5 Sustainable and Affordable gift ideas. Purple text with minimally wrapped gifts tied with rustic brown checked ribbon and paper flowers.

5 Sustainable and Affordable Gift Ideas

Gone are the days of extravagant gift-giving, at least for most of us.

Every year, I tell myself I'll only get 1 or 2 things for each person on my list - and every year, I end up with, well, a lot more than 1 or 2... 

Then I would be at Target last-minute just grabbing stuff without much thought.

To perhaps state the obvious, stuff is so expensive this year. We're travelling less, trying to stretch our grocery trips, and still the holidays are looming.

In a move completely out of character for me as someone with ADHD and a master of procrastination - I've figured out my plan for the holidays.

I know! Early November, I can't believe it either.

Here's my plan for an "as sustainable and affordable as possible" holiday gift procurement.

First - Make a List.

Yep, just like you-know-who. Except you might check it more than twice.

Make a list of everyone you plan to get gifts for. I do this on my notes app, so I don't worry about losing a piece of paper - or someone finding it and spoiling the surprise.

Second - Think.

For each person, try and recall what they like, any hobbies they have, or any items or experiences they have expressed interest in. 

These don't have to be the exact specific gifts, just a rough idea.

Third - Wait and watch.

I don't like explicitly asking others what they want, mainly because I don't like answering the question myself.

Some people, especially kids, may just tell you. Or if you are out with them and they say "'oh I like this" and don't buy it - there's your idea.

But the real step here is to keep an eye out day-to-day. This is why I am starting now!

Watch Facebook marketplace, local yard sales or estate sales, sites like Mercari or eBay, etc.

You can very often find new, like-new, or cool vintage/antique items for sale.

(Last year, we went to Half-Price Books and found a book for most of the people on our list - related to their interests and less than $10-15 a piece!)


Now, my husband and I already frequent antique shops and estate sales, so this isn't too much added searching for us. But if it's not exactly your thing...

Here are some specific ideas that are relatively inexpensive, meaningful, and don't create a lot of waste.

(I.e. easy to find secondhand, and/or not useless junk).


Framed photos.

Our wedding was close to Christmas last year, and we had professional photos taken of our family. So we had some printed and found some cheap but decent-looking frames! Everyone was appreciative that we already framed them.

They don't have to be professional (just high quality so they look good after enlarging). Maybe be sneaky and offer to take a photo at Thanksgiving or when everyone is dressed up.

Thrift stores especially are FULL of picture frames, no need to buy new ones! Bring a tape measure - or the actual photo - to make sure it's the right size. (And don't be like me, who accidentally bought an 11x12" frame for an 8x10" picture. Yeah I didn't know 11x12" existed either.)

Seriously, with smart phones and social media, we take pics all the time but don't get them framed! And if there are any grandparents on your list, I PROMISE they will love this.


As I mentioned earlier, books were a huge hit.

I sometimes shy away from books related to my interests - because the internet knows everything and it's free. But quite often, books can teach you more in a concise way - because they're all-inclusive instead of having to dig around online for stuff you don't know that you don't know!

They're also very easy to find secondhand, and in good shape. In my experience, thrift stores are hit or miss here - the selection may be pretty small.

If you have stores nearby like Half-Price Books, 2nd & Charles, or - better yet -  a local independently-owned bookstore - stop by and check them out. There's also thriftbooks.com - which I haven't personally bought from. Must not get distracted from writing this article...

Vintage cookware.

This is going to depend on the person, turns out not everyone likes vintage stuff. Who knew?

The best idea I've seen in this realm is to find a thrifted casserole dish or cake tray, bake a cake or uh, casserole for a party or get-together, and then leave the dish with the host.

It's a perfect alternative to disposable baking pans, you don't have to sacrifice your pan if you forget it, and the host gets a dish to keep or pass along themselves. This also works for those family members that are like "no don't get me anything" - you know the ones... 

Split a larger gift.

We'll need some cooperation on this one, which isn't always easy for some families or friend circles...

But perhaps you have a friend or family member who could really use something that's a bit expensive - like a couch, a new bed, tires, a home repair, etc.

Work together to decide on a price and split it, or if the entire thing is still a bit much, you could split a portion of it. For example if they need a new hot water heater, and the $500+ is too much to split, you could split half of it. Then either give the money, or a gift card for that amount to Home Depot, Lowe's, or wherever they prefer.

I suppose this one may not be the best for a complete surprise... But it's probably the most "adulty" thing on the list!

Give an experience.

You've probably heard this a lot, but it's a good one.

Especially now with stuff being so expensive, a couple concert tickets could easily be a month's worth of groceries.

Instead of individual tickets, you could see if any local venues do a season pass. This is common for sporting events, but I've heard of some doing it for concerts and other performances too! That way you don't have to gamble on the recipient being off work that particular day.

There are also virtual events, or even services like streaming platforms and subscription boxes that have gift options!




Of course, it would be remiss of me to not include my reusable products, since this is a blog on my website, after all!

If your giftee is interested in being eco-friendly and reducing their waste - perhaps check out these bundles of reusable straw and spork pouches, or NonPaper Towels! All handmade in small batches and shipped plastic-free in 100% recycled paper mailers.

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