A Gift List For People Who Actually Need Gifts
You may have friends or family who are seeking work, others who are in "starter" or other low-wage jobs, some who are paying off student loans or consumer debt, who are living on a fixed income, or who are living frugally in order to save toward a goal (a car, a house, their kids' college, etc.). You don't want to insult someone or come across like a financial know-it-all, but you don't want to ignore the situation either.
Several polls have shown that young adults with student debt overwhelmingly prefer money to pay the debt, rather than a typical holiday gift. That's probably true for anyone under the burden of debt, unemployment, or dependence on Social Security. Haven't we all been in situations where just a little help would go a long way toward making life simpler and less stressful?
Give a gift that can make a difference.
Let's spread a little comfort and joy. Suggestions are listed by category, but there's plenty of overlap. Gifts in one category might be perfect for someone in a different situation.
For the currently or recently unemployed
- Make a utility payment. Your brother mentioned he's fallen behind on the electric bill. Why not offer to pay the next one, or help him catch up on back payments?
- Make an insurance payment. Whether it's auto, homeowner's, or health insurance, having a policy canceled for lack of payment is a potential disaster. Offer some peace of mind.
- Give groceries. You never want anyone to choose whether to pay a bill or buy food. Give a grocery card in the largest amount you can afford.
- Give gas. Not the kind from your homemade chili (though they might appreciate a batch of that for their freezer), but the kind to get them where they need to go. A gas card is a boon to anyone short on cash.
- Pay the deposit on their new apartment. It's a wonderful housewarming gift.
- Buy transportation. A 30-day (or longer) transit pass for their city will give them lots of mobility.
- Give a treat. Your niece barely has money for rent, let alone fun. Give her a movie theater gift card, a restaurant gift card, or some other splurge she'll enjoy.
- Make a student loan payment. Almost 70% of students polled would receive this gift with thanks. The rest might too, if it were offered.
- Teach a skill. Share your frugal-living knowledge. Offer to teach and/or buy basic equipment for gardening, cooking, sewing, home DIY, auto maintenance, etc.).
- Bring in experts. If a book (such as Your Money or Your Life or The Total Money Makeover)* has helped you toward financial freedom, give a copy to your friend.
* This blog is reader-supported. If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.
- Pay a medical bill. Medicare doesn't pay everything, and unpaid medical bills are some of the most depressing. Lift some of that burden.
- Provide a jump or a tow. Especially if their car is older, a one-year AAA membership will help them feel more secure.
- Offer free labor. When money is tight, things are left undone. Offer to do yard work, home repairs, carpet cleaning, or whatever is needed.
- Share an outing. When money is tight, luxuries are cut. Take your aunt for a manicure and then to lunch. Take your mom and dad to a play. Don't just give the tickets; give your time.
- Give family fun. A one-year membership at the zoo, aquarium, or a favorite museum is worth far more than the cost.
- Pay for extras. Your sister and brother-in-law want the best for their kids (that's why they're saving for college). Offer to pay for sports or music lessons that aren't in their budget.
- Support their efforts. Give a gift that enables frugality, such as a programmable slow cooker for easy homemade meals, an electric clipper and some shears to banish $30 haircuts, a cold brew coffee maker and a pound of coarsely-ground organic coffee to replace expensive take-out brews.
Dear Aunt Faye, a gas card doesn't seem very exciting, but I wanted to give a gift I was sure would be used. At least you won't have to find a place for it or keep it dusted!
Updated November 2022