Frugal Holiday Gift Guide

By in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


I am SO ready for the holiday season! I love getting together with friends and family to celebrate, eat good food, and rest. Even frugal me loves giving gifts to those closest to me. I love thinking it through, listening to my friend/family member throughout the year as they drop hints about things they desire, and of course hunting for a deal on the frugal holiday gift. I do not enjoy rushed holiday shopping with crowds, or the stress of needing to buy a gift, but hey, that’s what Amazon is for, right?!?

I realize that it is not yet Thanksgiving, but I advocate for shopping for Christmas presents throughout the year. Depending on the person/gift you may be able to find it used, you have time to actually plan and organize a gift the receiver will enjoy, and you can be more thoughtful in gift shopping.

Craft gifts are frugal gifts
Crafted Christmas Gift for my mom!

As much as I love giving gifts, in general, I don’t enjoy receiving them! My home is fully stocked with basically everything I need and consuming unintentionally is something I try to avoid. There are a few big ticket items that I could use:

  • Kitchen Cabinets
  • New Roof
  • Couch
  • Laptop
  • $500,000 invested in index funds

But those aren’t really appropriate to request! But there are a few appropriate frugal gifts that help on the path to financial independence. So keep reading for all of my frugal gift ideas!

To Gift or Not to Gift

The first decision in holiday gifting is if a gift is truly appropriate. You don’t need to give a gift to your boss’ pet cat. Can you trim your shopping list by giving to only a few people you are closest to?

If you and a friend traditionally exchange gifts, have a conversation before you just don’t reciprocate the gift giving. Instead suggest getting together for lunch or coffee, be polite, be honest, be open to their feelings and ideas. Not everyone embraces frugality and some express love through gift giving.

Secret Santa or white elephant gift exchanges amongst adult extended family is a popular option, so you don’t have to exchange clutter annually. As with friends, bring it up early, but be open to resistance or other ideas. You can be firm about yourself, but you can’t force other people to follow your suggestions.

Once you’ve had those conversations, write down a list of everyone you will be shopping for this year. A prepared shopper is a frugal shopper! Ask what they would like if you don’t have anything in mind. Giving and receiving clutter is scrooge-like.

Frugal Gift Guide

Priorities diverge from the norm when you are seeking financial independence, making Christmas, Holiday, and birthday gifting shift a little too. But holiday traditions continue and, chances are, people will still want to give you gifts.

I keep a running list on Google Docs of things that would be convenient to have and request items from that when people ask me what Mr. Kiwi and I would like. Having a handy list helps our parents know they are giving us something we will value. This is my fourth Christmas season since pursuing FI and living the frugal life. If you are struggling to come up with gift ideas, I recommend following the Frugal Financial Independence Gift Guide:

Give to Charity

You may not yet have the funds to start your own donor advised fund, but you can still give. People may not embrace neglecting gift giving all together, but it’s hard to be a scrooge when someone carefully says they are blessed with too much already, and would prefer to have a donation made in their honor. My immediate family exchanged less than $20 in gifts last year, and instead made a donation to a friend who is struggling with cancer and expensive treatments. Christmas morning was spent sharing stories and preparing a meal together, instead of sitting around unwrapping presents.

Request Tools to Start a Blog

I really wish I would have started this blog four years ago, when we started pursuing FI. I was actively questioning my ideals and growing my knowledge of investing. I also talked my parents ears off with exciting things like expense ratios and savings rates. They love me, so they patiently listened, but I could have just written it down!

In my early days I wanted to start a blog, but I was too frugal to buy the domain name and hosting. In May, I finally started this blog! I use Bluehost and WordPress, which is super simple. I chose to go the for the paid version, since I want to own my content, but you can even start a free blog.

Writing this blog is one of the best changes I’ve made in my life in 2017. If you’ve been considering it, I highly recommend signing up today! And if you can’t bring yourself to spend the money, ask for hosting as a gift! Or just sign up for a free blog instead!

Ask for Time and Give Time

Most people seeking FIRE want greater control of their time. Thus giving and receiving of time is one of my most cherished gifts. This could take many forms:

Some Would Say Bloody Mary
Gift babysitting so your friends can have a date night!
  • Offering babysitting
  • Tickets to an event (My mom gifts us tickets to see off Broadway musicals/plays at our local theater. We get to spend a few evenings together every year grabbing dinner and a show. Hamilton is coming next year!)
  • Host a baking day – instead of gifts, get together and do a cookie exchange, but actually do the baking together too.
  • Plan a trip (and commit to it)
  • Host a holiday party or just attend one during this busy season

Get the Kitchen Tools that will Help You Cook

I love regaling you with tales of the frugal home and saving on groceries. But saving on groceries doesn’t help all that much if you don’t cook. Learning how to chef (I just made up a verb!) is so much more fun when you have the right tools to get the job done right.

To start things off, I recommend:

Cooking is one of my favorite date night and friend hang-out events. Having the right tools makes those get togethers even more fun!

If you are considering getting into food preservation, you could ask for a starter kit:

Financial Independence Books

As much as I love reading blogs, sometimes it’s nice to have a physical (or electronic) book to read. There are many books that talk about money, but these are the ones that espouse the beauty of financial independence and teach the practices required to get there!

  1. The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
  2. The Millionare Nextdoor by Thomas J Stanley
  3. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin (or check out the book I’m reading currently, written by Vicki)
  4. And bonus – pre-order the Frugalwoods new book! I’m sure it will be an instant classic.

Tools and Hobby Items

I mean this as literal tools and tools that will help you live the life you desire.

  • Maybe you would bike more, but you don’t have the right cold weather clothing.
  • Or, you want to learn a new craft, like knitting, but need some knitting needles and yarn.

Chances are that things aren’t what is holding you back from living your dream life, but things occasionally make it easier.

Frugal Gift Guide - Tools
Frugal Gift Guide – Tools

Build your Tool Library

Biking Gear

reduce spending with bikes
Biking is awesome frugal transport!


Garden Tools

  • Shovel
  • Hoe
  • Seed Starting Kit
  • Rake
  • Fruit trees/perennial plants!

    Homebrewing to save money and an excuse to get together with friends
    Look at that tasty beer on the stove! It’s fermenting away and should be ready come December!

Homebrewing Equipment


Instead of filling your life with stuff you may enjoy pursuing experiences. There are likely many local things you could explore regularly for a small membership fee. People typically enjoy giving memberships more than money, and you can send them a picture of you exploring the place! Here’s some places you may consider being a member of:

chronic pain and personal finance is sometimes cluttered
Frugal Gift Guide – Museum Memberships
  • Science museum
  • Maker’s Studio / Maker’s Space
  • Nearby library (not your city library) – each library is a little different, and a membership will unlock access to new programs and things
  • Zoo
  • Aquarium
  • Bus/Transit Pass
  • Planetarium
  • Netflix or Hulu


When all else fails, ask for consumables. Things that you are regularly buying, that might actually be a fun gift. No, don’t ask for toilet paper…though that would be a funny gift for white elephant this year!

Exotic/Unique Food Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

  • Cacao Nibs
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Fancy Coffee (our favorite consumable to give and receive!)
  • Crazy fruit you don’t normally buy
  • Beer
  • Spirits
  • Wine

Crafting Items

Car detailing kit (since you clean your own car, right?!?)

Also, don’t forget to use Ebates if you are shopping for a gift. Sign up through this link and you get $10 after you make your first $25 purchase using Ebates!

Frugal Financial Independence Gift Guide Summary

If you are pursuing financial independence you likely have the means to buy yourself the things you want. It is an intentional choice that you own fewer things or don’t make certain purchases. Don’t let the holiday season distract you from your values.

Gift giving is a tradition that I still enjoy, mostly because I intentionally think about those I care about. A gift of time is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

How do you handle gift giving? What’s your favorite frugal gift to give or receive?



6 comments on “Frugal Holiday Gift Guide”

  1. Mr. Adventure Rich roasts his own coffee and we love to gift that to people who like coffee (sometimes paired with Mr. AR’s delicious chocolate chip cookies!). It is fun to have the personal flair to the gift 🙂

    For each other, we often go the “boring” but very useful route of buying something we need/could use. Maybe kitchen item, a pair of shoes/boots or some other item like that!

    1. Reply

      Nice! Homemade roasted coffee, you two sound like good friends to have 🙂
      And yeah, we don’t exchange gifts between the two of us anymore since it’s all our own money. We normally “treat” ourselves to some fancy 6-packs of holiday themed beer.

  2. A lot of good suggestions! Thanks for sharing.

    I like the financial independence books the most.

    Memberships followed in second; I think they’re a great way for someone to experience things they might not have otherwise tried otherwise.

    1. Reply

      Thanks! There are now quite a few good FIRE books available!

    • Rebecca
    • 2017-11-13

    My family has decided to limit gifts only to the children except for this lovely Icelandic practice. Everyone (including the children) will list some books that they would like to receive. The gift givers can choose books from the list to give on Christmas Eve. In addition, everyone (including the children) will name a non-profit that they wish to support. Donations will be made in their name to that organization in whatever amount the giver wishes.

    1. Reply

      That is a wonderful holiday tradition! My mom always gives me a book for Christmas, and I love seeing what she gets me (she works at a library, so it’s always something I’ve never heard of and is amazing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.