If you have someone in your life who has yelled “we have too much junk” while wildly throwing stuff into garbage bags, I’ve got 12 ideas for frugal gifts for minimalists.
Minimalism is all about living with less so you can focus on what matters most. There are a lot of things that people think they need, but the truth is that we can often be happy with less.
Having children while living frugally can be a hard balance to find. You don’t want to pay full price (so you stock up during sales) or be unprepared. At the same time, you don’t want all that stuff cluttering up your life. Holidays are also hard – family and friends want to show their love with gifts, but you don’t want even more unnecessary stuff.
Frugal gifts for minimalists are things that bridge the gap between extravagance and miserly, between piles of stuff and spartan.
If none of these suggestions feel just right, ASK for gift ideas. Trust me, the minimalist (or regular parent) in your life will appreciate it. We don’t want more junk, but we do want to foster the relationships that truly matter.
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Giving a gift card might feel like a cop-out, but it’s really a thoughtful gift. Moms, in particular, tend to not spend much on themselves, but a gift card gives permission to do exactly that. Focus on stores, restaurants, online retailers, or services that you know the recipient likes or frequents.
A gift card also allows the recipient to purchase exactly what they want. I like to research purchases and my family has specific requirements for some things. I feel guilty receiving gifts that we can’t or won’t use, even when the giver has the best of intentions.
If you’re buying for busy parents of young kids, a gift card to a restaurant (and the promise of babysitting!) is a much-appreciated start to a date night. Even just a night of free babysitting is an amazing gift.
Anyone who works early morning shifts will enjoy a gift card to a coffee stand. What millennial woman doesn’t have a wish list at Target? Local businesses often offer gift cards or gift certificates, making it even easier to support small business owners.
Gift cards are an easy, physically small, and thoughtful gift.
I know cash itself isn’t frugal, but it can be the perfect minimalist gift (especially for extended family members). In my family, grandparents, aunts & uncles often contribute cash toward a larger purchase for the children. This method allows my family to buy more expensive but more useful items, such as a specific double stroller or an outdoor play kitchen.
Those things are used often and appreciated much more than junk toys that break in a week. This also allows everyone to stick to their own gift-giving budget but still give generously.
You can find unexpectedly good reads in used bookstores or thrift stores. Anyone who loves to read will tell you that paying for new books is the worst, and can really add up. It just doesn’t make sense to buy brand-new books that will be read in less than a week.
One year, we spent $3 at Goodwill on a big book about the solar system for my nephew. He loved it, and we saved at least $25. If he had hated it, no big deal either. It was in great shape so it can be passed down to his younger siblings too.
If you have a hunter or outdoorsman to shop for, old books are a great option. My husband and his dad both love browsing old (like early 1900s) hunting books. They fight over who saw what book first, then end up trading them back and forth. Historic books like these are usually a little pricier than Goodwill finds, but they seem to bring joy!
Everyone needs to eat, but not everyone has the skill, time, or budget to make a homecooked meal. Gifting a meal can be extremely frugal and easy because you can just double the recipe as you’re cooking your own dinner.
Make sure to take any allergies or special diets into consideration when planning your meal. Go a step further and include a salad and dessert too. You can even throw in paper plates, utensils, and napkins to make cleanup simple for your recipient.
If you’re not a chef or pressed for time, you can always order a meal delivered to their home. Who doesn’t love cheesy pizza and breadsticks?
Keep this gift suggestion in mind when you are celebrating a new baby or want to support friends going through a hard time. A serious diagnosis, a loss, or a hospitalization are all great times to give a meal.
A meal kit
Another meal gift option is a meal kit, like Blue Apron or Home Chef. If you’re feeling generous, you can order more than one meal, or even purchase an ongoing subscription. Young adults, inexperienced cooks, and busy people can all benefit from learning to prepare new recipes without having to waste time at the grocery store.
Fuzzy socks or slippers
Socks and slippers are always useful, especially if the recipient lives somewhere cold. Everyone in the family will be happy with socks or slippers, making your shopping trip easier.
Multi-packs of fuzzy socks are really affordable, so they make great stocking stuffers.
Slippers are more expensive but well worth it. I especially like the kind that has a hard sole, so you can wear them outdoors for brief periods. There’s quite a price range for slippers, so look for a pair the recipient will actually use.
Experiences are the ultimate frugal gift for minimalists
Giving an experience is literally the most minimal gift. There is no physical gift, or it’s small, like a ticket. Your recipient won’t have clutter and they’ll get to do something fun. Parents of young children will appreciate that combination for sure.
You can go even further and include yourself in that activity, taking the children off to a fun event and giving their parents a break. That’s really a gift for the whole family.
An experience gift can be as simple as a trip to a fancy ice cream shop or as involved as a trip to Disney World. I guarantee your loved ones will care more about the gesture than the cost.
Other experience gift suggestions:
- Museum or science center membership
- Subscription box for children’s activities or crafts
- Lessons – karate, music, gymnastics, swimming, a second language
- Wine subscription
- A night of babysitting
- A family vacation
- Needed sports gear
- More frugal activities
- 90+ other ideas
Technically a massage could be considered an experience, but I listed it separately because they’re so beneficial. A good, professional, massage will allow the gift recipient to have less pain, looser muscles, and less stress and tension.
A more extravagant option is a membership to a location that provides a certain number of massages per month for one price. Pamper someone on an ongoing basis for maximum impact.
You really cannot have too many throw blankets. They’re great for keeping warm, but also useful for fort-building and general coziness. It’s nearly impossible to watch TV without a blanket to snuggle under.
You could go another route with a blanket gift and buy a waterproof picnic blanket. They’re perfect for actual picnics, but also for camping, beach-going, and other outdoor activities. We keep one in each vehicle because we never know when we’ll need one.
Clothes drying rack
OK, I know it’s a weird gift idea, but stick with me.
A clothes drying rack reduces the need for a clothes dryer. Using a dryer less saves you money, especially if you rely on a laundromat. Air drying clothing helps it last longer and is a good step toward sustainability and lessening our carbon footprint.
If you know someone in your circle is trying to live more sustainably, a drying rack is actually a very thoughtful and frugal gift for minimalists.
This one has a pretty small footprint but has the ability to expand and hold more clothing. I have a longer, more horizontal one that takes up a lot of room in my hallway, but I’m seriously considering this one instead.
Busy professionals, busy parents, people with limited mobility: they could all benefit from a house cleaning. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, a clean home is so amazing to walk into.
The nonprofit I work with is giving away a free cleaning to qualified local families, and the response from eligible moms has been overwhelmingly positive. They’re all overwhelmed with responsibilities, so removing a huge task from the list helps so much.
Near the end of the year, you may be able to find a cleaner offering a special, making the gift even more frugal. Just make sure to find someone who is licensed and insured, and willing to follow whatever safety protocols the homeowner requests.
Hiring a cleaning service is a great gift option when you live far from the recipient. You may not be able to help out in person, but you can find someone else to do so.
Emergencies are going to happen, which is why preparation is so important. An emergency kit isn’t the most exciting frugal gift for minimalists, but it could be one of the most important items in the home.
There are many options at very different price points, so you can choose exactly what works for your budget and for the recipient’s lifestyle.
This emergency kit is perfect for something larger, like an earthquake, fire, or evacuation for another reason. It includes survival gear and food, as well as personal hygiene items and tools. It’s on the more expensive side, but it includes so many useful items.
A cheaper option is a car emergency kit. This one includes car things, like jumper cables, as well as a first aid kit. Living in Montana, I know how important it is to keep supplies in your car. You never know when the winter driving will get you. Warmer locations require different supplies, but preparation is still so important.
An even smaller option is a first aid kit for the home. Most people have bandages on hand, but who buys gauze or those weird tweezers? It’s nice to have a variety of first aid supplies in one place, especially when you have kids who can find trouble anywhere.
A tool kit is one of the best gifts for young adults leaving their parents’ home for college or moving into their own place for the first time. I received a homemade tool kit for my high school graduation, but pieces slowly disappeared after moving in with my husband. Now, I have a pink tool kit that I keep in my office… and all the pieces are still there somehow!
Basically, the perfect frugal gifts for minimalists are presents that fit in YOUR budget and in THEIR lifestyle.