Practical gift-giving is a great way to make sure you’re giving friends and family things that will actually benefit their lives, instead of getting regifted or shoved in a closet.
However, it requires a delicate balance. You don’t necessarily want to give a boring practical gift like paying their phone bill or bringing a few bags of groceries (which, while useful, don’t exactly channel holiday cheer).
These gifts offer the best of both worlds: they’re useful and life-enhancing, while still feeling like gifts. Find them sorted into practical gifts for everyone, for her, for him, and for white elephants or stocking stuffers.
Practical Gifts for Everyone
Whether you’re looking for useful gifts for moms, dads, partners, siblings, or friends, just about everyone can appreciate these.
If your friends and family aren’t on the Instant Pot train yet, this is a gift to literally change their life. It saves them time since they can cook without standing over the stove stirring and waiting. It saves them money by enabling them to make quick, healthy, delicious meals from cheap ingredients so they don’t have to spend on takeout or expensive frozen meals.
It can double as a frying pan, rice cooker, steamer, and more. They also come in a variety of sizes, from a 3-quart personal Instant Pot to a 10-quart version ready to feed an army.
A reusable bottle is a must-have for anyone who frequently drives, travels, exercises, or really does anything that has them buying bottled water, sodas, gas station coffee, etc. Having their own saves them these costs (and saves the earth from more needless plastic).
Stainless steel is by far my preferred material thanks to its fantastic temperature-insulating properties. Plastic ones don’t really cut it since the contents go lukewarm quickly. The Thermos Stainless King will keep liquids hot or cold for a full 24 hours, and the 40-ounce capacity will make sure your giftee is hydrated all day.
It’s smart to keep a flashlight around in the house, car, bag, etc., but they often seem to be out of battery when you need them. This Anker flashlight removes the need to scrounge for batteries, since it charges via a micro-USB cable that can plug into a power bank, computer, car charger, or anywhere with a USB port.
Speaking of power banks, this is another ultra-useful gift to charge devices on the go (or keeping your phone on during power outages). The PowerCore 10,000 is light and compact and holds 2-4 phone charges. I have the 20,000mAh version, which has been amazing for long backpacking days.
The original multitool and still one of the best. This version of the Swiss Army Knife has a knife (of course), multiple screwdrivers, bottle opener, can opener, mini saw, scissors, wire stripper, toothpick, tweezers, and key ring. It’s the ultimate gift for a practical person.
For anyone who works on computers all day, blue light and eye strain are common concerns. Some research shows that overexposure to blue light can cause retina damage and premature eye aging. In the short term, it can interfere with sleep. These Spektrum glasses block blue light so it’s not a concern, and they come with optional magnification to further reduce eye strain.
This super cheap kitchen product makes breakfast a quick and easy task. Essentially, it lets you “waffle” anything, from actual waffle batter to hashbrowns to paninis.
I have several pairs of gloves, but only one of them are touchscreen-compatible…so guess which pair I always wear? No one wants to pull off their gloves to respond to a text or fast-forward a podcast. These unisex touch-screen gloves are affordable, lightweight, and warm, and come in several colors.
Books will always be useful—there are never-ending things to learn. Since you’re on a personal finance blog, think about sharing these five books to help your friends and family on their financial freedom journeys.
Practical & Unique Gifts for Her
Any of the gifts above will be great for the women in your life, but here are a few more useful gifts for her.
To start, jewelry is a common holiday or birthday gift for women, but these practical jewelry options amp up the usefulness.
I’m not much of a fan of traditional jewelry (seriously, don’t get me started on the diamond industry). Silicone-based rings are a great alternative—they’re inexpensive and you don’t have to worry about damaging or losing them while running, swimming, traveling, working, and so on. Groovelife rings are designed to be breathable and durable, and have a variety of designs to choose from.
This ring-meets-knife is another interesting and useful take on jewelry. I have a penchant for running at night, which is basically how all “missing woman” news articles start, so this offers another level up from pepper spray while not adding extra bulk or demanding hands to carry.
Whether she needs to open mail or navigate an emergency situation, these small pocket-knife pendants offer fashion and functionality. They’re hard to open and not overly sharp, which are arguably benefits for something intended to wear around your neck.
Next, a frugal person might not want to spend money on quality personal care items for herself, so these self-care products make good gifts that are likely to be used and appreciated. A candle burning, a book, and a warm beverage adds up to an ideal relaxing night.
Cheap candles can irritate the lungs, so it’s worth getting a better-quality one with ingredients like soy wax and natural fragrances. These Chesapeake Bay candles on Amazon fit the bill while still being affordable in the $10 range for a medium. Personalize the scent to your giftee—from Balance + Harmony to Confidence + Freedom.
Moisturizer with SPF
If there’s one thing that pretty much all skincare experts agree on, it’s to consistently wear some form of sunscreen for anti-aging and cancer prevention. Personally, I don’t want to smell like I’m going to the beach all the time, so I vastly prefer using a subtle moisturizer with SPF instead of traditional sunscreen. When something’s going on your face, ingredients matter, so Block Island’s SPF moisturizer with shea, green tea, and pomegranate makes a quality gift (it’s also eco-friendly and cruelty-free).
If I can speak for all women for a second, none of us are ever going to be sad about getting a soft, warm new blanket in the wintertime. This luxurious reversible throw is microfiber cashmere velvet on one side and faux sheepshin on the other, measures about 4×5 feet, and comes in a variety of rich colors.
Practical Gifts for Men
Likewise, the gifts below make great gifts for boyfriends, husbands, dads, brothers, or male friends.
Pairs from this brand come with a hefty price tag as socks go, but it’s because they’re high-quality and boast a lifetime warranty. Buying him a pair of Darn Tough socks means you’re buying him good socks for life. They’re great for hikers or guys with active jobs.
Traditional massages are expensive, but they can be an invaluable recovery tool for those with physical jobs to un-knot muscles and offer pain relief. This useful gift lets him get a Shiatsu massage from the comfort of home, for less than the cost of one massage. It’s a wearable electric massager that can be adjusted for use on the shoulders, neck, or back and has an optional heat feature for extra therapeutic benefits.
My partner has a beard like a Viking, and it’s definitely gotten healthier since he discovered beard oil. Speaking of Vikings, try this beard oil from Viking Revolution. If he might like to experiment with scents, they also have a variety gift set with sandalwood, pine & cedar, and sage oils.
He can save money at the bar and learn a new skill with this 15-piece bartender kit. It makes an impressive addition to holiday parties or a fun night experimenting with recipes at home.
Best Practical White Elephant Gift Ideas & Stocking Stuffers
Stock up on these small useful gifts to exchange with coworkers, participate in white elephants, and save yourself in those “oops, you got me a gift and I have nothing for you” situations.
Pick up this 12-pack of upscale-looking holiday soap and you’ll be prepared for any stockings you need to fill or last-minute gifts to acquaintances. Nice soap is one of those gifts that I’d have hated to get as a kid, but I’m all about it now. For only $2 each, they’re also a great thing to keep on hand for last-minute gifts.
The spice fanatic in your life will always have a use for hot sauce. Give them a gift to help them test their limits and amp up their cooking. Challenge them to the Zombie Apocalypse ghost chili sauce, or go a tiny bit less extreme with Bazodee’s hot sauce featuring Trinidad scorpion peppers. These also make fun and practical white elephant gift ideas, because during the “stealing” phase of the game, hot sauce lovers will be competing for it.
This one goes out to my fellow millennials, since we’re always getting accused of spending all our money on avocado toast. This convenient tool makes it easy to halve avocados, remove the stone, and cut them into neat slices. Once you can make your own brunch, home ownership and retirement are within reach!
Have you ever managed to finish a tube of chapstick before it melted or got lost? Me neither. It’s always nice to have a tube around on dry winter days, though, so these holiday-themed chapsticks will be put to good use.
These days, you’re the weird one if you don’t have a caffeine addiction, so nice coffees tend to be a crowd-pleaser. Test the real coffee-lovers with Death Wish, the “world’s strongest coffee,” or add a holiday flavor twist with a white chocolate peppermint blend.
We’ve all heard the song lyric “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” but how many people even know what a chestnut tastes like? Now’s your chance to solve the mystery for your giftees with these snack bags.
Kate is a writer and editor who runs her content and editorial businesses remotely while globetrotting as a digital nomad. So far, her laptop has accompanied her to New Zealand, Asia, and around the U.S. (mostly thanks to credit card points). Years of research and ghostwriting on personal finance led her to the FI community and co-founding DollarSanity. In addition to traveling and outdoor adventure, Kate is passionate about financial literacy, compound interest, and pristine grammar.