Christmas Gifts That Keep on Saving
Still shopping? Me, too. And who wants to gift junk people don’t need? Forget about jelly of the month club. Give gifts that will keep your frugal friends and family members saving all year long.
- Rechargeable batteries. Keep powering toys, flashlights, and other gadgets with less cost to you and the environment.
- 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.
- Cloth napkins. I love cloth napkins, not only for their cost effectiveness, but because they work so much better than cheap paper napkins.
- 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.
- 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’.)
- 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.
- 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. And my favorite bread-baking book: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book. These are the types of books that I’d rather own than get from the library since we consult them so often.
- 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.
- For the new parent: temporal lobe thermometer: This thermometer is so quick & to use, my kids like getting their temperature taken. It also seems more sensitive than traditional ones.
miracle swaddler: This blanket gently helps keep those arms swaddled much longer than other styles.
white noise: A small, portable white noise machine is ideal for travel, even if it’s just to put your baby down to sleep at a friend or grandparent’s house. It’s also great for hotels and camping.
rechargeable batteries: Battery-operated toys are bound to enter your house. This set will save you loads in the long run.
12. For the handy man: (suggestions from Neil)
drive socket set: I’ve been preaching this to anyone who will listen lately, once you go 1/2″ for automotive work, you won’t go back. If you or a loved one will be doing any work on their car in the near future, I cannot recommend highly enough to get 1/2″ drive sockets. Most people use 3/8″ drive, and it’s nothing but frustration and busted knuckles.
wire strippers: These auto-stippers are a tool you didn’t know you needed until you use one. They perfectly strip wire of any common size without breaking the conductor. Much better and faster than using scissors or traditional strippers.
loupe – LED illuminated: These loupes are really fun. Easy to use and show the kids stuff close up. Bugs, carpet, newspaper, wood, all fun when viewed through a loupe.
wood-splitting ax: This Fiskars Axe is the only way I am able to split my own firewood. I am not a giant lumberjack; I cannot wield a 8-10# maul for a few hours at a time. This thing is light, swift, and well designed. It makes splitting wood fun.
drill bit set: Get these if you own a 1/4″ drive impact driver. Makes it into a small electric impact gun. Very useful and fast for backing out bolts/ nuts.
13. For the home chef:
pressure cooker: I never knew how amazing pressure cookers are until I received an electric one as a gift. It has saved dinner on more than one occasion when I forgot to thaw meat, or got home later than expected. It can cook bone-in frozen chicken pieces in less than half an hour. It also makes meat way more tender than other cooking methods.
instant pot: I don’t have one of these, but I’ve heard it’s the pot to end all pots. It’s a programmable pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker…you name it, it can do it. It’s priced very reasonably compared to purchasing one or two of these other devices. If I didn’t already own a pressure cooker and slow cooker, this would be on my wish list.
good knife: A good knife makes cooking sooo much more enjoyable–and safer.
14. For the kids:
K’nex, Legos, or Duplos: My son spends countless hours playing with these building toys.
Narnia book series, Little House book series: Classic children’s books make a great gift kids and parents will like.
Craft supplies or Play-doh: Replenish crafty consumables.
Zoo or children’s museum membership, sports class, Highlights magazine subscription: keep them entertained throughout the year with fun activities or subscriptions.
15. For the fit (or those aspiring to be): For those skipping the gym membership, my favorite workout videos are Zumba, Ballet Beautiful, & P90x.
16. For the whole family:
Whirlypop: We make all our popcorn in this stovepop popper. It makes excellent kettle corn as well.
Board games such as the Busytown Game (for younger kids): This game has the whole family work together to win.
Book sets such as Narnia book series, Little House book series
DVD sets such as Narnia, Harry Potter, or Star Wars
Museum or zoo memberships.
17. For the tea drinker: hot pot, Yorkshire English breakfast tea.
Happy shopping! I hope you find something for everyone on your list.
What other gifts keep on saving? What is the most useful gift you’ve ever received?
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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.”
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).
Bike, ski, snowmobile and motorcycle helmets are intended to protect your head once. Every manuacturer says to replace it after one impact because the foam gets compressed and can not absorb shock.
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!
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.
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!
We still have some plastic, too, but try to avoid those especially for re-heating leftovers.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Frugal minds think alike!
Great list! We like to give (and receive) Christmas gifts like these since they are things we can use for a long time.
It’s nice to know a gift will go to good use over the long haul, rather than break or be forgotten within a month.
Don’t forget about magazine subscriptions and memberships to zoos and museums.
Great ideas, Julie.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
A friend of ours calls helpful home repair gifts “Fixmas Christmas.” I love it!
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!!!!
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.