When I started working on this post, I was trying to make a list of Christmas (or other winter holiday) gift ideas under $10 that would be great to give for family gift exchanges, as stocking stuffers, and so on. I easily made a list, but then I realized when I read through it that I actually would not like it if I received most of this stuff. If I wouldn’t like these frugal gifts, why would I ever recommend these things to you?
So I threw out the list and started over.
This time, not only did it have to be a good gift under $10 to make the list, it had to be one I would like to receive. Perhaps my tastes don’t match yours or the person you’re giving the gift to, but at least these gifts are known to appeal to someone.
That being said, here are twelve great frugal gifts I’d love to see under my tree.
High-quality basic tools My toolbox is filled with one dollar screwdrivers, most of which are stripped to some degree. A good, top quality screwdriver designed to last for years and years and years is a wonderful gift for a handyman - and can easily be found under $10.
Homemade powdered mixes I mentioned my hot chocolate powdered mix a few days ago, but I like any homemade mixes: spice mixes, popcorn flavoring mixes, and so on. Just mix it up and put it in a homemade jar and I’ll like it.
A memory stick full of memories If you have a USB memory stick sitting around, load it up with pictures, videos, and song files that express fond memories of the relationship you have with that person. Include a bunch of pictures of you both, your families, and so on. These can really be awesome.
A paperback novel that the giver really loves Think of the one book you’ve read in your life that had the most impact on you (or perhaps a small handful). See if it’s available in paperback. Bingo - great inexpensive gift. Even better, put a note inside the front cover that explains why you loved the book so much and why you want to share it.
A “coupon” for a big favor When my wife and I recently had a baby shower, one person gave us a coupon for a night of babysitting of both of our kids. It was the best gift we received, and it only cost the recipient a piece of paper. This is a great gift for parents, especially ones with multiple younger children - it’s hard for them to find time together.
A single pair of very warm, high quality socks Seriously, I get a pair or two every year and they’re among my favorite gifts. Nothing’s nicer than warm feet, especially if you live in a climate with a very cold winter.
A container of homemade cookies The container doesn’t have to be anything special - a large Gladware container will do. But the inside should be filled with the best homemade cookies you can possibly turn out.
A day of volunteering Similar to the coupon for babysitting but with more appeal to the environmentally and socially minded folks, a day of volunteering can be a great gift for someone. Agree to spend a Saturday volunteering for the local charity of their choice, doing stuff like hammering nails or picking up trash. Better yet, agree to go with the person on a volunteering outing, or offer to watch their children so they can participate.
An old-fashioned safety razor This sounds completely crazy, I know, but you can usually find a beautiful one if you ask around at resale shops for far less than $10, and then package it up with some razor blades. I am a big fan of shaving the “old fashioned” way, with a safety razor, though I don’t always do it (I sometimes use a cheap disposable in the shower when I’m in a big hurry). If you know of a young man who is shaving with disposables, give this as a gift and just see what happens.
Quality pens I have a burning, undying hatred for cheap pens, but the cost difference between a cheap Bic and a decent pen makes me often stick with the cheap ones. Because of that, I love a great pen as a gift, one of the low-end types you buy at a real pen store, not in the office supply section at Target. You can usually get a very nice pen for general use for right around that $10 sweet spot.
A picture frame Go find a nice, simple, elegant picture frame and gift it. Often, people feel obligated to put some picture inside the frame. Don’t. If you want to give some pictures, give several in an included envelope and say that they can choose one of those or anything else they might want.
A heartfelt, handwritten letter or note This one seems absolutely bonkers to some, but it is often the best gift someone can possibly give, especially to someone estranged. Sit down and take some time to just write a handwritten letter to someone important in your life. Tell them honestly how you feel about them, and if the relationship is strained, and put to rest any bad feeling you might have about the situation. It will leave you feeling much better and will often move the other person to tears.
The Simple Dollar chronicles a man's road to recovery from "total financial meltdown." As author Trent Hamm puts it, "The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two." We'll post a couple of entries a week, but you can check out his writing daily at www.thesimpledollar.com