My favorite gifts (besides board games, I suppose) are ones that encourage me to make positive changes in my life. Items that encourage me to cook at home, lose weight, learn a new skill, or save a little money are ones that I really value, because I know that they can help me push toward a better life.
Here are twelve gifts you can give this holiday season that will encourage the receiver to save a little money in the coming year.
A razor blade sharpener (cost: $10 to $20)
A razor blade sharpener takes disposable razors (or disposable razor cartridges) and simply sharpens them with a few flicks of the wrist or a push of a button. With this, you don’t have to keep buying those disposable razors or cartridges – you can just sharpen them and get a lot more use out of each one.
Rechargeable battery kit If you have children, you have devices that run on AA and AAA batteries. If those devices get used very much, you're going to be continually buying more batteries. Rechargeable batteries are a much better option. When batteries run out of juice, instead of tossing them and installing new ones, you just put them in your charger, let them charge up, and then install them. If you want instant usage, keep a few batteries charged up so you can instantly swap them and then charge the used-up batteries. If you go this route, I highly recommend the eneloop brand, which I’ve used and my parents have used with great success.
Programmable thermostat (cost: $20 to $200)
When I worked outside the home, our programmable thermostat made a huge difference in our monthly energy costs. During the winter, the furnace would basically turn off during the day automatically, only kicking on in the evening. During the summer, the air conditioning would go away during the day automatically, only kicking on in the evening. In both seasons – especially the summer – our energy bills went down significantly. Sure, we could do it manually, but this made sure we never forgot. If you want to make an even better gift, install it for them or hire an installer.
Filtered water bottle (cost: $10 to $30)
If someone you know has a routine of grabbing a can of soda or a bottle of water out of the refrigerator a few times a day, a filtered water bottle can save them a lot of money. They just fill up the bottle, maybe add a squirt of lemon juice, and stick it in the fridge. When they have a craving, they just grab the bottle and drain it, then run it in their next dishwasher load. Total cost? A few cents. Cost of a bottled water or a soda? Significantly more. Repeat this enough times and it really adds up.
Wine saver (cost: $15)
Ever seen a friend dumping half a bottle of wine down the sink because they’re not going to drink it and it’s going to get stale? A wine saver is perfect for them. It allows you to easily “re-cork” a wine bottle so you can stick it in the fridge. Sure, you can try to jam a used cork back in the bottle, but many times it doesn’t work because the seal isn’t strong. A wine saver easily creates a strong seal.
Kitchen herbal plants (cost: $10 to $100)
A few herbs in a pot can be a perfect gift for someone who enjoys food. Chives, oregano, sage, rosemary, basil, thyme – they can all easily be grown in a small pot on a kitchen window frame or out on a small balcony or patio. They don’t require much effort, and then when someone needs fresh herbs, they just go out there and snip off what they need.
Classes (cost: $40 to $400)
A new skill can be a valuable thing for anyone to learn, but it’s especially valuable if it moves a person from paying someone to do something to doing it themselves. A great example of this is a beginner’s cooking class, where people learn the basics of home food preparation and see how easy it actually is. Many community colleges and cooking supply stores offer cooking classes, and you can easily gift these classes to others.
A starting knitting kit (cost: $20 to $50)
Another example of a skill that can provide value is knitting, since you can turn a ball of yarn into a beautiful scarf or hat or sweater quite easily. A beginner’s kit is a perfect place to start, especially coupled with some yarn. I taught myself knitting using this very kit and although I’ve not completed anything in a while, I did have a ton of fun learning it and I could shake off the rust and make a scarf if I so chose.
A decent coffee maker (cost: $40 to $200)
If someone has a Starbucks habit, give them a decent home coffee maker. Couple it with a coffee grinder, a bag of good beans, and a bottle of good syrup with a plunger, and they’ll find they can make a really good cup of coffee at home that compares with anything they can get at Starbucks for just pennies. My wife makes wonderful drinks with this very coffee maker that are as good as anything that you can get at Starbucks.
Gourmet food ingredients (cost: $2 to $100)
Have you ever had really good honey? The kind that’s pretty fresh from the beehive and has a bit of honeycomb in it? It’s amazing, and whenever I have a bottle, I find myself making tea at home and finally pushing through the many teas we have in the cupboard. A similar effect is true if someone gives me, say, a bottle of high-quality olive oil – I can’t wait to get into the kitchen with it, and the meals I make at home are far less expensive than eating out.
Your Money or Your Life (cost: $8 to $10)
If I were to make a default recommendation of a personal finance book to someone who I believed was thoughtful enough to read it and think about it for a while, I would immediately choose Your Money or Your Life. This book changed my life. It convinced me that I could have a better life if I exerted control over my financial choices. I wound up changing career paths and putting myself in a much, much better financial place, and this book planted the seeds and gave me the basic gameplan.