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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!