Holiday Gifts For Frugal Weirdos To Give And Receive
As the holidays near and I spring around with glee because I love–LOVE–Christmas, the question of gift giving and receiving is in the air. Presents are often a divisive topic amongst the frugal cadre as we, by our inherent frugal weirdo nature, can’t abide seeing money wasted on worthless stuff. However, as people who are equal parts frugal and Christmas adorers, Mr. Frugalwoods and I have staked out a middle ground with holiday gifts. We don’t spend a ton, but we’re not grinches either.
The primary way that we save money and stress is by not giving gifts to each other. This is an approach we agreed upon several years ago and its been the best holiday-related decision I think we’ve ever made. Instead of racing around trying to divine what we should buy for each other, we spend that time together, engaged in festive holiday pursuits that bring us closer.
And instead of throwing away money on things we don’t need, we save that cash for our longterm goals… or just for special ingredients for yummy holiday dishes. Not giving presents to each other is more about avoiding consumerism–and focusing on things that actually strengthen our relationship–than it is about the actual dollar amount saved.
What We Give
We do, however, enjoy giving gifts to our immediate family members–all told between both sides, there are 13 humans and 5 dogs (not counting me, Mr. FW, Babywoods, and Frugal Hound). We also like to make delectable homemade treats for our neighbors, friends, and co-workers, which is an ideal way to both practice the fine art of baking and celebrate on the cheap.
Likewise, our families enjoy giving gifts to us and every year, they request our Christmas wish list. And every year, we used to hem and haw and cast about in darkness for what we might possibly want. Frugal weirdos don’t lust after endless material goods and it’s honestly often quite tough for us to figure out what to ask for because we live our lives luxuriously and have basically everything we need.
So, we devised a system whereby we maintain an Amazon wishlist throughout the year and every time we think of something we need, we simply add it to the list. This list then works as both a wishlist and a delayed shopping list–if months elapse and we’re still in desperate need of something (the latest example was a pair of shoes for Mr. FW as his old shoes actually wore all the way through in one spot… ), we’ll buy it. Otherwise, the items are there for our families to peruse.
And the best part? We’ve convinced our families (for the most part) to practice wishlisting as well. This is ideal in my frugal book, because now I know we’re buying things that our nearest and dearest will actually use. Over the years, we’ve become increasingly practical in our gift giving and receiving, and I’ve noticed that our kin have as well.
To provide a few real life examples, here are some items we’ve gifted to various family members the past few Christmases :
- A garden hose caddy
- A bread loaf pan
- Soap (don’t laugh, someone–aka my Dad–asked for this and we obliged!)
- Coffee beans
- Personalized return address labels
And a few things we like so much we ended up buying them for ourselves and giving them as presents:
I absolutely adore the practicality reflected in this list and I love that our families are so down-to-earth in the things they request. I’m delighted to buy soap for my dad because I know he’ll use it! Far better than getting him some sort of bizarre tie clip that he’ll never wear.
P.S. I’m sorry if Amazon is a hegemon poised to take over the commerce world, but it’s darn convenient to shop with them.
Another wonderful gift option we employ are charitable contributions made in family members’ names. Mr. FW and I do all of our charitable giving at the end of each calendar year and so its a natural extension to make contributions to organizations that are meaningful to our family members in their honor.
Both sets of our parents make charitable gifts in our names as well, which I think is a wonderful family tradition. Teaching children about philanthropy is a central tenet of raising good citizens, and a key component of financial education, so I’m grateful to my folks for instilling this lesson early on. We plan to educate Babywoods about how very fortunate she is and how we feel it’s our duty to give back.
How We Buy Gifts
In a word, I’d say we do this unconventionally. Again, I must invoke Amazon’s name–I’m sorry, but they make this process so dang easy for us! We have the Amazon cash back rewards Visa card, which nets us points to redeem on Amazon. We don’t purchase a whole lot over the course of a year, but it’s enough to rack up a tidy sum of Amazon points. Then, we typically use these points to obtain gifts for our families.
Another tactic in our frugal present procurement strategy is the use of gift cards. I save every gift card we receive and, more often than not, translate it into a gift for someone else. There just isn’t all that much that Mr. FW and I need and so I’m happy to use gift cards in service of future gifts.
We also re-gift. I know this is controversial, but I personally think it’s fine if it’s done thoughtfully. I store all gifts that we won’t be using in a box with a note of who gave them to us (there’s nothing more gauche than re-gifting back to the original recipient… ) and then, if a gift seems appropriate for another person, I re-gift. Simple as that and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Better that things get used than sit around collecting dust in our basement.
And finally, we give used gifts. My family and I have an understanding, and a belief, that used items are just as good as new. And so, we think nothing of gifting one another thrift store or garage sale finds as gifts. It’s important to be on the same page as your recipient about the merits of used finds, but I for one am incredibly thankful that my family is on board the used train. Saves us all a ton of money and, helps keep things from the landfill!
What We Receive
Each year, our Amazon wishlist is stocked with items that primarily fall into the categories of: household goods, kitchen implements, or tools. Occasionally, there’ll be a specific clothing item–such as a pair of shoes–or a toy for Frugal Hound.
If you’re a frugal weirdo, or if you’re hoping to purchase a present for a frugal weirdo, the below are some excellent choices. The key in gift giving to a member of the frugal species is to remember that we abhor waste and cringe when money is wasted on things we don’t need (never mind that it’s someone else’s money–it pains us all the same). The very best strategy is to obtain a list from your frugal weirdo of what they’d appreciate, but short of that, these items are likely to be met with praise.
Frugal Greatest Hit Gifts:
These babies are a secret weapon in our successful battle against food waste and eating out. Since we (well, technically Mr. FW) cook all of our meals at home, having adequate storage for said meals is crucial.
We have two sets of containers, with sizes ranging from teeny (perfect for carrying my daily hard boiled egg to work) to gigantic (for storing massive quantities of soup or sauce). In a given week, we typically employ almost every single container.
While plastic containers are less expensive, they’re also less useful. They have the potential to leech chemicals into food and, they stain. Just try putting red sauce in a plastic container—not pretty. Another advantage of glass is that it’s heat resistant and handles both dishwasher and microwave with aplomb.
Clearly we think about food a lot. Prior to the miraculous arrival of Corelle in our lives, we used janky plastic plates and bowls, bought for cheap while we were in college. Upgrading our dishes was a big decision and we knew we wanted a product that would stand the test of time. Since we have to touch, view, and otherwise eat off these things on a daily basis, I desired certain aesthetic features as well.
Corelle ticks all of these boxes. They’re a sleek, modern bright white, which pairs perfectly with any dinner party theme or holiday decor (I’ll admit it–I love to color coordinate!). Plus, they don’t stain, chip, crack, or otherwise show any wear. Unlike their porcelain counterparts, Corelle is a magic formula that’s nearly indestructible. Scratch marks from flatwear are non-existent and gunk washes clean off.
While it’s true that Corelle doesn’t chip or crack, it can break. And when it does breaks, it’s epic. I accidentally dropped a bowl on our quartz countertop a few months back and the result was alarming. Shards skittered across the countertop and I swear that bowl broke into at least 50 different pieces. But in all the years we’ve owned our Corelle set, this was our first break. Short of dropping it directly onto a super hard surface, these plates don’t shatter.
We love this thing so much that we’ve both given and received it. The Frugalwoods electric kettle is a revered member of our family due to the fact that it produces our daily coffee and oatmeal allotment. For us, the electric kettle replaces a coffee pot, microwave, and traditional tea kettle. While we still employ our microwave on occasion, it dwells in the basement due to its infrequent usage.
Further, we save energy with the kettle since we only heat the precise amount of water we need. And, that water is heated to the exact correct temperature, which is key for our coffee preparations. Although not inexpensive, our daily usage of this kettle makes it entirely worthwhile. Plus, since it’s one of the few implements that sits out in the open in our home, I appreciate its lovely stainless steel design.
4) Kitchen Knives
I felt I needed the modifier “kitchen,” lest you think we’re asking for ninja stars. A decent knife is a crucial aspect of good home cooking. The knife is often the genesis of a meal and thus, having one that works well is relatively paramount. While good knives aren’t cheap, they’re not necessarily expensive either. When knife shopping, it’s important to locate a knife with a full tang (meaning the metal goal all the way through handle) as the knife will be strong and well-balanced in your hands.
Another helpful attribute is a knife of good quality steel that can be sharpened again and again. Sharpening one’s knives is a worthwhile task because a sharp knife is a safe knife—dull knives will slip off food and cut you (they have no remorse). Mr. FW sharpens his knives every few weeks for maintenance and once every few months for a serious edge (point in fact, he received this knife sharpener as a gift one year).
Mr. FW finds that he does need a few different knives, but not a full knife set, which is ideal since with a set, you’ll likely end up paying too much for too many different knives that you don’t need. Mr. FW’s knife collection includes: a chef’s knife, a bread knife, a paring knife, and a boning knife. This is a sufficient array to enable him to achieve all his culinary aspirations. If you only request just one or two knives, go with the chef’s and the bread knife.
5) Food Processor
Our food processor is one of those tools where it’s often the only thing that’ll suffice. For example, you simply cannot make good, smooth hummus without a food processor. And, let’s be honest, no one wants lumpy hummus. We have a very simple yet powerful model, with just 3 buttons: on, off, and pulse. This accomplishes the job perfectly and any additional buttons are just fancy extras that can break.
As Mr. FW works on home improvement projects and realizes he’s using the wrong tools, he comments to himself “man, I wish I had X tool in order to do this project” and then he’ll add it to the wishlist. In this way, he’s been slowly building his retinue of tools over the years. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference. A few tools he’s found invaluable after receiving them: this reciprocating saw and this high-speed rotary tool.
The Roku supersedes our need for cable, Netflix, HBO GO, and whatever else people pay for to watch TV these days. This was a wonderful gift since it allows us to prevent a recurring expense (which is what cable is for many folks). More about how we watch TV for free here.
Why This Stuff?
You likely noticed that the majority of this list relates to the kitchen. That’s because frugal weirdos typically cook all of their meals at home and thus, are in need of robust kitchen gadgetry. Additionally, nice kitchen implements are more difficult to find on the used market than say furniture, clothes, or home decor.
I do occasionally see kitchen supplies come available through the Buy Nothing group, at garage sales, or on Craiglist, but they’re often rather beat up and quite past their prime. Same story for tools–since we like to do all of our own home improvement and repairs, tools are an indispensable part of our household. And, legitimately good tools are rare as greyhound wings on the used market.
Most importantly, all of these items enable greater frugality as they allow us to prepare our own food, fix our own house, and create our own entertainment. Frugal wins all around!
Striking A Balance At The Holidays
While I got pretty specific here about things you could buy–which isn’t my typical modus operandi–I think it’s a prime example of how Mr. FW and I strike a balance between our $0 spending approach and our participation in the holidays. We don’t go wild with our spending “just because it’s Christmas,” nor do we harrumph around and refuse to take part in our family traditions of gift giving.
For us, living extreme frugality is all about finding tenable, comfortable balances between spending and saving. We’re not out to horde every last penny we make–rather, we’re out to create a meaningful, fulfilling life that’s not centered on buying things or acquiring stuff, but on creating happiness in our daily interactions.
Everyone’s comfort level with holiday spending is different and I encourage you to think carefully about whether you’re spending in ways that bring joy to you and your loved ones, or if you feel pressured to spend money you don’t have. I think it’s crucial to be transparent with family members about where you are with your financial goals, and maybe in some years (especially if you’re in debt), gift giving should be scaled back. The holidays aren’t about giving stuff to each other–they’re about spending quality time together celebrating the true meaning of the season.
I wish you all a season of peace and love–neither of which are sold in stores by the way (not even on Amazon!).