30 Frugal Gift Ideas to Show You Appreciate Someone

A Guest Post by Leo Babauta

What do you get someone if you want to show you appreciate them, but if you don’t have a lot of money to spend?

If you have a lot of money, you can buy just about anything for that person. But for those of us with limited budgets, you’ll have to show that appreciation with a little creativity.

Australian reader Victory recently asked:

I’m in my final year of high school and in about a fortnight we graduate before heading off to exams (in Australia for those who live in Victoria) and so I was wondering if you could perhaps make a post about Teacher gifts. I’m a little low on ideas for showing gratitude to my teachers but I know they deserve something decent for helping me getting into university and such so perhaps you could offer frugal but tasteful advice on gifts other than the usual wine/beer/chocolate?

It’s a great question. Teachers are some of the most selfless people I know, and the work they do benefits us individually and as a society. However, I thought I’d broaden the topic for those who aren’t in school … and talk about frugal gift ideas for showing your appreciation to someone.

Let’s first identify what’s essential: that we show the person who has done something nice for us how much we appreciate them. It’s not essential that the gift be big, or expensive, or anything like that. It’s a token of our appreciation … and let me tell you, no matter how small, the person will likely appreciate the gesture.

The gift should also be appropriate to the person — if it’s personal, it’s likely to mean more. So while wine is always a nice gift, if the person is into other types of drinks (such as coffee), that would make a better gift. So take a moment to consider the person, what they like, and the times you’ve spent together.

So, let’s look at some ideas … some obvious, perhaps, but this list is meant only to spark your own ideas. Also, the definition of “frugal” is broad here … some ideas cost more than others, and some can be made for very little.

  1. Frame a picture of you with them.
  2. Lotions or bath oils.
  3. Journal. A nice journal can be beautiful. It’s one of my favorite gifts.
  4. Gourmet coffee with a personalized mug.
  5. A nice pen.
  6. Photo album or scrapbook, with memories already included.
  7. Homemade cookies you bake yourself.
  8. Or brownies.
  9. Spice gift basket. Get some small jars and fill them with exotic spices.
  10. Gift certificate for the person’s favorite hobby store.
  11. A burned CD with all the person’s favorite songs.
  12. A letter, hand-written on nice paper, from you. Make it heart-felt, with all the reasons you appreciate the person.
  13. A small plant.
  14. A movie pass and a small container of gourmet popcorn kernels.
  15. Soup mixes or cookie mixes in nice clear jars.
  16. Personalized T-shirt.
  17. Stationery and stamps.
  18. IOU booklets, with whatever services you are willing to perform. Obviously only good for someone you know really well.
  19. Knit or crochet something for someone (I can’t do this, but I know people who can).
  20. An “I appreciate you because” jar. Fill a nice jar with slips of different colored paper, each with a reason you appreciate (or love) someone.
  21. Jams and jellies.
  22. Good bread (home-made works great).
  23. Books (my favorite).
  24. A blank recipe book … write some of your favorite recipes on the first few pages.
  25. A keepsake DVD with a video of special moments, edited (and captioned) by you. A slide show presentation with music burned on a DVD works too.
  26. Create your own art (and put it on nice stationery or in a frame). By “art”, I mean a sketch, painting, poem, short story, whatever.
  27. Scented candles.
  28. Make-up set.
  29. Shaving kit.
  30. Box of good tea and a teacup.

Editor’s Note:  Not sure where to start journaling or what it does for you?  Here are 7 Ways Starting a Daily Journal Practice Will Change Your Life.  <<

Using Negativity to Practice Gratitude

Upset

This week, some things have tried to jump out, tackle me, and take me down.  In the overall grand scheme of life, they are NOT the big things.  I am sitting here right now asking myself why I let these small, but not nice, things get under my skin?  Why do we, human, react first and sometimes think later…or maybe we don’t think at all?  How can I be a leader, a mentor, and a yoga instructor if I let negative people influence my feelings?  I guess it’s because I am human and just trying to do the best I can at any given moment just like everyone else.

So what did I learn this week?  What lesson did I take away from having a bully type teacher take things out on my child in subtle, but nasty ways?  What did I learn from the woman who didn’t get any facts straight, but called me to say some nasty gossip out of the blue just because she wanted to instill some doubt in my thoughts about the high school where my daughters go and it’s safety?  Did I lean into fear, negativity, worry, doubt and anger for a bit?  Yes.  It was like my impulse where my children are concerned.  Did I then take a step back and breathe?  Yes.  But why wasn’t the breathing part first this week?  It was a reminder that like all good skills, you have to practice.

I hadn’t been stretching my gratitude muscle as much as I thought.  

As I sat with this and tried to put it in perspective, I thought about how sad these two people are in their lives.  I also thought about how the school still needed to know to possibly look into things, so after cooling off, I did send my nice e-mail which was received and made me feel better.  I was able to articulate from the former teacher perspective and still be thoughtful as the parent.  I did feel better when I addressed the concerns.  Now it was time to shift into gratitude.

Using Negativity to Practice Gratitude:

  1. I asked myself what was true about what I heard.  I then turned it around to what can I learn from this?  There were so many lessons to be learned there.  So many.  How did this make me feel?  Could I teach my daughter to stand up for herself in a way that wasn’t rude or disrespectful?  How could I show her that sometimes even authority figures get it wrong?  But in a way that is helpful to teenagers and won’t hurt them in school.
  2. What benefits could I pass on from this?  I am going to be honest, when I get in “seeing red” mode, I think of zero benefits and that helps me zero as well.  Was there a calm way I could think outside the box?  Yes.  I learned that I could let go and move on as my daughter did and she said she had it under control and would be fine.  The benefit is trusting that it will work out in the best possible way and provide growth to us all.
  3. I then asked what I could be grateful for from these situations.  It could always be worse.  << This statement, while it feels unfair perhaps, is true.  Sometimes we are so mired down in our own “stuff” that things feel like an attack on our well-being.  It feels like a personal and quite unnecessary way to show us things that need our attention.  That was what this showed me.  I am grateful for my relationship with both of my daughters.  I am grateful they come to me with things.  I am grateful that I have support from my family as well.  What do I need to praise more in this situation?  And I knew that it was the trust in my children to make the right decisions.

If you liked this post, you might like my 30 Days of Gratitude that you can use immediately. >>>  Here is the E-book link.  <<<