Are you sick of giving gifts just because it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, and TV 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).
I don’t own many things but everything I own adds value to my life – Joshua Fields Millburn | The Minimalists
We have written about a different, more purposeful and values-focused approach to gift-giving in a previous post. In today’s article, we share actual gift ideas with those of you who want to gift something special and meaningful, any time of the year.
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 86 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 them 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-essentials. 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 wellbeing, 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 to have 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.
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 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 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:
|Country||Company||Gift Card/Certificate/Voucher (starting price)|
|New Zealand||Rock My Baby||Not Disclosed|
|Australia||Night Nannies||Not Disclosed|
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 guards down with your friends and family, prompting the kinds of honest and meaningful conversation that are the lifeblood of true intimacy.
Eco-friendly (Weekend) Get-Away
Not only new parents will appreciate a (weekend) get-away. Even better if the get-away introduces them to a unique, eco-friendly, or unusual location or property. When was the last time they’ve 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 all around the world:
- Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel in Portland, Oregon, United States (they also have gift certificates)
- El Edén Treehouse – Mindo near Quito, Ecuador
- Woodpecker Yurt – Douro Valley near Porto, Portugal
- Tiny House Farm Stay – Picton/NSW, Australia
- Split Apple Lodge – Kaiteriteri near Nelson, New Zealand
Speaking of travel… Whether a day hike, a weekend getaway or a backpacking trip around 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 we travel with:
Want to add something really special to that weekend get-away 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?
A Life-Altering Course
Is there someone in your life who is at a crossroads? Who could use some inspiration or direction in determining what’s next? Why not gift them one of our courses?
Our courses will take them on a journey of self-exploration that might just change their life. Upon completion of our courses (the first one is FREE), they will
- Understand what personal values are and why value awareness is so important;
- Know their own core values and how they impact their lives; and
- Have a powerful vision that will guide them on their journey to the life they love.
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 gift a voucher or (if you know their favourite author or what book they’d love to read) you can buy the book itself and pass it on as a gift via the buy for others option on the product detail page on Amazon. Be aware though that you can’t gift free books or books on pre-order.
For a bookworm, just one book wouldn’t cut it. In that case, you may want to consider a subscription, for example
- Kindle Unlimited: The subscription allows the recipient to download unlimited Kindle books from more than a million (audio) books available on Amazon. Subscriptions are available for 6, 12 and 24 months. Be aware though that all books downloaded during the subscription period will be removed when the subscription period ends.
- Amazon Prime: Another subscription, this service offers access to a sub-set of books available through Kindle Unlimited and the ability to stream thousands of movies/TV shows and millions of songs. It also provides free delivery of physical products ordered via Amazon (including groceries in the US). The Prime Gift can be purchased as a 3 and 12-month plan.
For all eBooks or subscriptions purchased on Amazon: If the recipient already uses Amazon, make sure you buy the gift from that specific Amazon website as the recipient cannot transfer gifts to a different Amazon website.
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 (sometimes even longer). – Don’t need anything right now? No worries, keep the card and get it later (just put a reminder in your calendar).
- Gift Cards normally operate like debit cards with a set amount of money assigned to them. – Chance of scams? Pretty limited.
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 are getting 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.
Here are some of the larger organisations you can purchase a DNA kit from as a gift for someone else:
Be aware that some of these organisations 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: