A Simple Approach to Living With Less

36 Ideas for Minimalist Christmas Gifts

I’m sure it’s on your mind. Christmas is coming and we all want it to be a memorable time for our friends and family. It has surprised me how much more energy it takes to plan for gifts that are both meaningful and minimalist. It is much easier to throw another piece of plastic in the shopping cart, give a family picture in yet another frame, or pick up a candle gift basket for someone who’s hard to buy for. This year I want to go a different route.

Here is a list of my favorite gift ideas. I hope you enjoy them.

36 of My Favorite Minimalist Christmas Gifts:

1. Dinner

2. Money

3. Knowledge (books or ebooks)

4. Opportunities

5. Coupons

6. Kiva Gift Certificates

7. Something made by You (poem, painting, etc.)

8. Tickets (concert, movies, etc.)

9. Massage (gift certificate or give one yourself)

10. Practical Gifts for around the house

11. Lessons (horse back riding, piano, etc.)

12. Plants or Flowers

13. Computer Software

14. Recipes

15. Homemade Bread

16. Music (iTunes, mp3s, etc.)

17. Kindle

18. Luxury bath items

19. Volunteer together

20. Share a meal together

21. Moleskine notebook

22. Pedometer

23. Homemade cloth grocery bag (this really appeals to my crafty side)

24. Cookbook (buy one or put together your own favorite recipes)

25. Care package

26. Services (babysitting, dog walking, etc.)

27. Financial Investments

28. Family Vacation

29. One big ticket item to share (trampoline, outdoor playset, etc.)

30. Room Makeover

31. Summer camp experience

32. Wireless digital frame

33. Donation to favorite cause

34. Bikes

35. Expandable gifts that can be added to later (train set, Legos, etc.)

36. Membership (annual pass to zoo, museum, amusement park, etc.)

So, go plastic free this year, and don’t go into debt in an effort to have a “better” holiday season. If you have some favorite clutter-free or minimalist Christmas gift ideas I hope you’ll share them in the comments below.


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photo by nicephoto

Article originally published on 11/17/2010

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  1. I’m making lotions for the ladies and shaving cream for the men 🙂

    I also think spa gift certificates for manicures/pedicures make nice gifts (or pamper a loved one yourself at home!).

    Edible treats are also nice too – jams/jellies, cookies, fudge… and attach the recipe so they can treat themselves! I’ve also heard of people mixing up the dry ingredients for say, brownies or a special cake, and sending it off with instructions on how much milk, eggs, oil, etc. to add to finish it off & baking instructions 🙂

    • I made soap, bath salts, and lotions before. Those are great consumable gifts that feel a lot more personal that picking them up at the mall. Thanks for the ideas. They’re great!

  2. Great list, Faith!!
    My family has skipped the gift exchange for a few years now. We found we were searching for things to buy each other and wasting money. Anything we really need we have.
    Instead we donate to a local charity and take all that saved shopping time and spend it with each other. My in-laws are coming around to the idea and we’ve decided on no adult gifts (still getting things for the kids).
    Makes the holidays so much more enjoyable and less stressful this way. And we have the time to focus on the important stuff: family and friends.

    • We’ve decided to focus on the kids too. I’m not opposed to gift giving at all IF it’s thoughtful and purposeful. Just throwing a gift basket or gift card at someone just to mark them off the list is not what I like to do. Thanks for your reply!

  3. This year, we’re giving all charitable gifts to family.

    We’re purchasing various items from the Food for the Hungry catalog (though there are many organizations that have similar goals that also have gift-giving programs … World Vision, etc.) and donating them in the names of our various family members.

    Instead of a gift, the family member will get a card showing what was purchased in their name and how it will help someone in need. (They will also receive pictures of our kids. Ha.)

    We’ve done this occasionally, but decided that Christmas is the best time to really do it. Every year, we end up buying (and shipping, ‘cuz we just moved across the country) lots of “stuff” that nobody ‘really’ needs, just to say we got them something. We live on a tight budget, so these purchases (that don’t have a lot of meaning usually, b/c we are scrambling to buy something for people who really do “have it all” … and something that can be easily shipped) stress us out financially and end up being a source of stress and frustration b/c it seems so useless.

    This year, we know that the money we spend will have immediate and lasting impact on those who need it the most. That feels like a MUCH better use of our money.

    I’m super excited … chickens, water purification tablets, school uniforms … here we come! 😀

  4. Excellent list – just what I was looking for! I’ve decided against sending cards for Christmas this year – will put together a little video for everyone, and donate what we would have spent on cards to Heifer International – much better use of the money I think.

  5. Most of our gifts will be donations to charity – perhaps delivering Meals On Wheels as a family to celebrate our Christmas. All other gifts will be made by hand. I always make candy for neighbors and co-workers. I am in love with subway art, so I am thinking of trying my hand at it for both of my daughter’s homes this year & others will receive hand-painted floral note cards.

  6. I have heard several ideas, some that go along with some of what you have here.
    Give something “flat”. That could be a book, gift certificate, art, photos.
    Give something edible.
    Give experiences, memberships.
    Here’s one- Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

  7. Great ideas! I’ve made mustard every year for more than 10 years now. It’s become a large part of my holiday traditions and planning. (And friends and family have come to look forward to it!)

  8. I wish I could get these points across to the in-laws. I am so tired of hearing “but they all need something to unwrap!” They have plenty to unwrap, I can assure you. One gift per child, or one thing for all to share, adds up to plenty to enjoy on Christmas when you have a large family with parents, step-parents, and grandparents still around to buy for your kids. We are so very thankful for all of them, but just wish some of them would place more value on time spent together than plastic noise-makers.

  9. If I can, let me offer my own “Guide to Christmas Shopping for Minimalists” type of post.


    I hope it serves your readers well.

    Live life to the fullest!

  10. Found your blog and loved your suggestions! I shared them on my blog entitled, “The Gift Doesn’t Matter.”


    Appreciate your insight Faith, and your minimalist mindset!



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