symbolic gift, man happy to receive gift

Symbolic Gift Ideas for Loved Ones

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By the author of What School Should Have Taught You: 75 Skills You’ll Actually Use in Life

Giving gifts can be hard, especially when you want it to mean something and be on a budget. Here’s some of my experience with symbolic gifts, and what to think about when getting ready to give one.

I’ve alluded to this before in another post, but I wanted to elaborate on something of a rite of passage that I went through when I was 13 that I look back on with gratitude, that really didn’t cost a lot of money for the men who did this for me, and that you can copycat for other people in your life.

Where I grew up, when a boy turned 13, it was a big deal. A lot of the men of the community would get together, take that kid to a park (they took me to a big lake in the mountains), and then give him a bunch of life advice, tell him what it meant to be a man, and then give symbolic gifts that the kid would have to remind himself of the lessons that he had been taught.

What symbolic gift was I given?

Several. I was given a bunch of old coins, some knives, I think a baseball card and some other little trinkets that I just finished looking for and can’t find.

Though I can’t remember the lessons that were attached to all of these items, I do remember that they were there, and I also remember occasionally looking back at them and thinking about what had been said.

The gifts didn’t cost a lot of money, but they meant a lot to me. They still do. Even though I may not remember what the old coins were supposed to symbolize, I mainly remember that my dad and his friends were willing to take the time out of their busy schedules with their own families, jobs, and lives to come and give me advice I needed and gifts, to boot.

Every kid needs advice, and every person loves gifts.

What does this mean for the frugalite?

What it means is that you don’t necessarily need to worry about dropping a lot of money over and over again on “big” gifts for loved ones. While I do think that there is a time and place for bigger gifts (e.g., marriages, anniversaries, etc.), we often think that we have to give big gifts every single time. Here’s part of the catch: while there were a couple of times as a kid when somebody gifted me a hundred dollars, something which was awesome to hold in my hand as a teenager, I’ve largely forgotten what I purchased with that money.

Money was cool, gift cards were cool, and I was always grateful for it, but I really don’t remember what it was used for, and if I still have what I bought with that money, I don’t remember who made it possible.

But the symbol gifts?

With those I remember.

With the symbol gifts, I can reminisce back on how somebody was willing to think about me, and then it causes a couple of things to happen. For starters, it brings the gift giver to mind. How are they doing? Do they need help with anything? What are all the ways and times in my life that they have helped me?

Secondly, it causes me to cultivate gratitude.

You may even start to think about doing the same for others then. A gift that makes you want to give gifts to others. Pretty cool.

Who can I share these with?

So let’s say that you have a new teenager in your life that’s just kind of floating around rather clueless (Literally, they all are. This is like playing darts when the entire wall is the target. By making this assumption you literally cannot miss. Kids need the advice and direction of good men and women.)

Let’s say that you have an anniversary coming up, a graduation, or something of the like.

Why not think about a symbolic gift to commemorate it? We already do this on a daily basis with wedding rings, it’s just that we’re so immune to the concept of something so “mundane” that we forget about it. I don’t think that this has to be, though. There are plenty of times when we can instill some level of a deeper meaning in a thing by telling people that it is a symbol of our love for them or of some greater lesson.

For guys, this may be something like Grandpaw’s hammer, a pocket knife, old coins, or other masculinity associated items.

For girls, lockets, rings, necklaces – these are all gifts that have been given to the women in my life (I’m talking about relatives, ya’ll. I ain’t going around with multiple women.) that had special meaning attached to them – normally by daddy, mom, or grandmaw – that they still hold onto.

Can these types of gifts be expensive?

They can be.

But they don’t necessarily have to be.

What do you think?

So what are some ways that you can use symbol gifts to show somebody else that you care or that there is something important that they need to remember? Does this give you food for thought? And what symbolic gifts have you received in the past? Let us know in the comment section below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to and Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Picture of Aden Tate

Aden Tate

About the Author Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to,,,,, and Along with being a freelance writer he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American at Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

3 thoughts on “Symbolic Gift Ideas for Loved Ones”

  1. I like the idea of meaningful gifts, but I really like the event recounted in this article. I wish more people had rites of passage to celebrate important milestones in their lives. Some cultures have them built in but I think all of us need them at some level. I really feel the lack of rites of passage in my own life. Small and symbolic gifts are an important part of that, as a mnemonic to remind people of the lesson.

  2. I remember long ago when my paternal grandfather gave me several silver US dollars dated in the 1920s. He did not mention anything about them whether history, significance, alternative uses, etc. Only decades later did I learn about the near starvation during the American Revolution when in addition to Americans over-printing continental money … the British counterfeited them to make them increasingly worthless. Memories of that resulting near starvation gave rise to the US Coinage Act of 1794 in which the death penalty was mandated for anyone using anything other than real silver to make US dollars. The earliest US dollars produced by the US mint had a woman’s face on them. Some said it was Martha Washington who had donated some of her household silverware to make those first US silver dollars possible.

    Much later in the 1800s pioneering era silver dollars were often dropped into milk to prevent it from spoiling so soon. In our era silver coins have even been used to help make colloidal silver for medical uses.

    My point is that sometimes the information and significance of some gifts is sometimes enormously more important (and worth sharing) than whatever small price was paid for them. I doubt if my grandfather knew about much of that history I just described — which I learned many years later instead.


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