A Minimalist's Guide to Gift Giving

A Minimalist's Guide to Gift Giving

Shopping for the perfect gift is a daunting task. When you know that person is a minimalist, the task is even more difficult. Ironically, I'd attach the same level of gift selection difficulty to the person who has everything.

What do you purchase for these hard-to-shop-for individuals?

Digital Gifts

  • subscriptions to or purchases of software like Dropbox, Adobe products, Evernote, password managers like LastPass Premium, 1Password, or SplashID
  • subscription to a VPN service to protect mobile devices on free wifi
  • malware or virus software
  • subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, SiriusXM, Spotify, Pandora, or Steam
  • subscriptions to online newspapers or magazines of particular interest
  • memberships in professional organizations for their field
  • Amazon PRIME membership
  • Kindle Unlimited subscription
  • Audible subscription
  • individual ebooks and audiobooks
  • digital photo frame

Edible Gifts

  • gourmet coffee
  • herbal teas
  • hot chocolate
  • wine
  • favorite liquor
  • chocolates
  • truffles
  • candies
  • jellies
  • special sauces
  • spices
  • mixed nuts
  • cheeses
  • organic fruit baskets
  • gourmet popcorn

Other Consumable Gifts

For the minimalist family with children:

  • washable paints
  • paint brushes
  • sponge painters
  • colored pencils
  • washable markers
  • Sharpies for older artists
  • pen sets
  • sidewalk chalk
  • construction paper
  • sketch pad
  • blank journal
  • craft scissors
  • Play-Doh
  • Crayola Model Magic
  • sculpting clay
  • stickers
  • stencils
  • origami paper
  • beads
  • original charms
  • craft string

This next list is directed at the true minimalist who needs to replace items:

  • air conditioner filters
  • printer cartridges/toner
  • office supplies like Post-It Notes, highlighters, pens
  • light bulbs
  • air duster cans
  • rechargeable batteries
  • non-scented candles
  • survival kits of first-aid items, including Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen
  • socks (non-skid slipper socks are amazing!)

Look around the home of a minimalist. One year, my parents bought me two gallons of my favorite Bumble & Bumble shampoo and conditioner that lasted me for the year. I loved that gift!

You could also see if the minimalist has a pubic wishlist on Amazon where sizes and brands would be specified.

Gifts that Encourage Experiences

  • a maid service (even if only for deep clean of windows, ceiling fans, baseboards, etc.) gives the person precious time
  • memberships to local attractions like museums, zoos, parks
  • tickets to an exhibit, show, festival, concert, play, musical, wine tour
  • tickets to water parks or adventure parks nearby
  • purchase time at an indoor rock climbing venue
  • pay for yoga lessons or a gym membership
  • buy golf course tee time or time in a batting cage
  • behind-the-scenes or all-access upgrades for an upcoming vacation
  • book an overnight at a bed & breakfast within a morning's drive
  • lessons for a new passion (Someone just read The Hunger Games? Give the gift of archery lessons.)
  • registration fees for specialty classes
  • lessons for something on their bucket list (like learning a new language)
  • massage session or package
  • spa-day, manicure, pedicure

Gifts That Smell Good

  • epsom salts
  • essential oils
  • incense
  • potpourri
  • bubble bath
  • soaps, including homemade soaps
  • sugar scrub in a jar
  • lotions
  • favorite cologne or perfume

For this category, please make sure that you do know favorite scents. People are generally picky about fragrances. If you don't know favorites, then I wouldn't choose anything scented.

Gifts That Indulge Their Quirky Collection

Chances are even minimalists have a passion for collecting something. I love nerdy t-shirts and geeky action figures. I try to keep my collection manageable, but if someone buys me an amazing addition to my collection, I'm not going to get rid of it!

  • Create a themed gift basket for their collection
  • Check for subscription boxes that cater to their interests
  • Spoil them with a rare find to add to their collection
  • Have one of their collector items autographed
  • Find a beautiful coffee-table book that highlights their interest
  • Create a coffee-table book of photographs of their collection

Gift Cards = FREEDOM

Gift cards get a bad rap for being impersonal, but I have never (NEVER) heard a gift recipient accuse anyone handing out gift cards of being unsentimental.

When I've given gift cards, usually the response I hear from the recipient is a warm and emotional "Yes!" concurrent with a hearty grin.

Rather than negatively framing a gift card as a stand-offish choice, consider the gift card gesture as a gift of freedom. You've just given the person choice.

Most gift cards from major retailers don't expire, so people have time to use them. If the gift card value does expire or if fees are deducted, the FTC requires a clear expiration date or explanation of fees. See the FTC article on Consumer Information about Gift Cards for more information.

Side Note about Teachers & Gift Cards

I have never heard a teacher complain about any gift cards received.

If I get a gift card that I know I won't use and I can't re-gift, I'll throw a request out on email for a trade. One school where I worked promoted an after-school swap time where teachers would bring the gift cards they wanted to trade to the cafeteria. Some people were trading with their own preferences in mind and others were thinking about trading to re-gift the cards to someone else in their life.

By far, the most popular gift card for teachers is Starbucks. I think parents know that most teachers require caffeine. Plus giving a teacher a $5 gift card to Starbucks actually buys a drink, which is a little moment of luxury that I will savor with your kiddo in mind.


Want to expand your gift card buying for anyone, including teachers? Try these ideas:

  • A local restaurant, preferably close to work. If you give several co-workers gift cards to a restaurant close by, they may decide to meet for happy hour.
  • A movie theater. If you find a great deal on movie theater discounts or coupons, people will appreciate the experience.
  • iTunes. Another great option for anyone. Movies, TV shows, music, audiobooks, ebooks, games, and apps.
  • Target or Amazon. Again, books, but so much more. And there's a good chance a teacher will turn around and spend that money on supplies for the classroom.
  • A grocery store. Everyone eats. And if you do go for a grocery store close to work, people can stop by on the way to work for the snacks they're supposed to be bringing to the staff meeting.
  • Etsy. Etsy has such a variety of items. I love the numerous shops that sell greeting cards. A gift certificate to Etsy could cover the cost of many thank you notes, birthday greetings, and celebratory salutations!

Finally, if you really don't know what to get for the person who's impossible to shop for, give in their name.

Find a charity they support and make a contribution in their name.

Most organizations will send the recipient a lovely card or certificate acknowledging your generosity on their behalf. Who wouldn't want to see that expression of appreciation every day?

Stumped about what to give someone? Check out these gift ideas!
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