Last Minute Gifts For The Frugals On Your List

Over the years I’ve tried to compile a few last minute gift ideas. Oddly enough, I nearly waited until the very last minute to run this post, as we find ourselves on the final shopping weekend before Christmas. However, it’s not too late to add some frugal gifts to finalize your Christmas shopping this weekend.

Black & Decker Energy Saver Series Power Monitor. Here is one we don’t have, but it is on our Christmas list this year.  I’ve become a bit obsessive about ways to cut our utility bills (yes, I admit it, I have a problem!).  It hurts opening those huge energy bills in the extreme summer and winter.  This gadget allows you to see the effect of each electrical appliance as they cycle on and off, and using info from your electric bill, you can estimate how much those appliances are costing you to operate. used to be the one-stop shop for buying books online. In fact, it still is.  But Amazon now offers so much more!  I have bought everything from packs of diapers to household appliances from Amazon, and I’m sure an Amazon gift certificate would go a long way towards pleasing someone on your list.  They offer several options for procrastinators like print from home or email delivery, so no waiting on a gift card via snail mail–perfect for last minute gifts.

Netflix Membership.  Plans start at $4.99 a month, and are a wonderful last-minute gift idea for the movie buff in your life.  Simply select the plan, length of time you would like to gift and you’re all set.

Programmable Thermostat.  Our utilities were out of control before switching to a programmable thermostat.  We managed to shave nearly 20% off our utility expenses by allowing the night temperature to float up in the summer, and drop lower in the winter.  Just before the alarm clocks go off each morning, the thermostat returns the inside temperature to a comfortable for the morning routine.  A 5-1-1 or 5-2 model even allows you to set a different schedule for sleeping in a bit on the weekend (unless you have small kids).  With utility costs continuing to rise, it won’t take long for this one to pay for itself.

The Total Money Makeover. This one remains in my top two favorite personal finance books.  Oddly enough, I heard the audio book first while commuting after accepting a new job in a new town.  I was hooked, or “gazelle intense,” as author Dave Ramsey likes to say!  I credit Dave, and this book, with helping turn around our financial lives.

The book is not overly complicated, is inspirational, and is written in a tone you’d expect from Dave Ramsey. It would make a great gift, and I recommend a copy for yourself if you have never read it.

Your Money or Your Life. I already mentioned The Total Money Makeover, but this book is my other favorite money book. It is the book that got me interested in the idea of personal finance to begin with, and it introduced the concept of financial independence.  Written in the 1990s, the information is timeless and thought-provoking.  When I read this book I finally made the connection between work, earnings, and life energy.  I realized that trading my precious life energy to pay for additional stuff was simply not worth it–that I could enjoy a more simple way of like and work less for it.

TiVo Series2 80-Hour Dual Tuner DVR. We’ve had our TiVo for a couple years now, and I have to tell you it is one of the best purchases we have ever made (this was a present to ourselves).  For a while we were renting a DVR from our cable company, and the digital service that went along with it. Then, I discovered TiVo.

I like the TiVo interface much more than the one that came with the cable box, and I like the fact that I own the machine outright. If I move, I can take it with me. If I want another one for the living room, I can buy one. No extra rental fees from the cable provider.

We have really cut back on television viewing, but enjoy the efficiency of watching a program on TiVo.  Fast forwarding through commercials cuts way down on television viewing time.  I also like the ability to log into my TiVo box from work, or on the road, and select a program to record via a web interface.

Programmable 5.5 qt. Crock Pot.  We stay pretty busy around the frugal household these days.  A couple times a week we have after school activities and sports practices on the same night!  Not much time for meal preparation on those days.  And that is where our crock pot comes in handy.

Our favorite meal is a large pork roast rubbed with garlic salt and cooked slow all day in a crock pot and about a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of water.  We have enough meat to slice for homemade barbecue sandwiches for days–delicious!

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine Subscription. For one dollar a month (assuming a $12 annual subscription) you can get some of the best reporting on investments, taxes, insurance, paying for college, planning for retirement, home ownership, major purchases such as cars and computers and other personal finance topics. Over the years I have also subscribed to Money, Smart Money, and a host of other finance magazines, but Kiplinger’s remains my favorite.

529 College Savings Plan Contribution. You could just skip presents altogether and make a contribution to a child’s 529 college savings account. It could be for a niece or nephew, a younger sibling, or maybe even an unrelated child whose family could use a little boost. This is truly the gift that will continue to give for years to come.

Presto 22-inch Jumbo Electric Griddle.  I mentioned that we stay busy and have little time cooking most weeknights. To further complicate matters, we are experiencing more cold, rainy weather than we are used to.  This makes grilling outdoors tough. Our solution? An indoor griddle.

The griddle was given with the idea we could use it to make pancakes and breakfast foods, but we found it to be excellent for cooking slices of chicken, pork, and thin steaks indoors. As fattier meats cook the grease runs down into a drip container making meats a little healthier.  Cleanup is a snap thanks to a non-stick surface.

Money Mammals. We were lucky enough to receive a copy of Money Mammals from the creator, and my kids really enjoyed it.  In my review I posted here at Frugal Dad, I called Money Mammals the Little Einsteins for personal finance education for children.  It remains a unique product, and would make a great gift for little ones on your Christmas list.

Cash. If all else fails, give cash.  Cash is the universal gift. It can be spent anywhere that accepts money!  No worries over expiration dates, stores going bust and gift cards becoming invalid.  And one of the best things about cash is the recipient doesn’t have to spend it at all.  Maybe they can use it to add to their debt snowball, or get a jump start on an emergency fund.


  1. These are some great ideas for gifts – thanks! The only one I would think twice about is the Dave Ramsey book. I would find it insulting and embarrassing to be given this book, not only because it implies that I can’t manage my money, but also implies that I’m broke. I would only see this as possibly appropriate for an adult ‘child’ of the giver, one who is either just starting out or one who doesn’t handle finances well. Otherwise it’s condescending and insulting. I say this having read the book, and getting little from it, although I realize I’m not his target audience.

  2. I think your ideas are really good and I wish I would have thought of them! Enjoy your site. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  3. @Gary: Thanks for your comments. I agree that the Dave Ramsey book may not be for everyone on your list. An adult child, or perhaps a brother or sister just starting out (or in need of a financial turnaround), would be a great target audience for this book. I would not, however, hand it out to coworkers or those who might take it as a symbol of you giving unsolicited financial advice.

  4. My mom’s birthday is in early December, so our gift to her was a one-month Netflix membership for $8.99 plus tax. She just finished her BA, so I told her it’s time to kill of some brain cells with pop culture.

    The plan I got will allow her to stream movies right to her computer so she can have entertainment almost instantly! I figure it’s a great way for her to learn civilian life now that she’s not working two part-time jobs and going to school.

  5. The Netflix membership is a great idea! I’ve been trying to think of something for my parents (what do you get them when they have started cleaning out stuff in anticipation of downsizing in the next few years). This would be especially good now since mom will not drive in the winter & dad just had total knee replacement surgery two weeks ago, so he will not be going too far for a while. Thanks for the ideas!

  6. I’m going to have to read that book “Your Money or Your Life”. I checked on Amazon, and it looks like the latest revision was Dec 10, 2008. So that probably means the financial numbers probably has been update too.

    Perhaps that will be a Christmas present to give to myself 🙂

  7. @Don: Yes, the latest edition has more up-to-date financial information. The first book was written in the 90’s and the author advocated buying treasuries, which at the time were yielding around 6.5%. The market has certainly changed, and the book reflects these changes and provides some new advice.