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Dec 042013
 December 4, 2013  Posted by  Expired
holiday wishlist

If you or your loved ones are on a budget or a fixed income, ignore the inclination to exchange sweaters and ties this year, and makeover your holiday gift giving with practical presents. Don’t worry — we’re not talking about tube socks and toothbrushes.

Each of the following are wonderful for giving (or hint-hinting that you might want to be on the receiving end). The idea is to choose something that either represents a special treat that people on a budget wouldn’t spend on themselves, or a way to help offset the cost of something they enjoy or need.

Here are some practical gifts to ponder…

A contribution to a child’s 529 plan. Saving for college sometimes falls to the back burner for those paying off debt or saving for retirement. That’s why this is a good gift if you have grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, and contributions can be as little or as much as you’d like.

Variation: For those students already in college, create a care package for them to take back to the dorms. Choose a theme and have fun with it, like a “cram session kit” stocked with snacks, a coffee mug, index cards, and a pack of highlighters.

A magazine subscription. This gift can be enjoyed all year, and will save the recipient from making impulsive newsstand purchases.

Variation: TV and movie lovers might enjoy a subscription to a couple of months of Netflix or Hulu Plus.

Gas card. Gasoline is definitely expensive, which is why someone with a minimal income might appreciate filling up the tank for free.

Variation: You can also consider a gift card for the local car wash and save a frugal driver from having to take out the hose.

Movie theater and/or restaurant gift cards. When people cut back on spending, often it’s recreation like dining out or going to the movies that’s the first to go. A night out without having to hit the ATM would be a welcome gift for a special couple in your life.

Variation: Think about what other “me” time your loved ones might appreciate, whether it’s a manicure or a gift card to their favorite coffee shop, and let them splurge away.

A Costco or Amazon Prime membership. Belonging to a warehouse club or enjoying free shipping and other benefits to the online retailer can add up to tons of savings for savvy shoppers — whether it’s via shopping in bulk or getting free shipping — especially if the membership fee is taken care of by a thoughtful gift giver.

Variation: Likewise, membership to a local museum or zoo can drastically reduce admission pricing for families who love to go on educational outings.

The Entertainment Book. For those who hate paying full price for their entertainment, this giant coupon book includes deals for thousands of area businesses, restaurants, and attractions

Variation: For a modern spin on local discounts, a Groupon gift card lets the recipient keep watch for local deals that are too good to pass up.

What’s the best practical gift you’ve ever received?


Dawn Papandrea

Dawn Papandrea is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, and women's lifestyle topics. She's been a journalist for nearly 15 years, doing everything from editing to writing to blogging to social media management. Her work has appeared in, Family Circle,,, Parents,, The Huffington Post, and other national publications. She lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband and two sons. You can read her personal blog at, or follow her on Twitter: @dawnpapandrea.

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