Heirloom Gifts: Frugal or Frivolous?

If you give gifts around the holidays, you’re probably either deep in the throes of holiday shopping right now, or about to start. This time of year always leaves me feeling torn. I did several years of no gifting at all – just time spent with friends and family, making and eating great food and trying to refocus my over-commercialized perspective. Incredibly enough, there were a TON of people who got really angry with me for “ruining their holiday” even though I didn’t expect them to follow my lead. But that was a few years ago, and now I am a mom with kids to think about, I’m doing a bit of refocusing yet again.

We’re back to giving gifts now, and I’m trying to decide which I like better: practical, useful gifts or those with more of an heirloom quality that will still be around many years from now. 

For example:

Practical Gifts

  • Gift Certificate for an oil change, tank of gas or groceries
  • Food gifts
  • Household needs, like eco-friendly cleaning supplies and Skoy cloth nestled in a cute storage bin
  • Toiletries, like shampoos, soaps or razors
  • technology (new phone, tablet, etc.)
  • Cash!

Heirloom Gifts

  • For Grammie, a charm bracelet or locket that can be added to or changed each year.
  • For Mommy (that’s me! :) ) A mother’s necklace or ring.
  • For Pop-Pop and Daddy, quality men’s watches, engraved with a message from our little ones.
  • For the kids, timeless, heirloom quality wooden toys, like those from Plan Toys or Hape (we have this great wooden kitchen set and LOVE it), that can be passed down from one child to the next, even one generation to the next. (Think wooden kitchen set, dollhouse, or quality alphabet blocks.)

For years, I gave the most practical gifts I could think of. My mom got fuzzy socks and PJs each year along with her favorite bubble bath. My dad, a gift certificate to get his car serviced and maybe one to pay for his morning coffee for a few weeks. My brother, the college student, always got vegan pantry staples. I loved the idea of taking a bit of everyday expense off, leaving my loved ones a little more money in their own pockets in a time when the economy was at the worst I’ve ever seen it. It just felt like the right, responsible thing to do.

But now? I’m not sure. Heirloom-type gifts tend to be on the less practical and often more expensive side, but they also carry so much meaning, and can often serve as a gift again during their lifetime, effectively cutting their cost back (eventually.) Is it a stretch to call this a greener, more eco-conscious choice? 

One thing is for sure:  Nobody is ever going to look back at an old pair of pajamas or grocery store gift card and remember the time 20 years ago when my baby boy gave it to them with such pride in his eyes.

Looks like the Scrooge in me is getting soft.

So what do you think? Do you prefer practical gifts you can really use, or those that carry more sentimental meaning? Is cost the deciding factor? Leave your thoughts below!

*This is a Type B post. 


  1. says

    Both are great. It depends on the giver and the receiver. For my father-in-law, it’s usually some sort of gadget. For my mother-in-law, it’s always, always, always an heirloom type gift. Some years it’s jewellery, other years it’s serving pieces to go with her china. As the one who inherited the heirlooms on my side of the family, I know that they are things that I love and cherish. I look forward to giving my daughter her great grandmother’s wedding ring some day. I look forward to giving my son his great grandfather’s gold nugget. While those things are “mine” right now, I don’t feel that I own them. If anything, I feel that I’m more of the custodian of these heirlooms until it’s time to pass them on to my children and grandchildren.
    Suzi Satterfield recently posted…Prefold Cloth Diapers Absorbency Test – Bummis vs. GroViaMy Profile

    • Wendy says

      That’s a beautiful way of looking at it, Suzi! I agree. Not sure I would have before I had a family of my own, but I can look at future generations a little differently now. It’s rather nice :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

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