I was inspired to write this post because of the recent Black Friday madness and general holiday mania I have been witnessing. It is that time of year where consumerism sky rockets to levels even more outrageous than normal and people feel compelled to buy gifts for each other, even if they can’t think of something meaningful, useful or in many cases can’t afford them. I understand the frenzy. I have been in it.
The truth is that unless a person really uses and or cherishes a gift, it was a waste of money. I don’t have money to waste! Most people don’t. I just had a Birthday and Rob’s is coming up shortly. Parents, in-laws, siblings etcetera often ask, “What do you want for your Birthday or Christmas.” I typically have a hard time answering this question, but even more so now. I compiled this list partially for that reason.
We have worked really hard to get rid of most of our “stuff”. We still have stuff to get rid of. Every time we take something new in, we have to get rid of something we have. That is the rule.
So, what kind of gift does one give someone who is attempting downsize or become more minimalist?
More and more people are realizing the benefits of minimalism. Do you have someone in your life that fits this description? What does one give someone who is a full time RVr, tiny house dweller or even a van dweller?
Here is an exhaustive guide I have compiled. I think it could be helpful for for everyone on your list, not just minimalists! I also would love to hear if you have any additional ideas! While we are happily living in an RV Park, far from “off the grid”, we are in search of a more independent, self-sufficient and simple lifestyle.
We are taking baby steps and we have downsized because we value freedom over debt, making memories over amassing material things and living consciously over mechanically. Most people who embrace this lifestyle tend to embrace experiences over material things. Here are some literally “outside of the box” gift giving ideas for your consideration.
Tickets to Entertainment…
Shows from Cirque Du Soleil, Ringling Brothers, a local ballet, aerial or circus troupe.
The internet makes it super easy to find out what types of activities, destinations and entertainment are in a reasonable proximity to your loved ones, giving them a good time and memories to be cherished will most certainly be appreciated! Make sure you know the person well enough to select something that they would love to do or try and you can’t go wrong!
Restaurant Gift Certificates: Who doesn’t like a dinner date? When people start cutting their expenses, one of the first things to get cut is always dinning out. Dinning out can be such a tremendous joy! It is something that I know Rob and I always look forward to and most definitely bond over. Like many people these days, we are always looking for places with fresh, farm to table ingredients. Most people seeking minimalism are doing it as a way of living a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle and food and nutrition are most definitely core values in that picture. If finding a restaurant for people like us seems like an intimidating task, try these Google terms, “Farm to table”, “local ingredients” or “locavore”, “seasonal menu”.
There are many such restaurants in Austin and in most major cities. I want to give a shout out to some of the great local Austin favorites!
Is there a place you have been wanting to try in your city?
Wine Bars: This can be an inexpensive yet very classy gift. A date with a wine and cheese flight (an offering of several wines to taste and discuss) is always a good time! Most wine flights are usually in the neighborhood of $15, sometimes less, rarely more. Google a city and “wine bar” and at least a handful will pop up. Some locations have beer flights as well for those who prefer beer to wine. Check out what kinds of flights an establishment offers and make your decision from there….
One of our local favorites is House Wine, and we have been wanting to try Vino Vino, we have heard great things!
Coffee Shops: Austin is known for having really great independent coffee shops that often have offerings such as yoga, live music and great little menues as well. I like promoting the local, independent businesses I know about, so I am going to give a shout out to:
Bouldin Creek Cafe
There are of course tons more. Just do a search for Austin and Coffeehouse and you see what I mean!
Speaking of food, grocery stores are great!
Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and even some local farmers markets all offer gift cards. Our grocery bill is our single highest bill every month by a significant margin. In talking to friends, I have realized that we are not alone. I think others would agree that it would be great gift to have that offset with a grocery gift card!
Money Saving Memberships: No, I am not talking about a “Jelly of the Month Club” membership. Or a membership that in anyway will send more “stuff” to a person. In general it is a good rule of thumb not to send someone any kind of subscription to anything they have not specifically asked for. People are bombarded by excess mail, lets all try to avoid contributing to that. Here are some ideas that might be useful to local adventurers and travelers! Many of the suggestions are specific to Austin because that is where I am and what I know, but it should still give you a good idea of what to look for. There are similar types of foundations and associations in many towns and cities.
For Locavores and Foodies
Texas Wine and Food Foundation
For Artsy Types
Austin Film Society
For Outdoorsy Types
State Parks – This link is for Texas, but most states have State Park passes available.
For RV Traveling Types
These are the clubs that save campers money on RV parks and other RV related things while they are on the road.
Good Sams Club
Learning and Enrichment:
I don’t know about you, but I love learning new things! I love it I love it I love it! What do you want to learn more about? What hobbies do you have? I love pretty much anything dance, aerial apparatus and circus related. In Austin there are quite a few resources for such things; from my favorite, Blue Lapis Light, to the ever popular Sky Candy to the high flying, Trapeze Austin. For dance there is of course Ballet Austin and Tapestry Dance Company among many others. What great classes exist in your city that you or someone you love would love to take? This really is the gift that keeps on giving. Maybe you and your partner want to take Salsa or Tango lessons together? You learn new skills and create memories together instead of collecting “stuff.”
Yoga, everyone needs it! Even yoga teachers like myself love to take more yoga classes. Did you know that Meditation is more effective for pain management than Morphine? Yoga soothes and improves the body, mind and soul. Who wouldn’t need that? Yoga can help people learn techniques for stress management that will forever change and improve their lives. What the world needs now is more Yoga! With all of the many styles of Yoga that exist, there is literally something for everyone! Check out my friends Aerial Yoga Studio, Four Elements!
Races – is there a running or marathon enthusiast in your life? Races usually have an entry fee and that fee very often goes to a charity. You can kill two birds with one stone by entering your friend or loved one in a local race that they can participate in.
My other passion and obsession is building and architecture. This is one of those things that I have only fantasized about. I would like to actually get my hands dirty and learn to do some real building beyond what I have learned in stagecraft! I am particularly focused on the Tiny HouseMovement, building materials and how to reclaim and repurpose materials for extreme sustainability, affordability and functionality. One of the main reasons my husband and I decided to move into our RV is to save money so that we can buy a piece of land, loan free and build our own small house with our own hands, mortgage free. There are workshops for this sort of thing. Here are some resources, if you are interested. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving, helping someone learn to build their home is a big deal! Do you have anyone in your life that would appreciate a gift like this?
Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshops
Tiny Texas Houses
Yestermorrow Design Build School
Eco Nest Building Workshops
Portland Alternative Dwellings
Services: Massage, Haircut, Dry Cleaning, Automotive upkeep, Firestone etc. – When you think about it, these are all luxury services, not necessities. But they are also everyday services that many Americans incorporate into their weekly or monthly routine. They are services that we enjoy or appreciate which is what makes them good gifts! Do you have a favorite Spa, Dry Cleaner, stylist or Mechanic? Honestly all I really want for Christmas is a massage!
Goods and Supplies Gift Cards: It is true, we still need some stuff. Most of it is rather practical, like a ladder and a rake.
Home Depot– We are forever going to Home Depot whether for Diatematious Earth to ward off ants or for a piece of outdoor carpet or exterior illumination. If you know of a local mom and pop hardware store where your tiny dwelling loved one resides, this might be a better choice. However if your people travel often, you know that a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes can usually be found.
Ebay – I actually buy a lot of my medical supplies on Ebay from sellers who have surplus. The situation of their insurance companies doling out extras and me not being able to get health insurance somehow becomes a symbiotic relationship where I can get inexpensive supplies that help keep me alive. You can never go wrong with an Ebay Gift Card. I think most people tend to price compare almost everything they buy with Ebay or…—————————————————–>
Amazon – Honestly, Amazon has everything except for probably a soul. I know, I know it is far from “local” or good for small businesses. It is in fact the antithesis of my general philosophy and has put many small book stores out of business. BUT, I live in a small space and I LOVE my Kindle. Any books, magazines or reading material I receive needs to be in this format and I suspect that many tiny dwellers feel the same way. Though I parted ways for good with Wal-Mart more than three years ago, I just can’t give up Amazon yet.
Sears – Tools, Automotive, Outdoor Living.
“Evil Chains” that are helpful when traveling: When you are a traveler and you are on the road chains simplify life because they are abundant and close to the interstate and you know exactly what to expect. Sometimes it is a nearly necessary evil. Though we try to avoid them as much as possible, here are some of the chains we tend to frequent when on the interstate.
Starbucks – Rob and I once made a $15 gift card to Starbucks last 3.2 trips by splitting a coffee and a breakfast sandwich each time.
Pet Smart – Sunny is on file at Banfield Hospital which is located in Pet Smart. No matter what city we are in we can get the right food and meds for her. This is such a relief.
Dollar General – Dollar General has more retail locations than any other retailer in America! I bet you didn’t know that. Many of them are somewhat rural which can be hella convenient when you are far from cities and towns. Convenient and cheap. They are not overwhelmingly monstrously enormous and you can get septic safe toilet paper, laundry soap, panty liners and all the GMO trail mix you want there.
Target – Unforeseen miscellaneous needs. Need I say more?
Gas Cards and Truck Stops: It is no secret that people who travel generally need gas to get to where they are going. Some super ambitious and conscientious people have converted to bio-diesel. I wish we were that cool! These gas stations are very friendly to large rigs and are generally easy to pull in and out of. They are most definitely our preference when traveling.Loves and Pilot/Flying J
Camping and Tripping Supplies:
Camping World – There is ALWAYS something that we need from Camping World. Right now I want these shoe holders.
Academy – If I was only allowed to shop at one store for the rest of my life, it would probably be Academy.
Campmor, L.L. Bean, REI = GEAR, GEAR, GEAR!!!
La Musica: Remember when getting someone a new CD was a great gift? itunes gift cards are the new music gift. And if you know someone who actually plays music, getting them a gift card to their local music store or Guitar Center is wonderful. String players always need more strings!
Oh So Medical Oh So Awesomely Practical: Eye Exams and Dental Cleanings– Many people don’t have vision and dental care. What a lovely gift an eye exam or dental cleaning would be! My mother-in law often gives us the gift of a teeth cleaning with their family dentist. We couldn’t be more appreciative! – That was Robs gift this year and honestly, it is all he really wanted!
Walgreens, CVS or other pharmacy Gift Cards – Medicine is expensive! Insulin is outrageous! These are major burdens to much of the population. This would be an awesome, jump for joy gift!
Donations: Make a donation in the name of a loved one to a charity that is close to their heart. Perhaps you have a person in your life that is far more generous than they are rich. Or perhaps you have someone in your life that can have anything they want at any time… This is an incredibly special, personal and perfect gift. What are your favorite charities? What charities are important to those you plan to buy gifts for this year? Here are a few of my favorites!
*Is the person you are shopping for an artist, film maker, musician or generally having creative projects in the works? As a gift, find out if they need support for their next project. Most of the creative people I know would give up “gifts” forever and be eternally grateful if they could just get their project funded. Even small amounts are very helpful!*
Things to avoid…..
Clothes and Accessories: Scarfs, gloves, hats, sweaters, pajamas, really clothes of any kind. For all you know, this person may already have 18 scarfs and sets of pajamas that they already don’t wear or know what to do with. Having said that, one of my favorite gifts ever was a jersey knit scarf that a friend gave me; it is just the perfect weight for Texas and Florida cold!
Bath stuff: Lotion, soap, bath salts etc. People are very particular about what kinds of body products they use. It is never a good idea to impose your product tastes on someone else unless you are absolutely positive that it will be a hit. This is very personal territory!
Knick Knacks and Novelty Anything: It isn’t the “thought that counts”, it is the “function” that counts. People have their own tastes and again, it is usually pretty specific. Don’t get someone an item that is just going to take up space in their closet. Like I said before unless someone truly uses or cherishes an item, it was a waste of money. If you see an item that you think would be “funny” to give someone, don’t waste your money, just take a picture of the item with your phone and send it to the person. You can still have the LOL, no one has to waste their money and no one has to store useless “novelty” crap.
Please comment! I want to hear your suggestions. Is there a place you would like a gift card for that I didn’t mention? What is your favorite independent restaurant in your hometown? What is your go-to travel stop? Is there a class you would like to take or a new skill you would like to learn? What is your favorite charity? Tell me!!! I want to know. Give shout outs to your favorites!
Here is a really lovely blog post on Becoming Minimalist about giving your children gifts they will remember. This blog post really speaks to me. Enjoy!!!
Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate!
By the way, HUGS make great gifts!!!