Gifts, Minimalism

Minimalist Christmas Gift Ideas – The Most Meaningful Christmas

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The holidays are a beautiful and nostalgic time of year. Timeless carols and hymns get played while we bake platters of cookies and other treats. We sit by warm and toasty fires as we drink coffee and cocoa, watching It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol (I like the Muppet version ;)).

Caroling, driving around to look at Christmas lights, and cutting down your own Christmas tree may all be part of your family traditions for the season.

Another big part of the season is PRESENTS! You may brave the crowds each weekend during the holiday season to get some shopping done, check the Amazon Deal of the Day each day, stress over what to get your mother, kids, grandma, boss, the mailman, etc.

Maybe this year you’re looking for something simpler…something more meaningful. Whether or not you consider yourself a minimalist, minimalist principles can bring much joy to the season.

Here are some minimalist Christmas gift ideas to help you reclaim the joy and simplicity in gift-giving.

Minimalist Gift Giving Principles

minimalist-christmas-giftsBefore we get into the gift ideas, let’s discuss some good principles to follow around gift-giving.

Gift giving is a unique and personal thing, and while I hope you love the ideas I give you in this article, I know they won’t be right for each person on your list. Hopefully going over some principles will guide you to some great ideas of your own.

This article may also be a little different from some other articles you read about minimalist gift-giving.

I’m not anti-presents! If you have heard of the 5 Love Languages, you know that some people’s love language is gift-giving. It would be rude and dismissive to reject gifts or withhold gifts from those that feel loved and appreciated through them.

I enjoy Christmas shopping and giving great gifts. But to get to the point where I enjoy it instead of stress over it, I had to change my perspective and many attitudes I had surrounding gift-giving.

So while I might include some traditional minimalist suggestions, I’ll also include some actual physical items because I know that is important for many people.

I believe that physical gifts should be very purposeful, thoughtful, practical, and something you believe will benefit the person you are giving it to.

This might be a little different perspective than other minimalist gift-giving guides, which lean heavily toward ideas that involve little to no physical items.

Principle #1: Quality over Quantity

minimalist-christmas-giftsWhen you picture a Christmas tree in your mind, what do you see? Does that picture include a mound of presents underneath?

Piles upon piles of Christmas presents may be part of the nostalgia for the season. It brings back fond childhood memories of your favorite morning of the entire year.

But…how many of those presents do you remember? No doubt you remember a few of them.

I remember getting an iPod in high school, but I’m wracking my brain right now and I remember almost nothing I received from my childhood.

Why spend a ridiculous amount of money to create a giant pile of presents that nobody will remember? To be honest, I end up sending a big box of stuff to Good Will in January every year.

While some of that is older items, some of that is stuff we just received a few weeks prior, but a) have no room for it in our house, b) the kids weren’t interested in it, or c) we already have something like it.

This isn’t me being ungrateful–I’m thankful that we have people in our lives that care about us and want to give us gifts. Not everyone can say that.

But one of the minimalist principles that resonates with me surrounding gifts is to let go of the guilt. You don’t have to keep something just because it was a gift.

You should be gracious and thankful for the gift, but if you don’t have room in your house or you’ll never use it, why not pass it on to someone who will?

I’m guessing that you don’t want the things you give ending up in someone’s Goodwill box because you want your gifts to be meaningful to the person you’re giving them to.

Focus on a single, good quality item that will speak to the person’s interests rather than several generic gifts.

Principle #2: Know the Person

minimalist-christmas-gift-ideasThink about the person you are choosing a gift for–what are their needs? Interests? Desires?

Much of the time, people buy things like coffee mugs, lotions, candles, etc because they aren’t sure what to get someone.

These are what I call “generic gifts.” The person you are getting them for may love them, but it’s also quite possible they end up in someone’s donation box.

It depends on the person. If they collect candles, lotions, etc., and you know what scents they would like, great! If not, I recommend you avoid a gift like that.

Think about the person’s interests. Do they like cooking? Animals? Nature? Physical activity? Crafts? Beer/Wine? Coffee? The list goes on and on.

What do they like? Try to get a gift that shows that you actually know them and care if they like it.

Principle #3: Sales Are Great, but Don’t Feel Like You HAVE to Take Advantage

One of the most common frugal holiday gift-giving tips is to pay attention to sales year-round and buy things one at a time throughout the year.

Can this be a great strategy? With a lot of organization and attention to detail, yes. But it’s not my favorite strategy for the following reasons:

  1. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s worth buying.
  2. You often end up overbuying this way.

I would rather buy a gift that I know someone will use and love, even if it costs me a little more money.

Taking advantage of sales throughout the year to stock up on “generic gift” items is wasteful to me. However, if it truly is an item you would pick out for someone regardless of the sale price, then, by all means, take advantage of a sale in July! Just use discretion with this strategy.

Without further ado, here are my minimalist Christmas gift suggestions!

**Note: To keep this post a reasonable length, part 1 will focus on minimalist gift ideas for kids and spouses. Click here to see Part 2 which will focus on minimalist gifts for extended family, friends, and others.

Minimalist Christmas Gift Ideas

For the Kids:

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

Have you heard that mantra before? I think it’s a great guideline to follow when it comes to presents for your kids. That said, I don’t follow it exactly.

Why? Because if we don’t need any clothes or any more books (we utilize the library a lot, but still have a couple of shelves full at home), why buy more just because that’s what the cute little rhyme says?

I do like the general idea of it. It’s okay to have things kids need to be part of their Christmas presents! Here are some things I’m considering for my kids this year:

  • Replace plastic water bottles/sippy cups with quality stainless steel bottles. These are a healthier choice, as there are a lot more concerns surfacing with eating and drinking out of plastic.

Here are some of my recommendations for stainless steel bottles for kids:

Munchkin Miracle 360 Stainless Steel Cup (Perfect for babies)

Klean Kanteen Sippy Bottle (Perfect for toddlers)

Klean Kanteen has an amazing selection of stainless steel bottles for everyone. I plan to put one in each member of my family’s stockings this year and recycle our current plastic ones.

Thermos Funtainer Stainless Steel Bottles (Perfect for school-age. These come in fun designs, such as Paw Patrol–perfect for those character-obsessed kids!)


  • Socks and Underwear

I include socks and underwear in Christmas presents every year. It’s not the most exciting thing, but it is a tradition. And it doesn’t matter how lame a tradition is, in general, people look forward to them. I guess this could count as clothes for my “wear” category if I’m getting technical. 😉


  • Favorite Snacks

I pick up some packages of my kids’ favorite snacks or treats that I don’t let them have all the time, like Cheese Balls. Boy, do they ever love cheese balls!

I think I’m also going to get my son some Lucky Charms this year, he has been asking for ages, but I try not to buy sugary cereals every week.

Snack foods are great because they’re consumable (won’t clutter up the house) and cheap!

  • Craft and Science Consumable Kits

These are great because the kids can use them, be creative, and learn something new, but it doesn’t clutter up the house long after Christmas is over.

Grow n’ Glow Terrarium

Space Explorer Craft Kit

Woodland Friends Sewing Kit





  • Museum/Zoo/Indoor Playground Memberships

Memberships to these kinds of places aren’t as expensive as one might think.

I’m sure the prices are regional, but I know where I live, yearly family memberships are often less than $150! I just got an indoor playground family membership for the year for $50.

My family zoo membership was around $130. These gifts would be fun for the whole family as a big “Santa Present!”

  • Experience Gifts

The previous suggestion (memberships) would also be considered an experience gift, but there are a ton of other experiences outside of places you need memberships. Consider the following as a whole family present:

-A night or weekend at a hotel (my kids LOVE that!)

You could do a water park hotel if you have one near you, like Great Wolf Lodge. But it doesn’t have to be a fancy hotel, either–I don’t think it makes a huge difference to kids, as long as it has a pool (even a dinky one) then it’s the best hotel ever.

-Tickets to a play

-Movie theater gift certificate

-Check out Groupon to see what sorts of deals you can snag on a family-friendly activity in your area.

For Your Spouse

  • Experience Gifts

Yes, I just went over experience gifts, but the kind of experience gift you get for a spouse is a little different! Here are some ideas:

-Classes! Classes can be a lot of fun and either enrich a hobby or help you develop a new one together as a couple. Here are some ideas:

    • Beer Brewing Class (my husband and I just did one together and made our first homebrew. It was very rewarding!)
    • Cooking Class- See if you have a cooking school in your area, or sometimes cooking shops will host them a few times a month
    • Pottery Class

-Tickets to Events

    • Concert tickets
    • Comedy Club tickets
    • Football/Hockey/Basketball tickets

-Gift Certificate to Fancy Restaurant (with the date already planned and baby sitter already scheduled!)

-Murder Mystery Dinner (I’ve always wanted to go to one!)

  • Materials for Hobbies

Is your spouse into gardening and cooking? Something like the Miracle Grow Aerogarden would be an awesome gift. They can try their hand at hydroponics gardening, and get fresh herbs and vegetables all year round to cook with. While it is a physical item, it’s practical, healthy, and something the whole family will benefit from.

Does your spouse like beer? A pint glass from their favorite local brewery would be a nice gift. You could also pick up a 6-pack of their favorite beer, or one they have always wanted to try. Maybe you could even schedule a brewery tour for your spouse to do with you and one of his/her friends.

Maybe your spouse is more into wine. An expensive bottle you wouldn’t normally spring for would make a good gift, or maybe you could purchase tickets to a wine tasting or winery tour for them.

Does your spouse like sports? Besides tickets to a game, you could look at getting a jersey or sweatshirt for their favorite team. Sports jerseys or hoodies usually go over pretty well.

Is your spouse into fitness? What do they need in this area? To be truly minimalist, consider something like a subscription to Beach Body on Demand to give them access to trendy programs like 21 Day Fix, P90X, or PiYo. No physical items, but they immediately benefit and get access to a ton of different programs.

-If you want physical fitness items, a set of workout clothes is nice, along with a new Klean Kanteen water bottle, as mentioned earlier in the article.

Do they need new headphones to listen to their music while working out? Do they usually work out at home and have been eyeing some new equipment, like a set of kettlebells?

-If your spouse is into nature, maybe they would be interested in a field guide for animals/plants/trees in your region, binoculars, or new hiking boots.

Make This Christmas the Most Meaningful One Yet!

I know you read this article because you desire a more meaningful Christmas this year.

I know I do!

You don’t have to go crazy in a shopping frenzy to make Christmas special. Challenge yourself to pare down on the number of presents you give this year, while simultaneously challenging yourself to make the gifts you do pick are quality items that are personal and thoughtful.

Click here to read Part 2: Christmas Gifts for Minimalists (Focuses on gifts for extended family, friends, and others).

What do you think of my suggestions for kids and spouses? What would you add to the list that is in line with minimalist principles? Let me know in the comments!




Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys with a girl due summer 2020. We have been cloth diapering for 6 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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  1. Being a single mom has always been tough, especially at the holidays. I try to stress to my kids that, to me, small simple things I love or even just sending me a handmade card means a lot more than spending a ton of money on a gift. I don’t like it to feel like an obligation, and when I shop I search for the perfect gift for that person. Something that I know they need, can use, or appreciate. I have never been one to just buy something, so that I have a gift to give. So, I spend an inordinate amount of time searching out gifts for the people close to me. I think this is the way it should be. I know some people who just buy gifts (thoughtless ones) just to satisfy the idea that they gave one. I don’t think that is what the idea behind the gift should be.

  2. Matt's Mom says:

    I believe that Christmas should be a time to show how much you love the people you are giving the gift to.  Being a single mom, I have a limited budget anyway.  So, I don’t go for fancy or expensive.  I go for something I know the person will appreciate, want or need.  Something that will not get returned or given away to someone else.  So, I spend an inordinate amount of time searching for the perfect gift.  I try to teach this to my kids as well, that I don’t need them to spend a lot of money on me.  Even just a homemade card sent to me means a lot more and will bring tears to my eyes.  I don’t think gift giving should be centered around just buying a gift to satisfy a “requirement”.  It should warm the heart of the person you are giving it to..  Great post!

    1. Holly Lee says:

      I totally agree! Thank you for your wonderful thoughts on the matter.

  3. Karen says:

    Thank you for this article.

    I enjoy selecting gifts for each member of my family with their interests in mind.

    However, you have given me many ideas for this year, such as “experience” gifts. Movie or concert tickets, as well as memberships are a great idea!

    I think the minimalist Christmas gift ideas will be a part of all future gift buying experiences in my house.

    Thanks again,


    1. Holly Lee says:

      Glad you found it helpful, Karen!

  4. Rick H says:


    Talk about perfect timing – this article is it. With Christmas rapidly approaching, I now have practical gift ideas for my wife. We have everything we could possibly want, and if we come across something we think we can’t live without, we buy it. But we don’t generally buy a season pass, which I think this year my wife would enjoy now that we have grandkids.

    Oh, the Munchkin Miracle 360 Stainless Steel Cup is a great idea. Our 2-year-old grandson has one and it’s great. I wish I had invented it.

    And the hotel idea – excellent. When my daughter was in 6th grade, she had a research project and I had a paper to write. So we headed to a hotel that was in a neighboring town and the kids thought we had gone on vacation.

    I also like the socks and underwear idea. I think in some sense it can help teach children a bit of a lesson, but I’ll let you elaborate on that if you wish.

    Thank you for this information. I also now have “experience” ideas I’m thinking about for my wife (cake decorating class). Last year I designed a “flyer” that I gave to my wife. It was good for a manicure for her, our daughter, our daughter-in-law, and our then 4-year-old granddaughter, lunch afterward, and I babysat our then 1-year-old grandson while they all went out. They had a great time, and so did I with my grandson!

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Your manicure gift is perfect! I bet your wife, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter absolutely loved it. What a fun time, and great idea!

  5. Fiona says:

    Such a great topic in the lead up to Christmas! I must admit that I’m a sucker for sales, and always struggle to remind myself to think about whether I actually need the product or not. It’s so tempting to buy something when it’s a bargain! 

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas – I might even be able to finish my Christmas shopping now before Christmas Eve!

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Glad you found it helpful, Fiona. 🙂

  6. Michael says:

    These are some awesome gift ideas, and I think your absolutely correct that the best gift usually is given when you know person.

    For  example my wife for lives sour patch kids (but only the blue ones) so one year I went and picked out all the blue sour patch kids I could find and she LOVED it! And guess what it cost me maybe $5 bucks.

    You would of thought she got a diamond bracelet.

    Anyways Christmas is coming soon and thanks again for giving some good ideas on what to give people.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      That’s a fabulous gift idea! If someone got me only the blue Jolly Ranchers or the pink Starbursts, I would be all about that, hah!

  7. Henry says:

    Hi! These minimalist principles are very useful! And I greatly appreciate the minimalist gift ideas.

    You have fueled my thought regarding gifts for my cousins. I had never thought in experience gifts for kids, but thinking about them, they’re really cool!

    Buying and giving gifts is a rewarding experience for the person who gives. And if it’s done picking up gifts that are personal and thoughtful, then the experience is even more gratifying! Thank you very much for this great post! It will surely inspire a much more meaningful Christmas this year.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      So glad you enjoyed the article, Henry! I bet your cousins will love whatever you get them. 🙂

  8. I absolutely love this article.  I would really like a minimilist Christmas (not too sure the kids would agree though).  We just have too much stuff that sits around and is not even used, there is no point to having it and it takes up space and makes the place looked messy and cluttered.I love the idea of having an experiance, rather than a gift, it will always be something special that you remeber without taking up any space.I also really love the hyroponics and growing your own herbs, and so useful too.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Shy! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Experiences can be a really special gift. So much fun and much more meaningful than a random toy! It can be hard for some people to get past not having a physical item to enjoy right on Christmas, though. I try to do a balance. My kids still get a toy or two, but we try to keep it reasonable. In the past, we have had Christmases where my son was so overwhelmed by all the gifts he received at various family celebrations, that by Christmas morning he didn’t even want to open all his gifts. It was kind of a wake up call for me! It showed me I need to put my foot down a little bit with family. I know their hearts are in the right place, but when a kid is so spoiled and overwhelmed that they don’t want their “Santa” gift? That’s just too much chaos.

  9. Wow! What a  fantastic post, it really made me think! You’ve mentioned some terrific gift ideas. Right now I’m on a ‘I hate plastic’ rant and loved your idea of giving stainless steel water bottles as gifts, they’re definitely on my gift giving list this year. My family members go out for their daily walk carrying plastic water bottles, well no longer after this Christmas! I also love the idea of giving memberships to activities. After all who needs more mugs?

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks so much, Ann! I love that you’re giving your family members new safer water bottles! Such a practical item that is much healthier than what they’re currently using, but also something many people drag their feet on when it comes to swapping out. Great idea!

  10. Chas says:

    Hi Holly,

    I always just ask the person some things they might like to receive for the holidays(adults of course). Some of those memberships are good idea! I also think things like a gift spa treatment is great and maybe a massage gift certificate. I like to bowl, and people get gift certificates for an amount to spend at the local pro shop( try to make it enough for a great new ball that person likes!) 

    I have favored gift certificates to favorite stores or restaurants as being a way to get people what they like and avoid that shopping crowd. However, I have been know to hit the store on Christmas eve, because I WANT to, just briefly to remember the craziness of the season. I don’t want to be there trying to “last minute” gift buy, no way. The lines are too long! 

    One other idea, is always the homemade treat they like. Maybe that peanut butter meltaway fudge they like…yum!

    Thanks for the ideas Holly,


    1. Holly Lee says:

      That fudge sounds delicious! It would make a fabulous gift. I think I’m going to make some fudge this season.

  11. anthony fontenot says:

    You really make a lot of sense. I know that many of the toys that are unwrapped and adored on Christmas morning are soon tossed in the closet and out of mind by the next day. I think that it is important to give gifts that have meaning and provide value for my kids’ life. 

    I love the idea of stainless steel cups. I really hate the design of many of these sippy cups. They make it I’m possible to properly clean. And the mold that can build up in the lids is horrifying. I even read multiple articles stating that it is safer to drink from the tap than out of a plastic bottle. Do you concure with their investigation?

    Anyway, I love the article! This is very practical thinking and I am going to adopt this mentality. Thank you for giving me a whole new prospective about this wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas…..

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Anthony! I know what you mean about sippy cups harboring mold–I learned that the hard way with my oldest child. It was terrible, so many random spots on one cup to monitor for cleanliness and dryness, as if I don’t have enough things to worry about. The Munchkin 360 Stainless Steel Cup is amazing for that issue. I have many of the plastic 360s and mold is not a problem with them at all! No random little crevices to hold moisture, it comes apart easily and can be washed in the dishwasher no issue. I can’t wait to upgrade my plastic cups to the stainless steel at Christmas time. I do worry about the plastic we are always drinking out of.

  12. Mandy says:

    You have some pretty insightful ideas for Christmas presents! When you mentioned “tickets to events,” I started thinking about gift cards. My mom loves to shop at Rainbow, and my parents could use some time together. So I am thinking about a Rainbow gift card for my mom and a gift card to a restaurant for a date. Thank you for sharing your ideas with us!

    Amanda (Mandy) 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      That sounds like an awesome gift!! I love gift cards. One of my favorite gifts from someone ever was a giftcard to Aldi. 🙂 I loved having the excuse to splurge on a few fun things in my groceries I normally wouldn’t.

  13. jessie palaypay says:

    I remember being really picky as a child and throwing tantrums as a child when I didn’t get the gifts that I wanted even when I did get a lot of gifts. I definitely should have been more grateful. 

    Now as an adult, I am extatic if I receive generic gifts at all. I am content with receiving these days knowing I can buy things I want by myself. I am much happier because I don’t stress others on what they should get me. 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      I know what you mean! I do remember one Christmas when I was in 2nd grade. My mom got my twin sister a Polaroid camera and I was instantly jealous. I whined, complained, whatever. My mom got very angry with me, and I can definitely see why. If my kids did that, I would be pretty disappointed with that attitude, too!

  14. Anusuya says:

    Wow! Awesome post for Christmas, Absolutely cool! I was consumed within the blog, I did not want it to end. I loved your stainless steel bottle. In my view there can never be a better gift, useful, healthy, replacing plastic, long lasting and safe to use. I just can not appreciate enough.

    Snacks: what an idea? Eat with love, no leftover to clean or do they storage space or a go to goodwill. Fantastic.

    And the lucky spouses? You will rock with this blog. Your thought and imagination has covered 360. They should do their shopping better reading this blog. I truly expect this blog to be a really high ranking blog.

    I don;t celebrate Christmas at home but enjoy the festivities, warmth, decorations around. 

    I am thinking of buying something for my kid from your list or suggestions. 

    Thank for this opportunity read your blog, so wonderfully and thoughtfully written.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I really appreciate them. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. 

  15. ​Minimalist Christmas gift seems like the way to go. I definitely feel that during the Christmas season we all go a little over board for better or for worst. Me personally I like to just disappear during this season and avoid it all together, mainly because I am never sure what to get anyone and anything that I am interested in I would have already purchased for myself, so its easier for all parties for there to be space. However this year I am in a new relationship and I am not exactly sure what I should get her as anything we have discussed I have already got her at the time and we are going on vacation in Thailand for Christmas. What are your thoughts, should I get something here in the states and bring it with me or get some there if she shows interest?

    Your site is beautiful by the way. I love that you added suggestions.

    1. Thank you so much Stan! I think a little something ahead of time to bring with you would show a lot of thoughtfulness. If she likes jewelry, a necklace or bracelet (or even watch!) you picked out yourself would be very nice. I still have the necklace my husband gave me on our first Christmas together when we were dating. I don’t wear it all that much anymore, but it is sentimental.

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