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.  <<

7 Ways to Spend Less Money and Have More.

Over the weekend, I tried to clear out my junk mail folder, but more e-mails kept appearing with things I needed that were on sale.  I am going to be honest, what I like to spend money on now is not necessarily more clutter, it is less.  I am buying very introspective gifts, and I am loving it.

I am doing this because I have found in really thinking about the things I want more of, it’s not necessarily more items, it happens to be more of the feeling associated with the item.  Catch my drift?

Last year, I was worried about money.  Worry begets more worry.  This year, I am not worried about money, but I am learning to have a much better relationship with it…so it can last longer and perhaps do that thing in my bank account called multiply.  No matter where you are in your money journey, this lesson is for you.

7 Ways to Spend Less (and really have more):

  1. If money was no object, make a list of things you’d really want.  Seriously.  Now look at that list, and think about what you really need.  Go back and circle those items.  Of the ones circled is there a pattern you can identify?  Like clothes?  Food?  Things to keep you warm?  Do you have lots of things on your list that are far-fetched or is there a feeling behind them that you are trying to reproduce?  Write down the feeling if the word comes to you.  Just let it sit there and marinate for a while.
  2. Look around your house.  What is truly enough for you? Do you have plenty of food in the refrigerator?  Do you have plenty of clothes?  I read the other day that we, in the United States, have so many clothes donated that yearly clothes are being thrown away in landfills…and they don’t magically go away.  It’s not like they are biodegradable.  I know that I am a clothes hoarder, so I listened to what it said about maybe just buying the higher quality items that last a while longer instead of the cheaply made things.  I also thought about all the ways you can reuse items.  If you are crafty, you know those pins where you magically turn your shirt into a vest or a scarf?  I love those ideas in theory, but I am just sticking to buying less.
  3. Save the dough.  There are a few theories about paying for things in cash.  I personally have been paying off credit cards, and trying to get my husband on board with this no credit card thing.  Sadly, he isn’t as on board with this idea, so I make him turn around and pay it right off.  He never looked at the interest really…he was a minimum monthly payment guy.  I said look, there is no point in couponing the heck out of everything when you can save money just by actually using cash.  Seriously.  I mean if you have mad couponing skills, go ahead with your bad self.  I am lucky if they take the one off the package that I buy specifically because it had that coupon attached.  And that’s okay.  Don’t feel guilty, just shop smarter on big purchases if you can.
  4. Bargain hunt…your gyms, yoga, exercise classes.  I admit that it’s probably easier to stay at one place, but how often do you buy a contract for ohhh say $60 a month and not go?  I stopped doing that after I realized I was wasting money.  I even stopped my $10 gym contract.  I now only buy what I need.  Groupon for a month on my local yoga studio is half the price.  Special offers, I will take that.  New people get a week free, oh sign me up.  But the best kept secret is the places that offer 10 class passes as they are cheaper and you are sure to use the number of classes.  Read all the fine print and the expiration date.  Let’s be honest.  In January you are going to think you “need” to join a gym.  Ask for a 10 pack of classes somewhere for your Christmas gift or birthday.  Also, ask for your friend to ask for the same thing so you have an accountability partner.
  5. Create mostly free night outs with your friends.  Do you like to journal, color, or just chat after a long week over some wine?  Well, invite everyone to your house and make it half the price as going out.  Likewise, get your friends in on the deal.  It really can be a nice way to spend time without paying lots of money.  Set up monthly rotations if you want to, but it really does save money!
  6. Circle back around to your list from up top.  Identify where you spend money to feel better.  I used to shop mindlessly because new clothes made me feel better.  Now, I buy a few online courses for around $10 and work on quiet practices.  I buy my friends books off of Kindle when they go for sale for like .99 cents.  If I am feeling restless, I head out the door on a walk or I do yoga outside or at a studio.  I have identified the problems that were making me want to spend money on things I didn’t need.  One of the first things I notice is have I been on the computer too much?  Why is this a problem?  That brings me to my last point.
  7. You are enough.  Your friend is posting about her new car, clothes, expensive bag, trip, hat <<< whatever.  What feelings rise to the surface as soon as you see it?  Observe these feelings for a minute and then be happy for your friend, but know that you are enough.  You have enough.  There is no one out there like you, and that is true.  Comparison, in my opinion, is the root of many woes.  We see the glossy surface of the person…the trips…the selfies they upload every single day, but in reality, it tells you nothing about what is going on underneath it all.  It is just the highs and trust me, everyone equally has their fair share of lows.

In the end, you know that money doesn’t truly make you happy…okay, fine.  It does help.  However, paying it forward to someone in need, donating gently used clothes to a family, collecting food, donating your time to the soup kitchens and making the homeless blessing bags.

Let Alone

Panic attack…

Ha.  Ha ha ha ha.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  I was minding my own business this morning, literally as all I was doing was thinking about something, and boom.  I started feeling weird.  Like I needed to take deep breaths and relax.  Seriously?  What in the world.  Just the thought of needing to make more money brought this on.  Granted, we all need money to live, so perhaps it isn’t that odd that I would worry about income.  I followed these simple steps and started to relax.  I told myself to snap out of it.  Yes, I like to use that line.  I focused on the positives, not the negatives.  Again, easier SAID than done.  I know this.  You know this.  We all know this.  I focused on my feelings and realized that this was perfectly normal.

So, is it time to clue you in yet?  Almost, almost.  Last week, some individual somehow got my credit card number, that is associated with my BANK ACCOUNT.  The fraud department immediately called my husband and he contacted me.  No, I had not just made this huge purchase of groceries while I was at work.  Working, to pay the bills.  Working to pay Mr. or Mrs. Crook’s grocery bill.  I mean, it was so much they probably ate steaks, shrimp, and had some wine, several bottles, to go with their meal on my dime (Why don’t I buy steaks?).   Then I start thinking about all the people who get away with things like this.  Then I open up my iGoogle page, which has the news on it, and I see a lucky Powerball winner has won almost $600 million.  Ha.  Ha ha ha ha.  That’s when it happened.

I need to get back to hot yoga.  I need to write.  I need to relax.  I need to actually journal.  Not necessarily all in this order, but you get the picture.  And maybe I need to play the Powerball too.  Control the chaos people.

“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos.  The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.”  ~Napoleon Bonaparte

Dumb ways to spend your money…

Things you want to do but shouldn’t in this economy.

  1. Fly to Las Vegas.  Win at Keno.  Suddenly think you are on fire and when approached by someone telling you that you could win $200 just for checking something out, you go.  You come back in a limo with a timeshare…drinking champagne with a whole $200 more (when in fact, you are really out $17,000).
  2. Your friend, now your frenemy, signs you up for a Rainbow Vacuum cleaner demo.  Your husband thinks it is the most awesome thing ever and promises you for the rest of your marriage, he will vacuum if you buy this robotic looking dealio that can suck dust out of the air, and basically pays for itself at $1,300 or something like that.  You say okay (you probably break even as he does really vacuum because the damn thing is so heavy you can’t lift it up stairs).
  3. Years later, decide that the first timeshare wasn’t in the best location for family.  You visit a touristy area, and they want you to look at their property.  You come back with another timeshare because they convince you that this one is better and you can sell the first one.  Now you are really dumb.  And broke.  Broke and dumb are bad.  Don’t do it.  Timeshares are the devil.  Mama would tell you that.
  4. Trade in your perfectly nice car for a used car.  Just because you can’t fit 2 carseats and a third person in the back.  They can walk.  Walking is good for them.  You liked your SUV.  Now you drive a mini-van.  Sigh.
  5. Start to buy a bigger house, realize it is a dumb move, and that maybe now is not the best time to buy.  Narrowly avoid making another mistake.  Whew.  That was close.
  6. Become a wine club member.  Not that you don’t mind drinking the wine, but you realize that for the travel, gas money and cost, you could buy 5 more bottles.  More wine equals winning.
  7. Say “F” it and get a new job.  Not really a good idea right now as there are no new jobs.  It wouldn’t be prudent to do this right now.  Find a millionaire to support your dream.  Good luck.
  8. Take all the money you were planning to save and go on your dream vacation.  You can’t take it with you, right?  I know there are websites with 137 ways to eat Ramen.  See for yourself.
  9. Buy a new car because you are tired of the mini-van now.  It is paid for.  Drive that bad-boy into the ground.  So what if you don’t have the money to fix the rear entertainment center?  They can watch that one DVD that has been stuck in there for a year and they can like it.  Hmpf.
  10. Get an estimate for a sun-room.  Let’s face it, you are never going to sell this house.  Might as well do what you want to it.  The kids can get scholarships to college, right?

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.”  ~Elbert Hubbard