Heartfelt Frugal Gifts to Give When Money is Tight

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Christmas, birthdays, other religious holidays, graduations… and now wedding season and Mother’s Day are coming…There is a lot of pressure in this society to buy gifts, especially at certain times of the year. In this article, I will reflect on some of the most thoughtful gifts I have received over the years. Using these as themes, I will offer some thrifty suggestions on how to approach gift-giving during these difficult financial times.

Basics that people need

When money is tight for folks, receiving some basics as a gift can be a real help. I have a wonderful friend who is a Frugalite like us. He arrived at my eco-cabin with my Christmas gift after having gone shopping in the nearest big city. I looked out the window and saw him walking towards my front door with the perfect Frugalite gift (unwrapped!): a HUGE chicken pot pie from the big box store in the city and a large jug of -40 degrees windshield wiper fluid. He knows I love that chicken pot pie because he’s given it to me before. It is soooo big that it literally feeds me for five nights. How frugal is this friend? He bought the wiper washer fluid in a bulk box, saving tons! 

What my friend did for me, I like to do for an aunt of mine. She has been very helpful to me over the years. I know that she is retired and on a fixed income. Whenever I visit, I bring some of the pantry staples that I know she loves: instant coffee, some canned soups, and perhaps a jar of jam. I can tell that she really appreciates this, and a few of these items are not too expensive. I usually throw in a can of salmon from my own pantry to jazz it up, as salmon is quite expensive these days. By doing this from time to time, I am helping her build up a bit of a pantry of her own. 

Specialty item/hobby item

For Christmas, another aunt who knows I love to garden gave me a “Tickless.” “What in the world is that?” you could rightly ask? It is an ultrasonic tick deterrent that you clip on your clothing. I guess it’s like playing really loud music that the ticks can’t stand. When they hear you coming…they run in the other direction. To me, this was quite a thoughtful gift, as it is something that could help keep me safe. There are a lot of ticks on my homestead land, and they do get in the house sometimes. When I did a search on this item, I found out it is pretty expensive, at around $50 or more.

However, you don’t have to spend $50 to buy someone a thoughtful gift related to their favorite hobby. I have a cousin who just loves her palomino horse. When I saw a plastic model that looked like her horse at a local thrift shop, I bought it for her. She was delighted. It cost me less than $5. 

The same aunt who bought me the tick repeller loves our Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. She’s a true baseball fanatic! By looking faithfully at the local thrift shop over a number of months, I was able to find two amazing Blue Jays items: a brand-new baseball cap and a knitted beer bottle cover. Although my Aunt doesn’t drink a lot of beer, she loves a cold diet Pepsi while she watches her game. Although I gave her the “koozie” months and months ago, I have been thrilled to see that she proudly keeps it on display on a side table. These two items cost me less than $10, and she loved them!

A family heirloom or something of your own that you treasure

A few years ago, my cousin was cleaning out her garage. She is a bit of a packrat! In this case, I truly benefitted from this habit of hers. For her Christmas gift that year, she gave me one of her mother’s (my aunt’s) own Christmas ornaments.  

It seems so long ago that my dear Aunt passed away. I remember her love of beautiful birds. I was so touched when my cousin picked out the most gorgeous ceramic ornament hanging on a pink ribbon. It has an image of a blue bird on it. I knew immediately when I saw it that it must be my aunt’s. Even though this gift didn’t technically cost my cousin anything, it is one of my treasured possessions. You might have some items like these that are in a box that someone would truly appreciate and enjoy. 

Baked goods

That same cousin is a gifted baker. She used to supervise a staff in a grocery store. Every Christmas, she would make the most wonderful box of baked goods for every member of her staff. Cookies and squares of every description, including her famous praline cheesecake squares, filled the box to the brim. Although the ingredients for these items didn’t cost a ton, she put her time and care into giving this thoughtful gift. I am sure that they were much appreciated and didn’t last very long! 

Maybe you aren’t much of a baker. However, there are some pretty foolproof chocolate brownie mixes out there. Many folks I know would love a tray of freshly baked brownies!

Time

With life being so busy during these stressful times, it is easy for months to go by without seeing some people that are important to us. One such example is my great uncle and aunt, who are both well into their nineties. My great-uncle is my grandfather’s youngest brother. I haven’t been able to see them for some time. I plan to visit them in about a week and a half.

Something special I am going to do for them ahead of time is to write their names in Irish using the old Irish alphabet, as well as the ancient Ogham alphabet. So, I will give them a gift that just took me some time to write out, and then I will spend some precious time with them.

Family history and stories

My mother’s youngest brother had a passion for our Kenny family history. He was a tech genius and loved whatever the newest gadget was that was out on the market. As a result, we have very early family movies that he recorded. What was truly generous was how he would share whatever he collected with everyone. We were all given photocopied booklets with excerpts from the diaries of our great-grandparents and grandparents (his parents).

He made sure that these stories stayed alive by giving them as gifts to us. As well he often made slideshow videos of old photos and gave them to extended family members so that they would have their own copies. You might have some old photos in a drawer or in your basement that could become a treasured gift with just a few hours of your time.

Great gifts need not cost an arm and a leg!

Many of the gift ideas here would only take some time or a small amount of money.

Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty gifty tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? What has been the most welcomed inexpensive gift you’ve given?  Please tell us in the comments section.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. 

Heartfelt Frugal Gifts to Give When Money is Tight
Colette

Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, "Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture." Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

8 thoughts on “Heartfelt Frugal Gifts to Give When Money is Tight”

  1. When my husband was in seminary I worked at a local daycare. A sweet friend and I rode to and from work together every day. On the way home in the afternoon we would “jokingly” ask, “Well, what delicious dinner can I make from a pound of hamburger again tonight?” (Hamburger was relatively inexpensive at that time.) Several years later she gave me a cookbook. She had taken a bound, blank book and handwritten dozens and dozens of recipes that required a pound of hamburger. It cost only a couple of dollars to buy the blank book but it was super expensive in terms of her time and the love she invested in that gift. Today many, many years later, it is still one of my most treasured possessions.

    1. Ah, gee, Trish! That story about the gift from your sweet friend had me misting up! What a thoughtful gift; indeed, a gift of time and love. This offers another priceless idea for heartfelt gifts. Thanks so much.

  2. we often give baked goods to friends, family and neighbors. We also give home canned goods, home made sewn gifts like place matts, shopping bags. Also roasted nuts or home mixed trail mixes. We buy one off plates at good will or clearance in stores and that becomes part of the gift.

    1. Hi Gale, Wow! There are so many gifts in your list I would love to receive. The roasted nuts or home mixed trail mixes are healthy and I’m sure are much better than any you can buy in the store. Thanks for sharing your great ideas with the Frugalite community. Wishing you a great Spring!

  3. One of my most treasured possessions is a photo book my grandmother made for me. She had a big collection of family photos and one year she found all kinds of photos of me, and her copy of my birth announcement, and put them together with rubber stamps and such into a big scrapbook. It was definitely a labor of love and I find that I treasure it more and more with every year that has gone by. I don’t have many photos of my family as I have moved several times, sometimes under tough circumstances, and this is greatly cherished.

    When I need something for someone I will usually make art for them, or a card, or sometimes put together something like a mug with candy inside. Last year I bought a twin pack of oval cedar boards used for planking fish, the kind that is fairly smooth with bark on the outside. I made that into an artsy sign for my mom. Sometimes simple art on unlikely surfaces can be a real winner.

    1. Hi Redbranch, I was touched to read about the photo book your grandmother made for you. That is something so special to have, especially if you don’t have many family photos. Your suggestion regarding the sign is fantastic. They seem to be popular nowadays. If you make it yourself, you can personalize, too. Thanks so much for sharing your reflections on heartfelt gift giving and receiving with the Frugalite community! Happy Spring!

  4. Other resources for duplicating family history items (photos, recordings, diaries, videos, etc) are services such as imemories or legacybox, with details on these websites:

    https://www.imemories.com/

    https://legacybox.com/

    There are some exceptions. If such services believe that a video for example was recorded from a TV that could lead to a copyright violation … those service won’t duplicate that item. I have such an exception where both my parents had tiny bit parts in a movie that was partly shot in their long ago hometown. The copy I saved decades later from late night TV was because the version for sale on Amazon today was done with such bad lighting settings that the story was harder to follow. So my higher quality VHS cassette copy would have to be duplicated by me before being given (at no cost) to relatives.

    Another possible gotcha is the widely varying quality of digital media. I have some black and white photos of ancestors that date back to the American Civil War era. That longevity is impressive to me. In contrast … you might have a tough time getting any assurance as to how long (and under what storage conditions of temperature and darkness) your family data digitized onto CD or DVD might last. So you might want to explore uploading such family data to the internet so that you could share the access link with your people. I once helped the son of a longtime but late buddy of mine create a tribute to his father which today remains online these decades later.

    –Lewis

    1. Hi Lewis, This is so helpful to connect folks with some companies that help digitize our precious family memories. I checked out both of them and was impressed. While these services do cost, I think the issue these days would be finding the time to do this work ourselves, especially if someone has a young family. I was amazed to hear that you have photos of your ancestors going back all the way to the American Civil War! Wow! I wonder if that is due to the quality of photographic paper they used back then? Acid free? What treasures those are! Thanks again for sharing so generously. Wishing you a wonderful Spring!

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