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Frugal Christmas Gifts for People Who Have Everything

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Woohoo! Christmas is only a week away. Are you done with Christmas gift shopping? Downtown Portland has been hopping with shoppers the last couple of weeks. It’s nice to see the economy rolling and shoppers enjoying the holidays.

This year, I only have to get gifts for two people – Mrs. RB40 and the kid. Christmas is a lot more fun with RB40 Jr. around. We are introducing him to Santa Clause and he loves our Christmas tree. I already got Gordon and Percy (Thomas and friends) for him, so I’m good there. It’s so easy to buy gift for little kids because everything is new to them.

gifts for people who have everything

The one that is impossible to shop for is Mrs. RB40. She already has pretty much everything she needs and I can’t buy the stuff she wants. I know she would like some new clothes and perhaps a new purse, but she is so super picky. It will be a waste of time to buy any personal item for her. She wouldn’t like what I pick out. Oh yeah, and she would like that $3.5 million house on the hill, but that’s out of reach for me (and her) unless I win last night’s Mega Millions Jackpot. She also doesn’t want any kitschy crap stuff to clutter up our small condo. She has been selling our stuff through Craigslist to clear out our place a bit.


So today, I’m racking my brain for some good Christmas gifts for those people who have everything.

Quality Time

Life can be crazy with a rambunctious little boy. We haven’t had a chance to spend any time alone since we went to the beach together for a couple of days in October. My parents were here so we were able to get away then. Now that he is going to preschool, there are more options for us. The preschool has parents’ night out a couple of times per month and it will be a chance for us to get away for a bit. A great gift for both of us would be paying for the night out in advance and planning for a rare date night.

Donate in their name

Mrs. RB40 has been looking at the UNICEF holiday card catalog and I think that will be a nice gift for her. A box of card cost $10-$15 and the money will go to a good cause. She has been donating animals to poor countries in her older relative’s names so I know she likes that. Donating to a cause they care about is a great gift.


A cooking lesson or some other interesting classes could be great gifts. You need to figure out what your recipient is interested in, though. We are still short on time so this probably isn’t the right fit this year, but it would be a great option in the future. I would love to take a photography class at our community college at some point.

Time out card – redeemable for 4 hours of alone time

Talking about time, here is an easy one. I’ll just give Mrs. RB40 a “4 hours alone time” card. She can redeem it whenever she needs to get away. A little kid can drive you crazy sometime and a time away card would be an awesome gift. She would probably redeem it immediately.

Gym membership

Hahaha, everyone needs a gym membership. Mrs. RB40 turned this down though. She doesn’t like sweat… On the other hand, I’m heading back to the gym after a long 18 months off. I’m way out of shape and I have a lot of work to do.


Not to brag, but I’m a world class masseuse. These hands are god’s gift to women. Unfortunately for Mrs. RB40, she hasn’t had a massage for a long time. I have been too busy blogging at night after putting Jr. to bed. I know she would love a 30 minute massage certificate from her hubby. I probably should get her a real massage, but as you know, I’m pretty cheap these days. Maybe next year, I’ll get her a spa package. 8)


Portland has a huge restaurant turnover ratio. It seems like a new restaurant opens every week. We like to try new restaurants, but we love our old favorites, too. A gift certificate to a good restaurant that she hasn’t been to would be a great gift both of us can enjoy.


Mrs. RB40 loves to see shows and the theater is right around the corner from us. I’m not sure which show she wants to see so we’ll have to confer a bit. She’d probably has to go to the show by herself though. I tend to snore at the theater shows.

Cash $$$!

Cash is always a great gift for those people who are hard to buy for. They can buy what they really want. Mrs. RB40 loves cash so I’m sure she’ll find some greenbacks in her stocking on Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I’m open to suggestions. It’s hard to buy for people who don’t want any more physical stuff. Do you have someone like that in your life? What do you think about these ideas?

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{ 44 comments… add one }

  • [email protected] December 18, 2013, 12:13 am

    Handcrafted items and cards go a long way as opposed to any store bought items. Happy holidays.

  • theFIREstarter December 18, 2013, 1:10 am

    Some great ideas!

    You have inspired me to print out “the 12 dates of Christmas” – vouchers for date nights for Mrs TFS.

    Happy Xmas!

  • Peter December 18, 2013, 1:25 am

    Hi Joe from the UK. I am in a similar situation as you – except I am 55 next month. I have a 5 year old and a 19 year old (both girls) and am looking at early retirement next year. My Wife gets very stressed around Christmas and she too needs for nothing. I am sure quality time together as a couple would probably rank top of Mrs.RB40’s list. I have come unstuck here before by not planning ahead and sometimes letting my Wife down, so this year I have set up a pocket of money that can only be used for trips away together. Whether a bit each month or splash out and go to Dubai – the choice will be hers alone.

    I have only been following your Blogger for a few weeks and I am taking much assurance from it. Too many have planned to retire early but none with young children to cater for. I especially liked your views on role model – this is a point many would not consider. Merry Christmas.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 6:51 am

      Good luck with your retirement. Just stay active and you’ll have a lot of fun.
      Pocket money is a great idea. Merry Christmas!

      • Peter December 18, 2013, 2:37 pm

        Sorry Joe, I said a pocket OF money, a British saying that means money stashed away from mundane domestic use. I would very quickly become an ex-husband if I offered her “pocket money”. I like the other suggestions of a pamper day that too always goes well. Merry Christmas and a profitable 2014.

  • Teffany @ Critical Financial December 18, 2013, 1:42 am

    Massage is a good personal gift. Maybe one of these days I would offer my mom a great massage. 🙂

  • jane savers @ solving the money puzzle December 18, 2013, 4:01 am

    Be careful giving money to the Mrs. My husband once gave me a cheque for $50 written on our joint account for Christmas and it was not well received. He is now my ex-husband.

  • MonicaOnMoney December 18, 2013, 6:19 am

    I love this article beceause this is me! I’m forwarding this article to my friends and family who keep asking me what I want to Christmas 🙂

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 6:52 am

      Merry Christmas! 🙂

  • Moneycone December 18, 2013, 7:46 am

    We are quite similar! But one idea I like in particular is Theater! We used to go before Jr was born… that is an excellent idea! Now if we can find a reliable baby sitter…

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 9:41 pm

      My parents are great babysitters. Hopefully they’ll come visit soon.

      • Amy K December 20, 2013, 7:29 am

        Joe, also ask your daycare teachers. All of ours babysit, and are wonderful. We love that she’s with someone she knows, and we know how much they love kids!

  • Justin @ RootofGood December 18, 2013, 8:02 am

    We have pretty much stopped exchanging gifts between me and the Mrs. I think we gave gifts to each other for the first 4-5 years of our relationship, and then we quickly saw that we didn’t get much value for our cash outlay. Now I might get her some inexpensive (but fancy) chocolates or some treat that we normally don’t buy.

    I still do flowers on Valentine’s day. Usually $10-20 and sometimes I’ll skip the roses if they aren’t great or are very expensive compared to other beautiful flowers like carnations or mixed bouquets).

  • I used to get gifts for my parents but they are too hard to shop for. I think I’m frugal but they put me to shame. So whatever I buy is kind of a waste of money…EVEN if they like it. I replaced their 25 inch tube TV with a 32 inch flat screen (I go over on Sundays and hey I couldn’t bear to watch football on a tube tv anymore…boy first world problems right!). I just give them cash. It’s not taboo like it seems to be in American culture…Chinese people give “red envelopes” with cash for all occasions.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 9:43 pm

      My parents are the same way. They don’t mind cash at all. 🙂

  • Wilson December 18, 2013, 9:20 am

    I love the alone time card idea. I had thought about doing something similar, although to be fair it wasn’t entirely altruistic on my part. My wife seems to spend more time alone or out anyways, so in a sense it’s preemptively monetizing something I’d prob do anyways, but with a card it’d be more guilt free. I did the massage gift certif last year and she only used it just last week before expiration so I’m not sure I’ll do that again. Ok, talked myself into the alone card. Restaurant card and a baby-sitter is another great idea; I’m sure you all have an adults only time deficit that needs to be rebalanced.

    For the kid last year we went to a used book store and loaded up. This year it closed, so have to find another one. She’s pretty set on clothes and junk so prob an extra 529 deposit.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 9:45 pm

      The alone card is great. I need a few of those myself.
      We have a great library so we don’t really need to buy books. We probably have 25 children books from the library at all time.

  • bill December 18, 2013, 9:31 am

    I just gave my coworkers a gift to the Human Fund. Money well spent.

    • Kurt @ Money Counselor December 18, 2013, 9:34 am

      Happy Festivus!

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor December 18, 2013, 9:34 am

    How about a day at a local spa where she can get thoroughly pampered?

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 9:59 pm

      I want to plan a hot spring/spa weekend for us the next time my parents are in town. It will be great to get away for a bit.

  • Done by Forty December 18, 2013, 10:07 am

    I’m so glad to see someone suggest cash as a gift instead of gift cards. Cash is so much better! Sure, there’s some sort of illogical stigma with giving cash, but it’s superior…and let’s face it, people DO like getting money.

    And your line about your hands being god’s gift cracked me up, Joe.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 10:00 pm

      Yeah, I like cash much more than gift cards. Those things are always getting lost or forgotten.

  • Bryce @ Save and Conquer December 18, 2013, 1:23 pm

    My wife really likes cooking classes that are offered at one of the high-end stores sort of near us (18 miles from our home, but only 5 miles from work). She likes to take the classes with friends, though, so just giving her the class for herself wouldn’t cut it.

    You have plenty of nice ideas, though.

  • Micro December 18, 2013, 4:45 pm

    If you wanted to try and find a cheaper massage, you could see if there is a masseuse school in your area. It’s similar to dental school and they have the students practice on real patients. You get a cheaper massage and the students get real world experience. It’s a win win situation for everyone.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2013, 10:01 pm

      That’s a great tip. I’ll check it out. There are quite a few salon school nearby, but I haven’t seen any massage school.

  • Retire Before Dad December 19, 2013, 5:00 am


    Its going to be a Thomas the Train Christmas for us too. My boy already has Emily and Thomas and he’s getting Tidmouth Sheds this year. Very exciting for him.

    Another good gift, particularly for the Grandparents is a photo book. These things take a ton of time to make, but if you spread it out over the year its not so bad. Our parents love these and there are one of a kind, and Shutterfly always has deep discounts.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2013, 9:44 pm

      Oh wow, Tidmouth Sheds. Nice! I’m sure he’d love it. Our guy only has Thomas and Toby so he’s exited to get a couple more trains.
      Photobook is a great idea too. It does take a ton of time.

  • Little House December 19, 2013, 7:01 am

    These all sound like great ideas. I think she’d really appreciate the massage and the alone time! I’m still getting stuff done for Christmas. Unfortunately, our school semester doesn’t end until this Friday which has put a crimp on my time! But not to worry, Mr. LH has everything under control (thank goodness!)

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2013, 9:46 pm

      Great job Mr. LH. 😉
      Merry Christmas! Our preschool just let out. The next 2 weeks is going to be pretty hectic with the kid around all the time.

  • Leslie Tayne December 19, 2013, 10:16 am

    These are all great ways to get into the holiday spirit whether your loved one has everything or not. Spending quality time with friends and family is the best gift to give during the holiday season.

  • Well Heeled Blog December 19, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Plan a romantic weekend away for her sometime during the year – and arrange for babysitting for your son so she doesn’t have to worry about taking care of that. Doesn’t have to be a long trip away, – try one or two nights at a Bed & Breakfast, plus a nice brunch and dinner, maybe some live music or a stroll around a park or garden. The key is that you have to plan everything yourself so that all she has to do is to pack her bags and get away.

    This is kind of the gift I would want my husband to give me! 🙂

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2013, 9:48 pm

      We did that in October and it was great. I’m waiting for my parents to come for a visit, then I’d plan another weekend getaway. Good luck with your gifts. 🙂

  • Tortoise Banker December 19, 2013, 1:39 pm

    Love the idea of a gym membership! My Father in law had a couple surgeries early this year, and has been talking about excersizing on a more regular basis. through his health plan, he can get a year pass for $100… score! (Kaiser Permanente’s fit program).

  • payitoff December 19, 2013, 2:53 pm

    I’m glad you celebrate Christmas! it makes me feel better, i cant just be all focused on debt repayment, and retirement and forget about Christmas since its a very expensive tradition especially now that i have kids too, i still vividly remember my childhood memories during this time of the year, and i just cant take that away from my kids because i want to live a comfortable life in 10 years. i just dont think it is fair. life is all about balance anyway, how can we enjoy stuff when were too old for it already right?

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2013, 9:50 pm

      Yeah, we need to relax once in a while. Kids need gifts once in a while and they shouldn’t be that expensive anyway. It’s the adult gifts that tend to cost a lot.
      Merry Christmas!

  • payitoff December 19, 2013, 2:55 pm

    oh speaking about massage.. you might want to check out the chinese foot spas — they advertise 1 hour foot massage for $20 when its actually almost a full body massage! they massage your back, head, arms, legs and mostly feet which is reflexology. They also have a couples room for a private session. $40 for 1 hour couple massage, you just cant beat that, plus free tea after! my husband and i does it all the time!

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2013, 9:51 pm

      We had one in Taiwan and they beat our feet up pretty bad. We can’t go in there…. $20 is pretty good though. I’ll check out the local ones.

  • Lauri December 19, 2013, 8:26 pm

    We have a 2 and a 4 yr old and with all the gifts they get from g-parents etc it’s just too much so we actually don’t reallyget gifts for them yet. Plus, too much stuff drives me crazy (first world problem). They don’t seem to notice yet. I like useful things that I hate buying myself, like socks, and my husband seems happy with that too. Guess we’re pretty lame. Most of my gift-giving goes to family and low income friends in S. America. It’s more fun to buy things for people who don’t have much.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2013, 9:53 pm

      Our kid isn’t getting much stuff from his grandparents. They’d probably send some cash and we’ll put that in his education fund.
      I’m really difficult to buy for too. I like to buy my own socks. 🙂
      Merry Christmas!

  • Mike Collins December 20, 2013, 4:36 am

    Quality time is a great gift for Mrs RB40. Kids have a way of taking over every aspect of your life and if you’re not careful it can really hurt your relationship with your spouse. It’s important to regularly make time for each other without any kids around.

  • Barbara Friedberg December 21, 2013, 7:57 am

    My favorite: The massage! That is a perfect gift (even if you don’t have everyting). Especially during these stressful times, taking time out for pampering sounds great to me.

  • Cristin @ Eve of Reduction December 21, 2013, 8:46 am

    Hi Joe, This would be a great article for the Frugal Blog Hop at Eve of Reduction. Come over and share! http://eveofreduction.com/frugal-blog-hop/

  • Felix Lee December 21, 2013, 8:38 pm

    Giving out quality time for our loved ones is something we cannot do everyday. As much as we want to spend quality time everyday with our family, we have to be practical and of course become busy to earn a living to provide to them.

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