Sustainable Gift Ideas For Minimalists (43 Unique Ideas)

Over the past decade, we have embraced a minimalist lifestyle, including three years on a very tight budget.

Given the high inflation rate, which is currently higher than it was in the 1970s, and energy prices have tripled where we live, we must be mindful of our spending habits this year.

So, while it is important to distinguish between our needs (shelter, food, warmth, and love) and our wants, giving a small gift to those we love during the holiday season is very special.

Therefore, based on our experiences, we have compiled a list of four helpful tips to consider when celebrating Christmas during times of inflation:

#1. Buy Local

There are several reasons why buying locally for Christmas gifts can be better for your wallet and the environment.

First, purchasing from local businesses typically helps support the local economy, which can positively impact the community.

This can help to:

  • create jobs,
  • stimulate economic growth,
  • and keep money circulating within the community.

It’s a more sustainable choice.

Furthermore, buying locally can often save you money, as you may find unique and high-quality products at a lower cost than you would at large chain stores.

Local businesses may also offer sales or discounts to encourage shopping locally. You also save quite a bit on shipping!

Buying on Amazon can lead to high shipping times, costs, and fuel consumption. Therefore, buying locally can help reduce your purchases’ environmental impact.

You can also buy from local stores that source and sell sustainable products! Supporting those stores sets a precedent to keep sustainable, eco-friendly shops open.

Finally, buying locally can also be more convenient, as you can find a wider variety of products at a local store or market rather than travel to a larger city or shop online.

A smaller store comes with much less choice paralysis or feeling overwhelmed by all the brands and options.

Instead, you can get exactly what you need and go home!

#2. Wish for Inexpensive Things

Asking for expensive gifts can be demotivating for your friends and family who might be on a tight budget.

Instead, try to ask for things that you require rather than want! This could be the sequel to a book you’ve just read, or a new inexpensive kitchen item, like a serving spoon or salt and pepper shakers.

By asking for something inexpensive, you not only make it easier on the people around you, but you can also reduce clutter and focus on experiences or the little things in life.

If you are looking for a list of things you could ask for, we have a few to think about:

  • #3 Books
  • #4 Art Supplies
  • #5 Board Games or Puzzles
  • #6 Cooking/Baking Supplies
  • #7 Soaps and Lotions
  • #8 Off-Brand Items and Clothes

Inexpensive gifts also tend to have a smaller environmental impact, requiring fewer resources to produce and transport.

This can be important if you try to be more environmentally responsible.

#9. Give Experiences

Giving experiences as gifts can be a great way to show someone that you care about them and want to create special memories with them.

Max in Legoland

Experiences can be more meaningful and long-lasting than material gifts and can be a great way to bond with friends and loved ones.

It’s the perfect gift idea for a minimalist.

Some ideas for experiences to give as gifts might include:

  • #10 tickets to a sporting event
  • #11 tickets to a concert.
  • #12 gift certificate for a spa day
  • #13 a cooking class (could be yourself as the teacher)
  • #14 local adventure activities

That said, be careful with gift cards.

(They often end up in a junk drawer. Too many gift cars never get used.)

You could also consider giving the gift of travel, such as booking a weekend getaway or planning a special trip together.

Here are a few great, inexpensive things to do together:

#15 Getting Outdoors:

For families that love the outdoors, no matter the weather, having a day or weekend away outside is a great gift to give.

Whether you take a picnic or go hiking, getting outdoors lets you all exercise and enjoy nature’s beauty.

Morten Hiking in Madeira
Morten hiking down a mountain. (We worked from Madeira in January this year)

It can also be a great way to bond with loved ones and spend quality time together.

Hiking also allows children to explore their surroundings and learn about the natural world, which can be a fun and educational experience.

It also creates opportunities to talk, laugh, and share stories about your lives.

Things get hectic around the holidays, and we often lose track of what everyone is up to. Try slowing down and talking while enjoying the beauty of nature!

#16 Cooking Together:

If you struggle to find the perfect gift for your spouse or partner, consider having an evening to cook together.

Cooking together provides an opportunity for couples to spend quality time together.

Maria and Max cooking in the kitchen Maria and Max cooking in the kitchen

You pick the recipe together and then go buy ingredients as a team.

Then put on some music, pour some wine (if you like to drink), and get ready to work together!

Cooking and preparing a meal requires focus and attention, which allows couples to be present with each other and engage in meaningful conversation.

It also allows couples to be creative and work together. Whether coming up with a new recipe or improvising with ingredients, cooking together allows couples to collaborate to create something delicious.

This gift can also be a way to show care and affection.

It shows that you want to take time and put effort into an evening date night rather than go out for an hour or two.

Preparing a meal for someone can be a thoughtful and loving gesture, and cooking together allows couples to share the experience of creating something special for each other.

Finally, cooking together can also be romantic.

It is an up close and personal experience that you both may find you really enjoy!

Even better, you could turn cooking together into a monthly or even weekly experience in the future.

#17 Building Legos:

Kids not only love to play with their favorite toys, but they like to spend time with you.

We built this Lego truck of bricks we already had. We built this Lego truck of bricks we already had.

Did you know: You can find instructions to all Lego sets on Lego’s website. So, if you already have Lego bricks laying around – you don’t need to buy the Lego set.

We have lots of Legos because my parent’s old neighbors worked at a Lego factory.

When it comes to Lego bricks we’re not exactly minimalists 😀

By giving someone a gift that can involve you in the building process, you are giving them two gifts in one!

If you are looking for an inexpensive activity for you and your kids, consider getting one of the cheaper Lego sets and helping them build it together!

Building with Legos is a great way to spend quality time with your child and allows you to bond and interact with each other in an engaging way.

If you keep your Lego purchases on the lower end, you will find that this is a much more memorable and meaningful gift you can give your children on a budget!

#18 Indoor Kids’ Activities:

Buying your children an indoor event day pass is a great way to give them a memorable experience, not just a toy.

It is also a good bulk-gift idea, where you can spend it on all your children at once!

For example, you could:

  • #19 visit a local museum,
  • #20 aquarium,
  • #21 planetarium,
  • #22 take a trip to a trampoline park or indoor play center,
  • #23 Go Ice or roller skating
  • #24 Gocarting
  • #25 Escape room
  • #26 Go sleep in the forest
  • #27 fishing trip
  • #28 Treasure hunt
  • etc.

The important takeaway here is to spend time with your children on something that they would really enjoy that they get to share with you.

Take pictures, make a whole day or weekend of it, and preserve the memories for years.

#29 Helping Parents Around the House:

Just because you moved out years ago doesn’t mean you can’t help your parents around the house at Christmas time!

Even though we are adults and have moved away, we can still come back and support our parents with things on their “to-do” lists.

Doing work on the yard, the house, or the car is a huge help and can ease the burden on our older parents, who might need extra support but don’t know how to ask for it.

Furthermore, giving the gift of your time and effort is very thoughtful. It can be a way to strengthen your relationship with your parents.

By supporting each other, you can build deeper bonds and strengthen your connection as a family.

#30 Make Homemade Presents

Turning your hobby into a homemade present is a great way to hone your craft and give a cheaper gift for the holiday!

If you enjoy knitting, you can turn your hobby into gifts by creating handmade items such as:

  • #31 scarves,
  • #32 hats,
  • #33 gloves,
  • #34 or blankets.

If you enjoy woodworking, you can create handmade items such as:

  • #35 picture frames,
  • #36 cutting boards,
  • #37 furniture,
  • #38 or Christmas tree decorations.

You can also bake homemade treats and put them into beautiful wrappings for friends and coworkers to save your gift money for the family if you need to.

Furthermore, you can craft gifts, such as:

  • #39 jewelry,
  • #40 paintings,
  • #41 homemade candles,
  • #42 or embroidered fabrics!

Whatever your hobby is, turning it into gifts can be a great way to share your passions and skills with others, and it can also be a way to create meaningful and personalized gifts for loved ones.

#43 Printing Photos

Printing photos is not a handmade gift but just as meaningful and personal. Photos allow you to share memories and moments with your loved ones, and they are tangible things you can use to decorate the house!

Photos also show your friends and family that you love and appreciate them.

Even though we can share photos on Facebook or online, wrapping and printing your family favorites is a more personal gift – especially for the older generation.

You could print photos of:

  • yourself,
  • each other,
  • vacation photos,
  • or some of your favorite landscape shots from camping or hiking.

You can also use those photos to help create gallery walls and decorative collages around the house!

Putting together a wall of memories together during the holiday season is a great experience and a gift to give.

Bonus Tip on Christmas Trees!

Regarding their environmental impact, it is important to consider the lifecycle of both real and fake Christmas trees.

This includes:

  • production,
  • use,
  • and disposal.

Once you know more, you can decide which option is more sustainable for you and your family!

Plastic Trees:

Fake Christmas trees are made of plastic or other synthetic materials and are not biodegradable.

Morten in front of our Christmas tree. Morten in front of our Christmas tree.

They can last for many years but ultimately end up in landfills once they are no longer usable.

The carbon-intensive manufacturing methods to create plastic trees and the energy sources used to power the manufacturing facility can also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

And don’t forget the transportation, distribution costs, and fuel involved in getting the tree to the consumer (you).

So, how how much CO2 is used to make a plastic Christmas tree?

“…the average artificial tree carries a carbon emissions cost of around 40kg, compared to the 3.5-16kg per real tree…each fake tree would need to be reused between 7-11 times before it resulted in less emissions than a real tree.”


However, plastic trees don’t biodegrade as real trees, so even if you used them for ten years and dumped them, they would still sit in a landfill for decades, if not longer, before breaking down.

If you are hoping to save money by buying a fake tree, know that there are a lot of environmental impacts to consider!

Real Trees:

Real Christmas trees are grown specifically for holiday decorations and are typically sourced from tree farms. These trees are biodegradable and can be recycled or composted after use.

In the U.S. alone, there are about 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees sold every year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Most of those are either burned or sent to landfills after Christmas.

However, even with a real tree’s burning or decomposing rate, it is still more environmentally friendly than a fake tree.

This is because tree farms work on a sustainable system, where they continuously plant and grow new trees to offset the loss of old ones.

Not only do the new trees eat up the CO2 in the atmosphere, but they are also usually local. Buying from local tree farms cuts down on transportation emissions more than if you got a fake tree from China.

While we understand that not everyone can spend $40 per Christmas tree annually, it is important to remember that the negative environmental impact is much longer lasting with a fake tree than with a real one.

Tree Alternatives:

If you can’t afford to cut down a tree every year and don’t want to harm the environment, consider an alternative!

You can stack books into a large pyramid and make book trees, create a DIY advent calendar on the wall, or assemble your presents beneath a Christmas card tower display in your living room!

Hang lights around the living room and make the entire room feel like a Christmas tree instead to save yourself and the planet some hassle.


Quick Tree facts | National Christmas Tree Association

Christmas Tree Carbon Emissions: The Real vs. Fake Breakdown

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