not great for the budget or the environment.

  13. Mary in Maryland says :

    My husband gave me a pressure cooker the first year we were dating. I had a thrift store one I had bought in the 70s which probably dated back to the 40s and covered the ceiling with red beans a couple of times. I usually point him toward the hardware store. It’s where he does his best shopping. The set of coat hooks behind the front door and the day light fixture in my sewing room make life easier every day. This year we’ve labeled the front porch replacement as our gift to one another.

  14. Anne says :

    Fantastic ideas! My oldest’s birthday is in a week and a half and I have been struggling thinking of what to get for her. Her birthday is always the hardest since it is so close to Christmas and they have just received so much from so many people. I am definitely picking her up some rechargeable batteries and a charger! She is always asking to borrow mine. Something I wouldn’t have thought of though. Thanks!!!!

    • Kalie says :

      Glad you could use one of these ideas, even after the holidays. We have a lot of family members with near-Christmas birthdays and I agree it can be a bit tricky to find inspiration after Christmas shopping.

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