25 Gifts That Save Money


It shouldn't be a surprise that here at Wise Bread, we like gifts that do things — gifts that are useful. Gifts that fill a need. Gifts that might be indulgent, but not wholly unnecessary. And we especially love gifts that can do even more — that can help people save money. With that in mind, here's our guide to 25 great gifts that keep more cash in your giftee's wallet. (See also: 31 Great Gifts That Keep on Giving)

1. Coffee Maker

The "latte factor" — the idea that small regular expenses can make a big difference over time — is one of the most frequently-discussed ideas in personal finance, so it makes sense to start here. I love my little Bodum French press (it makes exactly the amount of coffee I want in the morning), but there are so many other options — bigger French presses, Keurig one-cup coffee makers, classic drip coffee makers, Chemex coffee makers — heck, even espresso machines can save you money over time, depending on how many espresso-based drinks you normally buy at the coffee shop. (See also: The 5 Best Coffeemakers)

2. A Netflix, Hulu+, or AmazonPrime Subscription

These three services all offer streaming movies and TV shows — or, in the case of Netflix, the option of movies on DVD as well. Depending on the media habits of the person you're giving the gift to, these services can save anywhere from a few dollars a month to over $100 a month, if they decide to cut cable and go out to the movies less. Netflix and Hulu+ plans start at $7.99 a month, and Amazon Prime is $79 a year (and includes other perks like free two-day shipping for Amazon orders).

If you do know someone who is getting rid of cable, another great idea is a Roku box — this little device makes it easy to stream all of the services listed above onto a TV. I have one, and I love it.

3. Knitting or Crocheting Supplies

I love hobbies that help you make something — you can save money by making items for yourself or items for others, or even sell the items you make in a side business. This highly-rated how to knit kit includes everything needed to get started with the hobby, and here's a similar kit for crocheting. If you think your giftee will benefit more from a hands-on approach, consider a gift certificate for supplies and classes at a local shop.

4. Specialty Cooking Supplies

We all know that cooking at home saves money, but sometimes you want a certain cuisine that you feel like you "can't" cook. Help bridge the gap by getting specialized equipment, such as a wok (I love my Calaphon wok — it's a pricier investment, but great quality), sushi-making kit, or pasta maker.

5. Specialty Cooking Ingredients

Similar to specialty cooking supplies, some special ingredients can be all a home cook needs to change a normal meal into that sort of special dinner that easily replaces a night on the town. Some of my favorite items include finishing salts, truffle oil, and saffron. Or if you want to support your community, look for locally produced items like honey and jams. Locally-produced honey with a piece of honeycomb in it is one of my favorite gifts.

6. Classes

You'll see a theme on this list — one of the best ways to save money is to learn skills so you can do things for yourself. Whether it's cooking, car care, woodworking, or something else, gift certificates for classes are a great way give the gift of money-saving skills (along with an opportunity for fun and meeting new people).

7. Herb Plants

If you're looking for a gift that keeps on giving, how about one that literally keeps growing? Fresh herbs can be expensive at the grocerystore, but they're oh-so-cheap when you grow them at home. Plus, they help perk up your stoop or kitchen sill. Buy fresh herbs at your local florist or garden center, or buy a seedling starter kit.

8. Fitness Supplies

Fitness supplies — whether a bike, soccer ball, or free weights for a home gym — can save money in multiple ways. First of all, they can help save on gym fees. Secondly, improving physical health has all sorts of money-saving benefits, like making you less likely to need medical care. And if you give someone a bike, depending on where they live, they can also save money by biking to work.

9. Tools

Having basic tools around means having the ability to fix things instead of calling in expensive service-people. Of course, there are certain things — like electrical work — that should never be attempted by non-professionals (you might want to include that note in the card if you have any accident-prone friends). Know someone who's starting from scratch? Give them a basic kit, or put one together by shopping at estate sales, which can be great places to find quality old tools.

10. A Car Wash and Oil Change

Proactive car care helps extend the life of a car, which means that gift certificates for a car wash and oil change can help save money on repairs down the road.

11. Reusable Bags

Yes, they're good for the environment. But many grocery stores will also knock a few cents off your order if you bring your own bags. Check out these cute reusable bags that fold up super-small. Or take the reusable bag thing even further with these resuable sandwich and snack bags.

12. Rechargeable Batteries

For all the gadgets that come with their own rechargeable batteries these days, there are many that still don't (I'm looking at you, Wii remote). If you know someone who burns through batteries, a rechargable battery set can save some serious scratch. They even make rechargeable batteries that can be powered by a USB port.

13. Beverage Carbonator

Got a friend who drinks sparkling water or even soda obsessively? A SodaStream could be the perfect way to give in to their craving and help 'em save.

14. Computer Backup Service

It's far from the sexiest of gifts, but getting a subscription to a service like Mozy or SOS now means not having to pay for expensive file-retrieval later, should the worst happen to a hard drive.

15. A Sewing Machine

Like with the knitting supplies, a sewing machine can save money in so many ways, allowing the giftee to make clothes and items for the home, gifts, and things to sell.

16. Woodworking Supplies

Woodworking supplies are another great hobby tool that, like a sewing machine and knitting supplies, can help save money in a variety of ways.

17. Wine

Giving wine can save money? Yup, if your giftee drinks it instead of going out, that's definitely a money saver (and hey, maybe he'll even invite you to a wine-and-cheese gathering).

18. Programmable Thermostat

Giving the user the ability to automatically lower and raise the heat depending on the time of day, programmable thermostats are a great way to reduce heating costs in the winter.

19. Long Underwear

This gift was a favorite of mine when I still lived in colder climates. Wearing long underwear allows the giftee to keep the heat a little bit lower when at home, and it makes going outside in winter so much more pleasant.

20. Coupons for Services You Can Offer

Coupons for services you can offer are one my favorite things to give. You save yourself money, because you're generally giving your time, not stuff. And you save the giftee money, not having to pay someone else for something like babysitting, yard work, or cooking.

21. Books That Teach Skills — Especially Personal Finance Skills

Remember where I said that there's a theme here, and that theme is learning skills? Any book that can teach a skill is a great holiday gift. But the ones that might have the biggest money-saving impact are books that can teach financial skills, like"I WIll Teach You to Be Rich," "The Total Money Makeover," or our book, "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget."

22. CFL Light Bulbs

Like computer backup service, this isn't the sexiest of gifts. But according to Energy Star, a single compact fluorescent bulb can also save "about $6 a year in electricity costs and can save more than $40 over its lifetime." Too boring? Give an awesome lamp too.

23. A Travel-Friendly Reusable Coffee Mug

If you know someone who makes coffee at home, a resuable mug will help them carry their caffeine in style. And for those who refuse to stop buying their brew at coffee shops, most coffee shops will at least take a few cents off if you bring your own mug.

24. Personal Pampering Items

Know someone who loves spa treatments? Get them the goods to replicate their favorite pampering at home, such as a pedicure kit, bath salts (no, not the scary kind), or a general awesome pampering kit.

25. Lawn Games or Other Outdoor Fun Items

Not only are games like croquet and badminton fun ways to spend time outside in the summer (that can save some serious money if the other plan was to pay for the entire family to go play mini golf), but just before the holidays, you might be able to find some of these out-of-season items on serious clearance.

What are your favorite money-saving gifts? Share in the comments!

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Guest's picture

This is a great post! Giving practical gifts or gifts that are creative and/or homemade makes them so much more meaningful. Otherwise it is very easy to overspend at Christmas and go into debt just to follow the consumerist trends. It's a vicious circle.

Max Wong's picture

Warning: Knitting is one of those fake frugal hobbies. (See also quilting, canning, and sewing your own clothes). Yes, I can copy a $3500 Chanel sweater for $300 and make it out of cashmere to boot, but it's a rare event when a knitting project costs less than three figures for just the supplies.

However, knitting is cheaper than therapy. So there's that.

Guest's picture

Great ideas! I especially love the Amazon Prime subscription. I would love something like that but don't want to spend the money myself. However, if someone gifted it to me, I can only start imagining all the free books I would be able to get!

Guest's picture

As a hard-core knitter I'd question knitting as a money-saving hobby. I must spend a couple of hundred dollars a month on yarn, patterns, tools and other things to feed my addiction. But it does save money on snacks (hands too busy to eat).

Guest's picture

Great post. I like almost all of these ideas, however, I don't know how loved I would feel if someone gave me light bulbs for a Christmas pesent, or any other special occasion for that matter! Still - Great ideas - especially the speciality cooking items. I really like that!

Guest's picture
Thrifty Writer

Hmm...while you certainly can spend a lot of money on knitting, I've found that it has saved me money, especially when it comes to baby shower gifts. I once knit a baby blanket for a friend because I was broke-ish, I knew that most of her friends would either be buying multiple smaller items or one huge item off her registry, so I started knitting, and I felt really good and unashamed, when she opened my gift at her shower. Everyone oohed and aahed at the fact that I had made something cute by hand, and it meant a lot to my friend that I had put time and effort into it. Two years later, she still uses it. It terms of time, I guess it was expensive (if you put an hourly rate on it) but it was an acrylic blanket I made from yarn on sale (or cheaper with a coupon) from Michael's, with needles I already owned.