This is a list of practical gifts for those you care about. These are safe, reliable and practical items in a variety of price ranges. 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.
After over 23 years together, we’re still best friends, so often we pick out gifts together and use them as family gifts. Speaking of family, there are a couple of not-quite-so-practical gifts that we got for the boys on the list, too. To wrap up the post, Laurie shares some tips for dressing up gifts without spending a ton of money.
Practical Gifts Under $20
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: 76 degree coconut oil, unbleached beeswax, naturally refined shea butter.
Tools and Crafting
From the “The Brightest Flashlights for the money” post, this might look familiar. It’s practical, but a little prettier than some of the other lights. 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.
Plano 781 22 inch Toolbox Buy the box one the 1st year. Then each year you can add a specific tool to their kits, or let other family know and they can purchase one item. A hammer, screwdriver, wrenches, small crowbar or tape measure for the kit. It can be a fairly inexpensive purchase that has practical everyday use. Consider a custom name tag for the toolbox.
Plymor 2″ x 3″, 4 Mil (Pack of 100) Heavy Duty Plastic Reclosable Zipper Bags. These are great for crafters, splitting up spices or creating med packs for first aid kits. A great inexpensive gift.
Standard Cutting Board (13 Inches) – Made in USA. It will need cutting board oil. We recommend a maple or oak cutting board to reduce bacterial contamination. For more info, see the post 4 Reasons Wooden Cutting Boards Are Best.
Spring Chef Premium Swivel Vegetable Peeler. It is a dishwasher safe and has dual stainless Steel blades with a comfortable, non-slip handle.
50 Jot & Mark Recipe Cards a simple useful gift for any cook.
Professional Box Grater. This is a 100% Stainless Steel grater. It has 4 Sides and a rubber bottom.
Just for Fun
Glowz Glow in the Dark Tape. This glow in the dark (photo luminescent) tape is 30 feet long and 1 inch wide. It is a great simple gift. It is waterproof and removable. The boys had a blast with this when they were younger, covering their wooden swords and shields. They’d charge the toys up in the light in one room, and then go play in the dark in another room.
Thether Bluetooth Headphones are a great option. They are water resistant with an IPX7 rating.
Practical Gifts Under $30
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.
Betty Crocker 1950 Cookbook a kitchen classic. Original recipes that taste great.
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 for your car or an extra layer. This is a 80% wool 84×64 inch blanket is perfect as an extra layer. Wool will keep you warm even if it gets wet.
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.
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.
The super bright Tini keychain flashlight is 360 lumen and can be recharged with any mini-USB power source.
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.)
If the person you are gifting already has an AA/AAA battery charger consider an extra pack of AA or AAA rechargeable batteries. Tenergy 24pc AAA low discharge, Tenergy 24pc AA low discharge or Tenergy High Draw AA&AAA pack, Panasonic Eneloop AA, Panasonic Eneloop AAA or even the high end Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA or Panasonic Eneloop Pro AAA are all great AA rechargeable batteries – consider the Amazon Basics High Capacity AA or AAA if you are on a budget. Any of these are a gift that keeps on giving!
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.
A warm pair of work gloves is a safe bet. Even if they have more, they can leave a pair in their car or emergency kit or have a backup. We like the Carhartt Men’s Pipeline Glove 2018 waterproof winter work gloves.
Good Loaf Pans
Pampered Chef Stoneware Loaf Pan. I have used this for many years, and its my favorite for baking bread.
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. For info see the post 4 Reasons Wooden Cutting Boards Are Best.
My Favorite Slippers
LL Bean Slippers Our absolute favorite slippers. I’ve had the same pair for over 20 years, although they are starting to look a little rough. Laurie mended some stitches that gave out, and Duncan patched a tear with duck tape. Buy them for yourself or your loved ones, you won’t regret it.
First Aid and Emergency Preps
Survival Solutions Travel First aid kit This is a very good first aid kit. Both the nurses in our extended family picked it as the best kit. We have it in our van all the time. 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. A great 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.
Practical Gift Under $200
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. Use this link for a discount through Dec 4th 2018, https://amzn.to/2KvVi9X
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.
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.
Mockmill Home Grain Mills – the Mockmill 100 and Mockmill grain mill mixer attachment are both under $300. 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. For those who mill grain only occasionally, the mixer attachment grain mill fits right onto your stand mixer. Both 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.
Pendleton 100% Eco-Wise Wool blanket 90×96 inch blanket. Wool is a lifetime gift, it will keep you warm even if it’s wet. Getting the larger one is better, it can be a throw, or a layer on the bed.
Practical Gifts Under $300
Mr. Heater MH18B, Portable Propane Heater If you or a loved one is 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. Lean more about portable heaters here.
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. This practical gift may help protect the other gifts you purchase from would be box snatchers.
Big Berkey water filter. This is a gift that will get used every day. 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. We have the Big Berkey in our kitchen. It is gravity operated and requires no power.
This filter provides safe drinking water, even in emergencies. The Big Berkey on sale! $25 off plus if you sign up with them get an additional 15% off! Don’t forget the extra filters. The 2 gallon Big Berkey 99.999% with 6 (3 packs) filters will filter 7 gal per hour with all 4 filters. Note: You need 6 extra filters, to add 2 and still have 4 left as replacements.
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.
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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 Dressing Up Your Gifts 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 gifts without spending a ton of money.
1. Put gifts in reusable baskets or tins instead of wrapping.
This is great for homemade gifts, like cookies, breads, jams or jellies, soaps, lotion bars or bath salts. (Just don’t mix soap and food.) 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 them 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. You don’t have to use them and toss them. Use them, and use them again. 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 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 Garden Gifts They’ll Love – Practical, Beautiful and Unique.
We also have:
Have a wonderful holiday season, from our family to yours.
Originally published in 2017, updated in 2018.