We're sharing some of our favorite practical gifts that people will actually use, starting at under $30. To wrap up the post, Laurie shares some tips for dressing up gifts without spending a ton of money.
My wife won't let me buy her jewelry (she rarely wears it anyway), but she does appreciate a gift that keeps her comfortable, makes a job easier or solves an ongoing problem. (We don't have any rules in this house about not buying gifts that end in “er”.)
For us, perfect gifts are ones that you use again and again – not the disposable stuff featured in so many gift guides.
After over 25 years together, we're still best friends, so often we pick out gifts together and use them as family gifts.
- Practical Gifts Under $30
- Practical Gifts Under $50
- Practical Gifts Under $100
- Stay Safe and Protect Your Stuff
- Practical Gift Under $200
- Practical Gifts Under $300
- Practical Gifts Over $1000
- Free Practical Gifts
- 5 Tips for Practical Gift Wrapping Without Spending a Ton of Money
- Other Practical Gift Ideas
Practical Gifts Under $30
MadeOn Skin Care Products Beesilk Lotion Bar – When it comes to dry, cracked skin and fingers and heels that split and crack from hard work, the Beesilk hard lotion bar is your easy, long-lasting fix. No more greasy and smelly lotion necessary.
This bar is scent-free, and is also free of preservatives and additives that can irritate the skin. Only 3 ingredients!
Solid at room temperature, the Beesilk hard lotion bar is designed to specifically protect and smooth over dry, cracked skin. Ingredients: coconut oil, unbleached beeswax, naturally refined shea butter.
Tools and Crafting
This might look familiar to those who've read the “The Brightest Flashlights for the money” post. It's practical, but a little prettier than some of the other lights. It makes a great stocking stuffer.
Lumitop 110 Lumen AAA Flashlight. This tiny bright flashlight could be on a keychain or in a first aid kit, or pocket or purse. It uses a single AAA battery.
We purchased tools to fill out our boys' kits, and let other family know what was still needed.
Similarly, this Battery Organizer Storage Box is another useful gift that you can add on to or restock each year. It can hold 66 AA, 48 AAA, 8 C, 6 D, 8 9V, 12 Button type batteries ( 3v lithium – CR 2032,CR 2016,CR 1632, CR 2025. Duracell – 1616/ 2025/ 2032/ 2016), a total of over 148 batteries and 1 Battery Tester.
This vintage style recipe card binder includes page protectors and recipe cards. It's a perfect practical gift for your favorite recipe collector, or turn it into a family heirloom by filling it with favorite family recipes before gifting.
Encyclopedia of County Living If you are starting homesteading, or wanting to be a bit more self reliant, this is the book for you. It's part journal, part “how to” manual. You can read Laurie's review here.
Never Buy Bread Again Buy the spiral bound book and get the ebook as a free bonus! This is Laurie's first print book, and shares our favorite family recipes and the stories that go with them.
Learn how to bake over 20 different types of bread, plus the right ways to store your homemade bread, tips and recipes for using leftover bread, and yummy recipes to serve with your bread like garden veggie dip and sloppy Joe ground beef.
Core Products CorPak Hot & Cold Therapy Pack This hot/cold pack is excellent. We have a number of these. They are great for earaches, sore muscles or cold feet. One of Laurie's closest friends works as a designer at Core Products right here in Wisconsin.
Wool Blend Blanket This is a 80% wool 84×64 inch blanket is perfect as an extra layer on the bed or couch, or an emergency blanket in the car.
Tools and Gadgets
Gerber Suspension Multi-tool Great tool to leave in a car or truck, fishing tackle box, desk drawer, back pocket or emergency grab bag. Get a multi-tool as a practical gift (or get one for yourself). This unit is well rated on Amazon.
Folding Multi-Angle Stand for cellphones or tablets. This is great for someone who travels or needs to take notes in a meeting, combine this with a folding Bluetooth keyboard below for extra functionality.
Bluetooth Folding Keyboard can hook to your iPhone or Android and give you a FULL keyboard on the go. Its small and has its own battery.
Practical Gifts Under $50
Flashlights, Batteries, Emergency Radio
Kaito Crank/Solar emergency Radio This FM/AM/NWS/Shortwave radio can charge off of A/C, charge in the sun and can be crank charged. It can charge your cellphone,too. (It’s a good price, but its slow shipping so you might not get it by Christmas.)
Fat Max 2200 Lumen Spotlight This is a good handheld rechargeable portable spotlight. It lights up a hill over 300 feet away in our back yard. It is great for a homestead, large yards and outdoor activities.
12 volt Heated Fleece car blanket This 12 volt blanket measures 58 inch by 42 inch and plugs into your cigarette lighter. It'll keep you warm on a cold winter drive.
Bread Pans and One of Our Favorite Cookbooks
Pampered Chef Stoneware Loaf Pan. I have used this for many years, and its my favorite for baking bread.
Our copy of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cookbook was handed down from my mother and has become a family favorite. There are over 1800 recipes, from appetizers to dessert, made with simple ingredients.
Practical Gifts Under $100
Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator This unit is smaller and less expensive than the Excalibur dehydrator. It's a great little unit for smaller jobs, especially herb drying. We had our original unit for over 15 years before it gave out.
The newer version we replaced our old one with works even better. The heater and fan are now on top, so when food falls off the sheets, it doesn't fall into anything it can damage. Laurie uses the Excalibur for the big jobs and the Snackmaster for lighter duty.
John Boos Prestige Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board We have this one and really like it. It is 20 x 15 x 1.25 Inches and has a small grip hole and juice groove. John Boos cutting boards are made in the USA.
Note – there are some reviews on Amazon that mention cracking, but we've had our board for over two years with no issues. We did oil before using, and oil whenever it starts to look dry.
My Favorite Slippers
LL Bean Slippers These are my absolute favorite slippers. I had the same pair for over 20 years. Laurie mended some stitches that gave out, and Duncan patched a tear with duck tape.
In 2018, Laurie got me a replacement pair, but I held on to the old ones for wear in messy areas, like the garage. Buy them for yourself or your loved ones – you won't regret it.
First Aid and Emergency Preps
The Surviveware Large First Aid Kit is compartmentalized to help you easily find what you need. It's water resistant and includes a mini kit for smaller emergencies. What's a more practical gift than equipping those you care about with the tools they need to take care of themselves/
See Best First Aid Kit Recommendations for Home, Car, Office and Travel for more emergency kit ideas.
Leatherman Wave The Leatherman is the classic multi-tool. Whether its in a tool kit, desk draw, fishing tackle box, kitchen drawer, glove compartment, or your back pocket this is good to have around. It is practical and useful.
Give them a gift that saves them MONEY! Buy them a pack of 8 AA and 8 AAA Tenergy rechargeable batteries. These can be recharged up to a thousand times.
Add the well rated AA, AAA Powerex MH-C9000 battery charger and the combined purchase is under a hundred dollars and they are set to go.
The RAVPower 26800 External Battery Pack. This 26800mAh 5.5A 3-Port Power Bank can charge your smart-phone or other devices.
This is an extremely practical gift for a person who travels or is a camper and needs to be able to charge their device when there isn't any power.
Never Loose Your Keys Again
Tile Pro 4 pack. These Bluetooth tags allow you to track whatever you place them on with your cellphone. They are great for key chains or luggage, and they have replaceable batteries.
Stay Safe and Protect Your Stuff
Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell. Load the app that runs the “ring” on your cellphone and you can check who is at the door – even when you're not home. Remind whoever you gift this to change passwords and update it right away. This practical gift may help protect the other gifts you purchase from would be box snatchers.
Practical Gift Under $200
FoodSaver FM2435-ECR Vacuum Sealing System with Bonus Handheld Sealer and Starter Kit – Vacuum sealing can dramatically improve food storage life and quality. This unit keeps the clamshell design, which Laurie prefers, and also includes a bag cutter, roll storage and handheld sealer.
See 5 Uses for a Vacuum Sealer Everyone Should Know for ideas on how to use the unit.
Practical Gifts Under $300
Excalibur 3900B 9 Tray Deluxe Dehydrator We have been using this unit for a few years. It is large, reliable and works well. If you do a lot of food drying, this is the unit for you.
See Dehydrator versus Freeze Dryer – What's the Difference? for a comparison of the different types of home food dryers.
The Mockmill 100 is a stand-alone unit, and is suited for milling fairly large amounts of grains for the home baker. It has a small footprint, so it stores easily on the counter top or in the pantry.
Mockmill grain mills feature “Near-Diamond “Star Sculpted” Corundum Ceramic Stones” for durability. The finished flours don't get heated up during grinding like some other home grain mills.
The Pendleton 100% Eco-Wise Wool blanket is a practical gift that will last a lifetime, and it will keep you warm even if it's wet.
Mr. Heater MH18B, Portable Propane Heater If you or a loved one are into camping or hunting or just trying to stay warm when the power is out, this safe indoor propane heater is a practical, possibly even life saving gift. Learn more about portable heaters here.
Big Berkey water filter. This is a practical gift that will get used every day. We have the Big Berkey in our kitchen. It is gravity operated and requires no power.
The Black Berkey Elements (filters) remove 99.999% of viruses, 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria, chlorine, volatile organic compounds including pesticides and herbicides, and 95% of most heavy metals.
Practical Gifts Over $1000
Champion Power Equipment 9,200-Watt Generator A Dual Fuel (Gas or Propane) generator. Propane stores for years. Gasoline doesn't store well.
Home freeze dryers from Harvest Right, now available in three sizes and a variety of colors. Freeze dried food last up to 25 years, and you can freeze dry food that doesn't store well with other methods, like dairy.
Harvest Right is running some great sales for the holidays, so it's a good time to pick a unit up if you have room in your budget. They've recently improved their units, decreasing drying time and footprint of the unit itself while not increasing cost. You can read my full review here.
Free Practical Gifts
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Give your time – Offer to babysit, run an errand, help with a task that needs doing, volunteer in your community. Give an hour or an afternoon – whatever you can do. Write the service you are offering on a card and put it in an envelope or wrap it in a box.
Listen and be present – So often we rush through life focused on where we're going instead of where we are. Be the friend or loved one that listens when others need to talk. Take time to give that hug, share that story and appreciate the moment.
Re-gift or donate things you no longer need – Sometimes we get gifts (or purchase things ourselves) that we think we'll use, but don't. If something is in good condition but just taking up space in your home, find it a new home.
When the boys go through growth spurts, they outgrow before they outwear clothes, so those are passed along. My wife was gifted cookware that was nice, but not a good fit for how we cook. I'm sure it's put to much better use in its new home.
5 Tips for Practical Gift Wrapping Without Spending a Ton of Money
Laurie here, taking over this part of the post from August. I've never liked shelling out big bucks for wrapping paper and then just throwing it away. (Regular wrapping paper doesn't recycle well.)
Over the years, I've used a few different ways to dress up holiday gifts without spending a ton of money.
1. Put gifts in reusable baskets or tins instead of wrapping.
You can usually find used baskets and tins at thrift stores. They often have kitchen towels that are inexpensive, too, which you can use to pad your gifts. You can crumple some newspaper under the towel to help stabilize your gifts and hold them nicely for display.
2. Dress up plain wrapping with natural materials.
Pine cones, evergreen boughs, dried flowers or seed heads can add seasonal flavor to gifts. If you're getting a real Christmas tree and need to trim a couple bottom branches, save those trimmings and use them for other decoration. Pairing strips of burlap with plain brown paper adds texture and interest to wrapping.
3. Watch for small items at thrift stores.
Heading into the holiday season, local thrift store shelves are loaded with odds and ends, bit and baubles. You can find old costume jewelry, ornaments, bows, ribbons, pretty mugs and other shiny bits to dress up a gift.
Making homemade hot cocoa mix for gifting? Pair it with a seasonal mug and a couple of candy canes.
4. Use pillow cases, sheets and gift bags.
Another thrift store find I like to use for gift wrapping is old pillow cases. Odd shape gift? No problem. You can save the pillow cases and reuse them for wrapping from year to year, or use them as spare pillow cases.
The same goes for gift bags, especially fabric ones. Use them year after year. For BIG items, cover it up with a sheet and stick a bow on it. Done.
5. Watch for Boxes with Pretty Patterns.
I'm not much of a shoe person, but many ladies shoes come in boxes that have a lovely pattern on them. (I've seen them in my MIL's closet. She buys cute shoes.)
Just use the decorations that are already on the box and tack a gift tag on, and you're ready to go.
Other Practical Gift Ideas
Gift certificates to seed companies and nurseries will be enjoyed by any gardener on your list. You can check out some of our favorite mail order nurseries on the Homestead Resources page.
Laurie talks about some of her favorite garden tools (and a few things on the wishlist) in the post Gardening Gifts They’ll Love.
We also have:
Have a wonderful holiday season, from our family to yours.
Originally published in 2017, last updated in 2019.