Are you sick of giving gifts just because it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, and television commercials or societal expectations tell you it’s the right thing to do? Are you looking for gift ideas that are truly meaningful and appreciated by those on the receiving end? You might want to gift like a minimalist.
People leading a minimalistic lifestyle (like us) treasure things that give them true value (and things are not necessarily physical items, by the way).
We have written about a different, more purposeful and values-focused approach to gift-giving in a previous article. In today’s article, we share actual gift ideas with those of you who want to gift something special and meaningful, at any time of the year.
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The most precious gift of all: Your Time
The first gift idea on my list… and my personal favourite is time. Why? It is the most precious and most highly appreciated of all, at least IMHO.
Think about the loved ones no longer in your life. How often do you wish you had spent more time with them when they were still around? Or think about your children. How often do you wish you had spent more time with them as they grew up?
My step-father is 90 years old. He doesn’t need (more) physical items in his small rest-home apartment. But when I’m able to call him from abroad I can hear the joy in his voice, and when I visit him in person his smile says more than a thousand words.
Time spent with loved ones creates lasting memories, for them and for you. Giving your undivided attention to someone else is priceless (figuratively and literally).
Offering a skill you possess to someone you know could use it, takes the gifting of your time to the next level.
We met a fellow traveller recently who had big plans: get married, buy and fit out a van, then experience van life for a year with her new husband, travelling to far-away destinations like Mongolia. She felt stuck: how could they afford to turn these plans into reality – pay for the wedding, the van, the build-out, the trip…? My recommendation to her was to ask her wedding guests. Rather than buying presents the couple might never use, they could contribute their time, labour and professional skills to help with the build-out of the van.
You don’t have to be a carpenter, electrician or mechanic, by the way. Preparing a meal for and enjoying it with loved ones is also a highly appreciated and memorable gift. Whether it be making dinner for your daughter and son-in-law who are new parents, making your grandson’s favourite dessert when he comes over after school or waking your wife with a delicious breakfast on the weekend, these acts mean a lot to the people on the receiving end. And the act of giving will fill your heart too.
When money is tight, one of the first things that are cancelled are services that are deemed non-essential or luxury.
When we worked full-time in corporate roles in Sydney, we regularly had massages, manicures and pedicures. With us now leading a more minimalist lifestyle, these pampering sessions have become non-essential. Would we accept them as a gift? Most definitely. Who doesn’t like to be pampered now and then?
Pampering sessions, especially massages, make a wonderful gift because they improve your physical and mental well-being, releasing feel-good hormones, like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine.
So how do you gift a pampering session?
- Your loved one may already have a preferred place they go to when they have the opportunity. So, check with them first (or a person who knows them well if you want the gift to be a surprise). Then check if their preferred place offers gift vouchers.
- If the recipient doesn’t normally have pampering sessions, make sure they’d be comfortable having one. Some people just don’t like strangers touching them. Ask friends and check Google reviews to find a massage therapist or nail salon that comes highly recommended. And make sure you ask about the shop’s hygiene and ethical practices.
Could minimalism be the solution for a healthier planet?
For many, COVID-19 is now a thing of the past, but the effects of it and the high cost of living are stopping us from returning to the old normal. We hope that the pandemic has been enough of a wake-up call to ensure whatever we do next doesn’t look like what we left behind. It wasn’t healthy, and it sure wasn’t sustainable – not for us and not for our planet.
If you don’t know what we are talking about (or are just intrigued to learn more), we examine how our collective human activity – notably our (over)consumption – has contributed to the problems our planet and we as individuals are facing. And we’ll have a look at what might happen if we all adopted a more minimalist lifestyle and consumed only what we need.
Ethical Consumer Subscription
Ethical Consumer magazine is a United Kingdom-located, subscription-based publication.
Their mission is to help consumers make informed ethical choices, support campaigners that challenge corporate power, enable progressive businesses and charities to check their supply chains and drive corporates to improve their behaviour.
Each subscription not only gives unique, trusted and independent information, but it also helps to fund their campaigns and other work, such as the Fair Tax Mark.
All the information and inspiration they need to join thousands of others and revolutionise the way you shop, save and live.
This gift can inspire someone you love to shop more ethically, help them tackle the climate crisis and avoid Amazon.
An annual subscription includes:
- 6 issues of Ethical Consumer Magazine in print and/or digital format
- 12 months of full access to all Product Guides and Company Profiles
- Special discount offers from selected Best Buy companies
- Digital versions of our back issues from 2015 to the present day.
Give your friend or loved one a gift that will last all year long.
Has one of your relatives or friends just become a new parent or is about to? Are you looking for a gift for the baby shower, birth or first birthday of a little one? There are only so many dinky clothes, onesies and toys a baby needs. Besides, if the baby is not their first one, or they are born into a family with heaps of nephews and nieces, chances are these things are being handed down from one child to the next.
Instead, you could offer to babysit for them. Or, if you don’t live nearby you could gift them a babysitter for a night, or two, or three… Once the new parents have established a routine with the new family addition, they’ll be ready for a night off. Whether it’s a quiet dinner together (without the little one) or some much-needed “me time” (including a good night’s sleep), this is a fabulous gift for a new parent.
Find a trusted babysitter so that the new parents can enjoy their time out without worries. Here are some options in different countries:
The School of Life Game
No, it’s not that Game of Life game from the 1960s.
The idea that a game can be meaningful seems counterintuitive. Surely they offer us a vacation from meaning — an opportunity to engage in frivolous, mindless fun?
They believe that by fostering an atmosphere of frivolity, games allow you to let your guard down with your friends and family, prompting the kinds of honest and meaningful conversation that are the lifeblood of true intimacy.
At The School of Life, they have created a range of games designed to bring groups of people closer together.
Eco-friendly or Tiny House (Weekend) Getaway
Not only new parents will appreciate a (weekend) getaway. Even better if the get-away introduces them to a unique, eco-friendly, or unusual location or property. When was the last time they slept in a treehouse, a yurt, a tiny house or an off-grid earth ship? Maybe never. This type of gift would surely be memorable for many reasons.
Here are some great options and platforms to consider all around the world:
Speaking of travel… Whether a day hike, a weekend getaway or exploring the world, travel accessories are not only practical but are gifts that keep on giving… trip after trip after trip.
Here are just some examples of the accessories and clothing items we travel with:
Want to add something really special to that weekend getaway or RTW trip? Why not gift an activity that allows the recipient to experience something they wouldn’t normally do due to time or money constraints?
Some of the coolest moments in my life were a Hot Air Balloon ride (a re-gift from my mother – it just wasn’t her thing) and a Dive with Sharks (a gift from an ex-girlfriend – not sure if she was trying to tell me something). I remember both of them clearly, despite them happening many years ago. What physical items in your house can you recall being gifts and who gave them to you?
From gift boxes to simple vouchers, here are a few companies that allow you to gift travel experiences – all around the world:
- Tinggly – subscribe to their newsletter and get 10% off your first purchase
- Viator – the world’s leading resource for great travel experiences worldwide
- Get Your Guide – experience unique and unmissable things to do at your destination.
A cool experience doesn’t have to entail travel, by the way. It could be a walking tour of your own suburb, for example. We did one when we returned to New Zealand after a year in the Americas: We learned heaps we didn’t know about Mt Eden (one of Auckland’s suburbs), and we made a new friend.
Photo or Video Shoot
These days, with (almost) everyone owning a mobile phone, taking a picture or recording a video to capture a certain moment is as common as brushing your teeth. But do we really take great photos or shoot great videos?
Whether it be for a wedding of a loved one or simply to create a special memory for another occasion, a professional photo or video shoot could make a great present.
Instead of physical gifts, Sandra wanted to celebrate her turning 40 with a nude photoshoot. Nothing pornographic… just beautiful, black and white images (of us both and each of us individually) that were aesthetic and appropriate enough for our parents (or children) to see. Only the other day, we actually talked about the experience with friends: Maybe we should do it again when she hits 50… or 60?
Staying with experience-type gifts… In my 30s, I was a workaholic and didn’t have many hobbies or interests beyond my work. So my partner at the time gifted me a weekend of surfing lessons in Muriwai, New Zealand for my birthday.
Receiving a voucher for a give-it-a-go type experience can also help determine if you like the experience enough to take it up as a hobby. Here are just some ideas:
- Dancing lessons
- Music lessons (to learn to sing or play an instrument)
- Language lessons
- Meditation or Yoga classes
- Writing course.
For those who may wonder: I did enjoy the surfing lessons, but not enough to make it a hobby.
Rather than adding another book to an already full shelf, consider gifting an eBook – an electronic book that can be read on a tablet, mobile phone or eBook reader.
You can either buy a Gift Card valued from USD10 to USD1,000 through Bookshop – that way, you are helping a local, independent bookstore thrive in the age of eCommerce. All gift cards are digital only and must be sent to a valid email address. For a personalised touch, you can include the recipient’s name and a personal message on the gift card form. This will appear in the email they receive with the redemption code and link. If you want the card delivered on a specific day, for example, the recipient’s birthday, enter the date in our order form and we’ll send it to them in the morning of that day. Bookshop Gift Cards never expire and have no hidden fees.
A gift card or voucher with a set value from a specific shop or business used to be the last resort type of present when you didn’t know what to gift. While gift cards seem to still struggle with a bit of a stigma, we think they make perfectly suitable presents because:
- With most gift cards, the recipient has the freedom to choose whatever they want from the retail or online store. – Buying the wrong present? No chance.
- They are normally valid for at least a year (often longer). – No use for it right now? No worries, they can use it later.
- Gift Cards normally operate like debit cards with a set amount of money assigned to them. – Chance of scams? Pretty limited.
- You can even design your own gift card and make it unique for that special person in your life. – Chances to get the same gift twice? Zero.
Here are some ideas for gift cards: Apple App Store Gift Card | Bookshop Gift Card | Cinema Gift Card | Fuel Gift Card | Gift Card Store | Groupon Card | Hardware Store Gift Card | Supermarket Gift Card | Travel Gift Card
Professional memberships are not cheap, but they can really further someone’s career. So, if your (grand)child has recently graduated from university and considers joining a professional association, paying for the first year (or annual) membership could be the professional boost they need. It may also show them you believe in them and want them to succeed.
Supporting someone’s journey by sponsoring membership is not restricted to their professional life by the way. Do they want to lose weight and get fit? A gym membership (with or without a personal trainer) or a running club membership could make a great gift to them.
Whatever membership it may be, make sure it is something the recipient truly values before you pull out your wallet.
Speaking of supporting someone’s journey… A DNA kit may not be the most obvious gift, but as we get older, we tend to become more interested in learning more about our background. By that time, our older relatives may not be around anymore. So, how do we find out more about our family history?
A DNA kit could be a starting point: They may help you discover where your ancestors came from, construct your family tree, find living relatives (or help them find you), and enable you to make more informed decisions about your health.
As with our comment on memberships above though, do make sure you have a conversation with the recipient first. Not everyone is keen on learning about their heritage and finding a half-sister or half-brother they didn’t even know existed.
We purchased our DNA kit from Ancestry and found the process easy to follow and the results were quite illuminating.
Be aware that some of these organizations have country-specific websites, which means a DNA kit purchased from the US website can’t be sent to someone outside the United States, for example. In addition, while DNA tests can be a great gift, just be conscious of the potential privacy implications of getting a DNA test done.
While this is the last one on my list, it is another of my favourites.
When Sandra and I got married, we had already lived together for several years. We owned our home, and our home had a toaster and iron, and anything else we needed in our daily lives. We didn’t need or want anything. So instead of creating the usual wedding register, we created a register of a different kind: a collection of charities, types and amounts of donations our loved ones could select from if they wanted to gift us something. Our wedding register raised over AUD700 for charities close to our (and our guests) hearts. A nice side-effect: charity donations are tax-deductible in most countries.
But which charity passes all or most of your donation on to those who truly need it? In March 2022, I completed the Introductory Effective Altruistic program that highlighted the need to think about where your money and time can be better spent
As with anything, do your research before you part with your hard-earned funds. Here are some charity validation websites you may find helpful:
What gift would you give to a loved one or would you like to receive?
I wrote this Gift ideas article based on my own experience. If you know of a practical gift to give to a minimalist, please feel free to contact me. If you liked my tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.