Over the last month, I’ve received a lot of emails and IMs from readers asking what kind of gifts a frugal man would want and what kind of gifts I would like to receive for Christmas. I decided to compile a list of gifts that not only I would like and not only have frugal appeal, but would be good gifts for many men. Hopefully, these will give you some great ideas for last-minute gift shopping. Be aware that some of these gifts can be quite pricey, but over time they can add up to a tremendous savings of time and/or money for the recipient – and also in some cases can add a serious touch of class.
A well-crafted old fashioned safety razor I wrote a guide to shaving a while back, where I make the argument that an old-fashioned metal safety razor, even after the up-front cost, is a more frugal choice than disposables – and makes for a better shave, too. I’m a big fan of the Merkur Classic (you’ll need some blades to go along with it, of course).
“Smart” power strips These are power strips that automatically switch on and off based on what one device on the strip is doing. For example, a smart power strip on a desktop computer setup would be tied to the main unit, and when the main unit is off, it cuts power to the monitor, speakers, printer, etc. This cuts down greatly on electrical usage, particularly on computer setups and home entertainment centers. I like the SmartStrip LCG4, but there are many of these on the market right now – your local large hardware store has a good chance of having at least one model of these around.
A how-to book What sort of hobby is the recipient interested in? A how-to book in that genre will pique the interest of both the novice and the expert in that area. For example, I love books on basic electronics and basic home repair – as a new homeowner, home repair books are always a solid idea. I don’t have a particularly good recommendation – try stopping by your local hardware store and asking for their recommended general home repair book, or to any specialty shop if your recipient is into a particular hobby. Doing it yourself is always fun for a person with a passion – and it’s often frugal, too.
A modern battery recharger – and some rechargeable batteries to go with it If the person uses a lot of electronics – like me with my Wii, for example – rechargeable batteries can be quite a good gift idea because they can add up to some serious savings over time. I’ve been using the Energizer e2 Rechargeables for a while and have quite liked them, but they are pricey. I bought my starter kit (12 batteries and a charger) at Sam’s Club for a pretty nice price and have stocked up on more there – their prices on these are far below what I’ve seen elsewhere, including Amazon.
Quality foodstuffs that they’d actually like I’m not talking about the abysmal fruitcake or a popcorn tin that will be tossed out. Instead, actually go to a quality food establishment and get items that they’ll actually like. I’d far rather receive a somewhat overpriced but high quality food gift from a place like Williams-Sonoma or a nice pastry from Dean & DeLuca than another dreadful Whitman’s Sampler or a Hickory Farms summer sausage pack. Quality food is something I’ll enjoy greatly as a meal, but make it a gift worth remembering or find something else. I’m sure many potential recipients feel the same.
An efficient space heater If you live in a cold climate like I do, space heaters can be very, very nice. You can use one in the room you spend much of your time in and then lower the temperature of your whole house, drastically reducing your furnace usage while only slightly increasing your electrical use. Look for energy-efficient space heaters – they cost a bit more, but their reduced electrical impact make them even more of a saver. I personally like the Honeywell HZ-315.
Quality tools Again, a frugal person would rather have one high quality item than a large selection of junk. I would far rather receive a single wrench that will last a lifetime than another “do it all” gadget that falls apart in a year. Ask them what they need or what is getting worn out, then go to a hardware store and ask for a very top quality item that will replace it for a lifetime. Don’t get a sixty piece tool set that will wear out after six months of heavy use – instead, just buy one or two items that will never wear out and add to it each year. The frugal person who appreciates simplicity and craftsmanship will appreciate this gift far more than you might think.
If none of these ideas work… If you’re buying for a frugal person and none of these really work for him or her, here’s a tactic worth using. Find out what that person’s primary interest is, then go to a specialty shop focusing on that interest. Tell the person running the shop that you’re looking for a quality gift with a high reusability factor, one that won’t wear out or lead to boredom quickly, and see what the shop owner turns up for you. Even if the gift isn’t perfect, this technique will get something close enough to their heart that they’ll see you really put some real effort into their gift, and that means more than anything.