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Practical Holiday Gifts

practical holiday gifts for everyone

I’ve mentioned many times in the past that I don’t especially enjoy giving or receiving gifts in most situations. I always appreciate gifts given for the right reasons, but sadly, most of the time, we feel the need to buy things for others out of obligation and we often spend too much. Right now is prime gift season, and since I’m not ready to be a total Scrooge, here are my best ideas for practical holiday gifts.

Health Related Gifts

Being in the medical field, I think giving practical holiday gifts that improve overall health and well being are fantastic. While giving a gift certificate to the dentist or eye doctor might not be mainstream, I can speak from experience that people who receive those are ecstatic. After all, who enjoys paying for contacts or teeth cleanings?

Also, instead of giving cookies or fattening treats this season, why not help someone get healthy? Of course you don’t want to offend by making loved ones think they are out of shape or unattractive, but you probably have a gut feeling about who would be receptive to this sort of gift.

There are tons of health related possibilities.

  • Glasses (regular, computer, or reading)
  • Contacts
  • Sunglasses
  • Teeth Whitening
  • Fitbit
  • Massage
  • Facials/Dermatology
  • Monthly Gym Pass
  • Resistance Bands
  • Workout DVD’s
  • Mail Order Juice or Meal Delivery

The possibilities are endless!

Gifts to Help Cut Cable

Since cutting the cord a couple of years back, I’ve been telling everyone who will listen how unnecessary cable or satellite TV really is. Tons of people find the benefits of on demand and streaming services every day, but there are still lots of holdouts who are stuck in their habits. These folks are throwing money down the drain every month because they don’t understand how easy and functional cheaper TV alternatives really are.

Using a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick is very simple and inexpensive, and you can give gift subscriptions or gift cards for Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu. By giving long time subscribers the tools to move beyond the ball and chain of a monthly cable bill, your gift could end up saving them thousands of dollars over time.

Travel Gifts

I realize there are people who don’t enjoy travel, but a big reason many people don’t take time off is because of money. Vacations are important for our health, productivity, and attitude.

Probably the best gift I’ve ever given was a week long vacation. When I knew I was about to sell my optometry practice, I gave a long term employee and his wife a trip of their choosing to anywhere in the US. I’m sure he doesn’t remember any of the other gifts I gave over the years, but I’m sure he will remember that one forever.

You don’t have to be that extreme. Giving a night at a local hotel or even a gift card to help cover lodging, airfare, or gas for a trip could be the boost someone needs to take a much needed and well deserved vacation.

Gift Cards

I’ve heard many times that giving gift cards is not personal, and I know that many people don’t redeem them or even worse, end up spending on unnecessary things because they have a gift card. However, if you buy the right person the right gift card, it means you know them well enough to know this is one of the best practical holiday gifts.

The trick is to give a gift card that is easy to use in a timely manner. One year we got a gift for Regal Cinemas, which would have been fantastic except that the nearest one is four hours away. Needless to say, that gift card sat in my purse for a couple of years before I finally sold it for less than face value on eBay.

Also, don’t buy someone a gift card you hope they will use. Maybe you think your in-laws should take dance lessons because you love dancing, but in reality, there is no chance on earth they will ever use this gift.

Choose something you know that person uses already, even if it’s boring. Grocery stores, gas stations,Target, Wal-Mart, Jiffy Lube; all those are practical and will get used. Maybe it’s not glamorous, but I’d much rather have $20 to spend on Amazon than any potholder/cookie jar/candle.

Practical Holiday Gifts Can be Unique

There are also ways that practical holiday gifts can be unique. When you buy someone something you know they will use but are unlikely to buy for themselves, this equates to the holy grail of gift giving. There are as many possibilities as there are personalities, but here are some of the better ones I’ve received over the years.

  • Baby Jogger for pregnant runners- It beats getting 50 size three months onesies!
  • A huge bag of dog food when we had three dogs.
  • Crock-Pot– I love the idea but would have never bought my own for some reason.
  • An Insulated Lunch Bag– One of my favorite gifts ever!
  • Carry-on Size Suitcase
  • Car Detail Gift Certificate
  • Electric Toothbrush

Here’s to hoping you don’t have to end up gifting Pajamagrams or Chia Pets this holiday season!

What is the best practical gift you’ve ever received? Would you rather have a set of mugs or a gift card?





About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. We’re all about practical gifts as it just makes giving a gift so much easier. We really only buy gifts for our kids and our parents so we usually just use the money we’d spend on each other and get something we both want – or put it in our vacation fund. I just got my eyes checked & new contacts last week – I’d happily take that as a present. 🙂

  2. I love when someone gifts me a massage or anything from a spa really! And I love gift cards as well. I don’t know about teeth whitening or the fitbit though, I might get somewhat insulted unless I specifically asked for it. I could see a lot of “what are you trying to tell me!” happening. 🙂

  3. Chia pets – LOL! I love giving gifts but agree that at Christmas, in particular, it can seem more like an obligation versus a choice. I always try to think of the recipient and whether they are the type of person to enjoy a practical gift or an indulgent gift (something they would enjoy but either can’t afford or simply won’t buy for themselves). I am also a big fan of gift cards and really don’t think they are impersonal. When I don’t know what gift card they would appreciate the most, I go with a Visa or American Express card, so they can do whatever they want.

  4. I’m a fan of practical gifts and gift cards. There’s nothing that I “MUST” have right now and people usually say I’m a difficult person to buy gifts for haha.

    • I think lot of us could say there is nothing we must have right now and that’s why I have such a hard time with giving gifts I think. I hate to spend money on things that aren’t useful or really appreciated!

  5. I’m a huge fan of gift cards, but many people I know do not like to give them (my family included). Anything practical, really, is appreciated.

    • My family likes the idea of gift cards but then sticks them in a drawer. I found a huge stash of all the gift cards they had gotten over a several year period. After that, I stopped giving them gift cards!

  6. I got a gift certificate for a facial at a salon one year and it was SO wonderful. That is something I’ll be doing regularly once our debt is paid off.

  7. This is an awesome gift list! We have personally given a few family members Rokus for Christmas in the hopes that they would cut the cable cord. We did it almost two years ago and haven’t missed it at all.

    • Just after I did this post, our Roku started acting up! I hope it was just something with the internet. Otherwise, I think I’ll try the Fire stick.

  8. Personally, I consider gift cards as really practical. I actually prefer this gift than any other gifts, unless it’s a personalized item. 😀

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