Are you Wasting Money on Unwanted Gifts?

Are you one of the thousands of people going into debt to spend money on unwanted gifts? Most people will receive a gift this year that they do not want. We could all take a lesson from minimalists and rethink the way we view stuff. Here are some gift ideas inspired by minimalists that others may appreciate (and some gifts that I would avoid buying).

Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist (one of my favorite blogs) recently wrote an article for Fox News citing a survey by found that 56% of adults received a gift they did not want. The unwanted gifts averaged $88.60 each and totaled 16 billion dollars wasted!

Joshua called for a new approach to gift giving. He writes about focusing more on needs than wants, setting more realistic expectations (I now get my kids 4 gifts, one thing they want, something they need, an item to wear, and something to read), embracing meaningful traditions, and giving gifts that don’t add to stress or clutter.

Learning from minimalists, many people prefer experiences (including time with loved ones) over things. They also enjoy receiving their favorite food and drink, having replacements for their frequently used items, and gifts that are consistent with their values.

Here are my suggestions of some gifts you may consider giving, and some gifts to avoid.

Of course, as one of our readers Carolyn noted in a comment to 10 Gifts That Save Money, it’s about knowing the recipient and what they want.

Gifts To Consider Giving:

  • Food lovers may enjoy a gift card to their favorite restaurant or artisanal foods.
    • This year I went looking at my farmer’s market for locally made specialty items not found in stores.
  • Sweet lovers may enjoy candy or baked goodies.
    • You can’t go wrong with their favorite treat!
  • Wine and beer lovers will always welcome bottles of their favorite drink.
    • You also can’t go wrong with their favorite drink!
  • People who cook at home may enjoy kitchen utensils/small appliances that can serve multiple purposes.
    • e.g., an electric pressure cooker
  • We all appreciate receiving things out of which we get good use. If someone uses something regularly and it is getting worn out or used up, then a replacement would be a welcomed gift.
    • e.g., pair of shoes, belt, handkerchiefs
    • e.g., their favorite brand of make-up, moisturizer, or hair product
  • Music lovers may enjoy tickets to concerts.
  • Movie lovers may appreciate passes to the movies.
  • People with kids may enjoy passes.
    • e.g., to the zoo, kids museum, or aquarium
  • Those with kids may also appreciate contributions to their kids’ education funds.
  • Individuals who care about the environment would appreciate reusable, recyclable, or compostable alternatives to single-use items.
  • Those who are also frugal or seeking financial independence may enjoy gifts that will save them money.

If you are giving to a minimalist or someone striving to reduce waste, also consider how the gift will be wrapped. No need to purchase fancy gift boxes or wrapping paper. Upcycle what you already have.

Things to Not Buy:

Of course this list will vary depending on the person. In general, consider avoiding the following items, unless requested.

  • Most kits or pre-made baskets
  • Cut (i.e., dying) flowers, unless the recipient is expecting them
    • For flower lovers, consider potted flowers or plants that will live
  • Knickknacks, decorations, or anything that will just sit on a shelf
  • Single-purpose items that are not consumable and are not necessary or whose need can be met by other things they already have
    • e.g., taco holder, most kitchen gadgets
  • Something you happen to find combing through a sale or clearance rack
  • Anything they do not want
    • If you don’t know whether they want something, the answer is probably no

When gift giving, ask yourself whether the present is something the recipient will use regularly.

Remember, don’t give someone a gift that you’d like. Give them what they want. Look at their lifestyle. What will add value to their life?


Have you ever given someone a gift you knew they wouldn’t want?


You May Also Like these Holiday Posts

Why I Stopped Budgeting for Gifts to Save Money

8 Party Foods to Please Any Crowd

10 Gifts That Save Money

7 Things I Don’t Buy for the Holidays

Reasons to be Thankful: How the Other Half Really Live

6 Ideas for Handmade Christmas Gifts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *