5 Thrifty and Thoughtful Gift Ideas to Spare Your Wallet and the Planet This Holiday Season

Save money AND be the best gift giver this holiday season? We're in.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s it’s estimated that most people throw away over 25% more trash than any other time of the year — amounting to nearly 1 million extra tons of waste every week!

With lists full of family and friends to buy gifts for, staying eco-friendly isn’t always easy during the holidays, but there are still plenty of ways we can minimize our impact while still maximizing on holiday cheer.

If you’re looking to gift sustainably this holiday season, consider opting for a thrifted or homemade gift for that special someone on your list! Here are five ideas to get you started.

Baked treats as a thrifty gift to save your wallet this holiday season

1. Bake Them a Holiday Treat

Who doesn’t love something sweet during the holiday season? Whether you’re looking for the perfect hostess gift or a little something to drop-off for a friend or neighbor, a freshly-baked holiday treat can go a long way to show someone you’re thinking of them — and the baking process makes for a wonderful way to spend a cozy winter afternoon!

Stock up on your ingredients, fire up the holiday music and if you need a little inspiration, try one of these tasty recipes:

Bonus points if you pick up a vintage tin or a reusable dish from a second-hand shop to deliver them in!

2. Upcycle Second-Hand Clothes

The fashion industry is notoriously one of the most wasteful industries in the world, producing  an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste annually. But that doesn’t mean we can’t gift clothing sustainably during the holiday season. 

Shopping for second-hand clothing is a great way to find something totally unique for someone on your list while also granting a second life to a garment that may otherwise end up in a landfill. Plus, there’s something particularly special about finding the perfect piece of clothing for someone second-hand. Rather than simply heading to a shopping mall to grab something off the rack of a fast-fashion brand, a pre-loved find is a treasure hunt requiring time, thoughtfulness and a little good luck to find just the right piece.

It’s also a great option for kids who outgrow their wardrobes much more quickly than adults! Try exploring local vintage shops in your neighborhood or online marketplaces like DePop, ThredUp, Poshmark or Facebook Marketplace to source a special piece for someone on your list.

3. Go Green with a Potted Plant

Fresh flowers are always a gifting hit, both during the holiday season and beyond, but a week later the leaves begin to droop, the petals wilt and the bouquet is tossed away. If you’re looking for a more long-lasting alternative, try changing things up this year with a potted plant that the recipient can keep long after the holiday season comes to a close. 

Whether you’re gifting for the gardener in your life or someone with no green-thumb at all, here are a few easy-to-care for plant options for anyone on your holiday gift list:

Snake Plants: Snake plants require minimal light and not a ton of watering making them pretty resilient for anyone that tends to be forgetful when it comes to plant care.

Spider Plants: These guys can handle all sorts of lighting conditions, plus they’re super easy to propagate making it a gift that keeps on giving!

Bamboo: Bamboo is known for being low-maintenance as well as good luck when given as a gift, making it the perfect gesture of holiday cheer as we prepare to enter the new year!

4. Support a Local Used Book Store

Books are a great option for gifting on a budget and shopping through a local used book store offers the added bonus of sustainability! Whether you’re browsing for the perfect first edition or a new release that’s topping their holiday wishlist, combing the shelves to find the right pre-loved book is all part of the fun with this thrifty gift pick.

Alternatively though, you might consider shopping your own bookshelf! The shared love of a story is one of the best parts about gifting a book and passing along one of your own beloved favorites is an awesome way to build connection and open the door for some thought-provoking conversation over the holiday season! Leave a homemade bookmark on a page with your favorite quote for an added touch of sentimentality or consider hosting a coffee catch-up once they’ve finished reading to discuss your favorite parts!

5. Gift an Experience

There’s often no better gift to give or receive than quality time spent with someone you love. While material gifts can be wonderful, there’s an added sentiment that comes from gifting someone an experience filled with memories that you can both take with you far beyond the holiday season.

It can be as simple as organizing a family game night with snacks and everyone’s favorite board games or as adventurous as a winter weekend away where you spend time disconnecting from your devices and exploring a new place together one-on-one. 

If the gift of time feels like the right fit for someone on your list, here are a few ideas to get you inspired:

  • Take a pottery class at a local art studio.
  • Grab concert tickets and spend an evening listening to one of their favorite artists!
  • Spend a day volunteering for a charity with a cause close to their heart. It’s a wonderful way to give back to your local community while maximizing on quality time with one another.

BONUS: Refer Them to OhmConnect!

Okay, so this isn’t *technically* a thrifted or homemade gift, but who doesn’t love getting rewarded for being more energy efficient? OhmConnect is a program that rewards you for less energy in your home – not just during the holidays, but all year long. It’s free and easy to try and a great way to give back to the planet. 

Whether you’re signing up yourself or referring a sustainably-minded friend or family member, sign-up today and start the new year with your best eco-friendly foot forward!

Kimberly Hutchings

Kimberly Hutchings is a writer, content creator, podcast host and occasional film photographer with a passion for working alongside business that are making a difference in the world. She holds a BA in Communications Studies & English Literature from Wilfrid Laurier University and a certificate in Graphic Design & Visual Communications from OCAD. Always keen to take up a new hobby, you’ll likely find her in her spare time tracking down a deal on her next getaway, scouring Pinterest for the latest cookie recipe, or quietly scribbling things down in her journal.

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