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.  <<

I need a pajama day…

So if you have been following my blog, you know every Tuesday is random topic night.  Since I haven’t really been home since last Wednesday, we’ll pretend that tonight is random topic night.  There are so many thoughts in my head at this time of year that I could probably post something everyday…that is, if I wasn’t so crazy busy.  I feel nostalgic, stressed, blessed, guilty, poor and rich all at the same time.

My daughter has asked for a certain present for two years in a row.  It is really not in the normal price range I like to spend.  So here comes the guilt.  I have thought about it for two weeks and finally decided to go ahead and order it.  She is a great child and rarely asks for expensive things.  She asked me to take her shopping with her own money because she had saved it over the last few years and she wanted to buy her family presents.  I told her to save her money, but she was persistent.  So, I taught her a lesson in economics when we went shopping.  I told her to budget her money and not pick up too many expensive things or she wouldn’t have any left over for tax, etc.  She learned a valuable lesson…I think.

I am stressed about the holidays for the normal reasons, but mostly because we have to work right up to the day before Christmas and I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to relax this way.  I think kids deserve a whole two weeks off at Christmas, but what do I know.  At least I have a job, so I am blessed, and I can count on my paycheck.  No matter how much I tell myself those things, sometimes, it doesn’t help me feel better about a situation.

The bottom line is, no matter how crazy things get, I love my family more than anything.  I have good friends and a great support system and for that I am truly thankful.  I just wish I could stay in my pajamas and finish reading the book I started this summer.  Yup.  I might need pajama jeans.

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”  ~Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes


What my tree says about me…

The other night I got together with a group of girlfriends and we pulled names for a “Secret” Santa.  There are 5 of us, so it’s not really a secret so much, but it’s fun anyway.  We talked about our Christmas trees because I asked if anyone had a “theme” tree.  They looked at me like I said I let my kids eat candy for breakfast (no, I do not do that).  I said, well, ummm, I’m southern you know and some people have more than one tree that they decorate a certain way.  For example, when those Hallmark motion ornaments came out, we started collecting so many that it soon became known as the light and motion tree.  That was around 1986.  When we moved to a bigger house, my mom set up two trees.  One was known as the Victorian tree and had the most beautiful ornaments on it ever, but it was pretty much just for looks.  The other tree had the ornaments on it that you have passed down from generation to generation and really had a story.

If I had known I would use this photo, I would have tried to take a better one…but I liked him.  I’m calling him Mr. Fish and I don’t know his story.  He was on my friend’s tree and I thought he was cool.

This is a Pengwan.  Yes, I spelled it wrong because this is how my daughter says penguin and she adores him.  I just thought he was really cute, so there he sits at the top of our tree.

This guy is here because my oldest daughter loves to play Angry Birds, and he looked like one.  She laughs at birds and saw him and started laughing, so there he is.

Lastly, I took a picture of this one because my grandmother made it.  She embroidered dresses for me as a child, and this makes me think of her.  We were always dressed very fancy when we went to lunch to see the real Santa Claus.  My brother and I were as well-behaved as we could be until my brother actually laid eyes on Santa.  Then, well, it didn’t matter how nice anyone looked, he wasn’t having any of it and every photo has him screaming and me smiling.  Ha.  Yes, this one ornament makes me think of all of that.

So the next time you start to decorate your tree, take a minute to reflect.  Even if the ones we love are not there with us, they are in spirit.

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”  ~Dr. Seuss