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38 Creative Gift Ideas

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How you spend your money is how you vote on what exists in the world.

Having spent my entire Thanksgiving weekend organizing and de-cluttering my living space, I am a bit afraid of acquiring any more stuff. I mean, I love receiving and opening presents, it makes me feel special… but soon it becomes just another thing that I take for granted, while adding to the clutter at home. As the saying goes, “The stuff we own ends up owning us”. Very true!

This year (and for all years after this), I’m advocating for no present exchanges amongst my circle of friends. Their love, friendship and occasional pet sitting favors will suffice. Thank you.

Having said that, many of you are still ‘obligated’ to produce presents. Thus, I’ve compiled this list of gift ideas, following last year’s tradition. Given my current bias towards owning nothing, this year’s list leans towards gift ideas that are practical, clever, frugal, or eco-friendly.

I had way too much fun compiling this list, and I hope that some of these ideas bring many more smiles to the loved ones in your life.

1. Magazine Necklace ($18)

Made of recycled rolled, shellac-dipped magazine strips! Not only incredibly unique, but also supports an amazing cause. Families in Uganda were torn apart during the violent civil war, in which children were trafficked both as soldiers and for sexual exploitation by guerrillas. Now surviving families are rebuilding their lives through this jewelry.

2. Universal TV Remote Control Keychain ($19)

Imagine sitting in a restaurant trying to have a conversation with someone, but the restaurant TV is annoying the heck out of you. For $19, you could get this remote keychain that can turn off any TV. Wow! Alternatively, you could make your own following the instructions here.

3. Diamond Ring Mug ($15)


Turn surprise into laughter. A white porcelain mug with a “Diamond” ring attached to it as handle. The “2 Carat Cup” is packaged in an oversized jewelry box, so when you present it as a gift, all you see is the ring. :)

4. Tickle Me Plant ($6)

The ‘ticklish’ plant that ‘moves’ when you touch it. The set includes a ceramic pot, a package of seeds, a soil pellet, and packaging that becomes a mini greenhouse. When you touch a grown plant, its leaves and flower close. The plant is otherwise known as Mimosa pudica. A pretty unique way to introduce any newbie to gardening. The company’s mission statement is, “We want every child (and those young at heart) to have a positive experience growing plants.” Aw…

5. GOOD Magazine Subscription ($20)

GOOD Magazine donates 100% of subscription money to charity. And the magazine is not bad. Among its non-profit partners (which you have the choice of where the money goes) are: Kiva, Room to Read and Youth Aids.

6. Mix Tape USB Drive ($20)

Ah, memories from the 80s. Remember the days before CDs and MP3 players? If you do, then you probably made mixed tapes of all your favorite music to share with your friends and school crushes on good old fashioned blank cassette tapes! Now you can reclaim that memory, and put MP3s of sappy love songs and other digital files on this 64 MB USB drive, enclosed in an old fashioned cassette tape wrapping.

7. USB Cassette Deck ($135)

Speaking of mix tapes, are you holding onto a pile of these tapes sitting in your attic from the 80s? Now you can let them go, after using this plug & play device to simply transfer your old cassette tapes to CD or MP3 on your computer.

8. Flexible Illuminated Keyboard ($30)


This full size, roll-able, spill-proof, indestructible keyboard serves as an effective portable keyboard for traveling. This one even has the option to light up, giving it a blue glow when you’re in the dark.

9. Heated Computer Keyboard ($36)

People really liked the USB heated blanket from last year’s list. This year, instead of recommending USB heated gloves to warm up our hands, why not have keyboards that can warm them directly? Makes typing more enjoyable on those cold mornings in the office.

10. Porn for Women ($12)

Now that I have your attention, this book is hilarious. I burst out laughing while flipping through it. Yes, it is a joke, but really cute and tastefully done. (Preview pages.)

11. Homemade Chai Tea Mix

Make your own instant chai mix, and put the mix in a nice tin jar. Type or hand write the instructions for brewing and attach it to the side of the jar. Place a few bags of black tea on top of the jar, secure it with a ribbon. Alternatively, you can put the mix in a nice clear bag, close it with a ribbon. Place the bag in a cozy mug. Here’s one recipe.

12. Homemade Sun Jar ($20)

The sun jar collects and stores sun from during the day. Simply put it out in the sun, and watch it light up at night. Watch people’s faces light up when you tell them that you’ve made it yourself. It’s an adorable, unique and functional gift. Love it!

13. Forearm Forklift Lifting Straps ($16)


I know this isn’t the sexiest thing you’ve seen, but it’s pretty darn useful and clever. Invented by a professional mover, these straps will make moving furniture and heavy things a more pleasant experience. The straps actually reduce the weight of objects by 66% and make it much easier to navigate through tight spaces in your home. No more scratches or stains on wood floors or carpets from moves. Also check out the Shoulder Dolly.

14. Nike Sport Kit for iPod Nano ($29)

If you own an iPod Nano and go jogging, check this out. The device tracks running time, distance, pace, calories burned, and can provide real-time spoken feedback that alerts you to workout milestones.

15. Homemade GTD Kit

Introduce someone to Getting Things Done (GTD)productivity concepts with a homemade kit consisting of supplies they may need, including a copy of the book, pads of paper, post-it notes, and filing folders. All set for learning and doing.

16. Homemade Raw Food Kit

Introduce someone to the curious raw food diet with a homemade kit consisting of a recipe book or two, almonds, dried fruits, flax crackers, fresh produce – avocados, bananas, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.

Alternatively, give them all the tools and ingredients they need to make raw spaghetti, with a hand-written or typed recipe. Get creative.

17. Homemade Ideas Kit

Make someone a creative brainstorming kit that includes instructions for creative thinking, a nice notebook and some pens, tie them together with a ribbon. Write on the first page of the notebook, “For your next million dollar idea…” It’s simple and unusual.

18. Origami Sticky Notes ($3)


Bored at work, or need a creative way to distract yourself at your desk? Turn your old sticky notes into 3D paper models. Each sheet has printed instructions on the back – 10 designs in total. Alternatively, use this book with your existing sticky notes. And if you have a lot of time on your hands, consider napkin folding.

19. Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer ($30)

A convenient toothbrush container with built-in UV germ-killing capabilities. When the lid is closed, the germicidal light activates and within 6 minutes, you have a sanitized toothbrush. Pretty cool!

20. Recycled Paper Hot Mat ($8)

This hot mat is made from recycled materials, and designed to keep moisture and heat from sensitive table tops. Recycled newspaper provides hope and income for Filipino families. Here’s a larger version of the mat.

21. Flowbee Haircutting System ($85)

Give yourself a professional looking haircut at home. I thought it was a joke, until I read the raving reviews. Seems like those who own one love it and it can save you a lot of money in the long run.

22. Zipcar Membership ($75)

Pay-per-use car rental, paid by the hour. For $10 an hour, the service includes the car, insurance and gas. Fantastic option for us car-less downtown dwellers – where parking runs $300 a month, and it just doesn’t make sense to own a car. I have personally been a member for 3 years and love it.

23. Eco-Friendly External Hard Drive ($74)


With its sleek modern design, this eco-friendly external hard drive is encased in bamboo grown by the manufacturer and steam-pressed without chemicals or wood varnish. The case also uses 100% recycled aluminum. And get this – the instruction manual is printed on the box to reduce paper usage. Additionally, the Energy Star Level 4 power adapter is a fan-less design for energy efficiency. (Cheapest one I found was $74) Can hold 500GB of data.

24. Candle by the Hour ($23)

You can preset the amount of burning time for this candle, by the hour. So, it’s cool if you fall asleep while the candle is still on. Additionally, the candle is made out of beeswax, which apparently helps to clean the air.

25. Forever Lasting Radio-Flashlight-Nightlight ($19)

Forever is a long time, and such is the claim for this battery-free AM/FM radio, flashlight, and table-top nightlight. 1 minute of cranking will give you 20 minutes of radio listening or 40 minutes of flashlight and nightlight. Not only is this functional, it’s also creatively designed, making it an attractive display on shelves, tables or nightstands.

Before you go to bed, crank it for music from your favorite radio stations. It will turn off automatically in 20 minutes while you are falling asleep. Let the flashlight show you the way to bathroom in the middle of night.

26. Planet Earth Series ($55)

This 11-episode DVD set shows off the world’s environmental beauty and extremes, from mountains and oceans to ice worlds and underground caves. Highly recommended. Beautifully produced, aw-inspiring and very educational.

27.The Green Book ($10)

A very practical and outstanding resource book on the little things we can do to help our environment. Did you know that, if everyone in the U.S. used one less paper napkin per day, in a year’s time we would have saved one billion pounds of landfill waste? I didn’t know that!

28. Mobile Alarm Clock ($50)


Need a push in the morning to get out of bed? This alarm clock moves and will give you one snooze before it runs away, thus forcing you out of bed to find it before shutting it off. Clever!

29. iPhone Glove ($15-$40)

For navigating your touch screen mobile device in the cold. The gloves have little round metal scratch-free dots on the tips of the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger that allow you to register touch inputs on your iPhone, G1 Phone or Blackberry Storm. Another company – Freehand, tackles the problem with a different solution – caps that flip back exposing your thumb and index finger. They’re $20 (fleece), $30 (stretch) and $40 (leather).

30. “The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” ($11)

For anyone out there even remotely interested in the possibilities of working for yourself, this book is for you. It’s one of the best books on entrepreneurship and business mindsets. While you’re at it, you might also be interested in “Small Business Ideas: 400 Latest & Greatest Small Business Ideas”

31. “Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway” ($11)

We all have fears. Thus, this book is appropriate for everyone. One of my favorite books, and I recommend it to everyone.

32. Bubble Scrubber ($6)


Kitchen cleaning brush with a built-in bubble wand. See if you can use this to encourage your kids or lazy roommate to help with the dishes. Bubble wand + dish soap + water = FUN!

33. Staple Free Stapler ($6)

This little gem attaches pages together by cutting and folding the papers together, thus removing the need for metal clips or staples. Great for documents you know you’ll throw away – no more removing metal staples before feeding it into the shredder or recycling it.

34. Recycled Bangle Picture Frame ($28)

Unique frames made with pieces of broken glass bangle bracelets, the jingling ornaments worn by women throughout India. Here’s one with a different design.

35. Table Topics Conversation Cards ($25)

Need a conversation started at the dinner table or on road trips? These cards seem like a great idea to get people communicating and connecting. Also available for couples, teens, and families.

36. One Laptop Per Child ($199-$399)


These are innovatively designed, low-cost, rugged, plastic laptops for children living in the most remote environments. As such, the laptop consists of some amazing features: small text book sized, built-in wireless, unique screen to make it readable under direct sunlight, and ultra-low power (4 watts vs. 40 watts used in conventional laptops).

For $199, you can give this impactful learning tool to a child in a developing country. For $399, you can keep one for your child (or yourself), in addition to giving one to a child in need. (Learn more about the laptop)

37. ModestNeeds – Instantly Change a Life ($10+)

Get a gift certificate at ModestNeeds, and help a family struggling to make ends-meet with heating bills this month. The testimonials of families it’s helped are pretty moving. Just have a look.

38. Give $25 to Puppies Behind Bars

Puppies Behind Bars trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled.

Conscious Gift Wrapping

Reduce your gift wrapping waste by recycling and reusing items from around the house. Use old posters, magazines, comics, paper shopping bags, Sunday funnies, scrap fabric, calendars or old maps. Get creative. When you receive gifts, be sure to save the ribbons and bows.Alternatively, you could make your own bows: using old wrapping paper, or regular white paper.


Thoughts on Holiday Cards

I am not a big fan of holiday cards. I never know what to do with them. On one hand, you don’t want to toss it away, knowing someone spent money on it and wrote in it. On the other hand, you don’t want to keep it, since it clutters up your living space.

“An estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and the New Year an extra million tons of waste are generated nationwide each week.” (source: CIWMB)

If you must get cards, check out these from the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, each of which features a different child’s drawing. All of the profits go to WWOs innovative programs, which provide resources to children in orphanages around the world


Other Places for Gifts

  • Made By Survivors – Jewelry, clothing and gifts made by survivors of sex trafficking to support rehab programs.
  • World of Good – online eBay shop introduces consumers to the actual artisans and causes. Simple and clear categories defining your purchase impact: People Positive, Eco Positive, or Animal Friendly.
  • Ten Thousand Villages-Similar to World of Good.
  • Etsy– Marketplace for handmade and original things. Support creative souls following their hearts, and making beautiful things. Anything from clothing, to jewelry, to ceramics, to artwork.
  • Make Your Own – from the clever people at instructables. Here are more ideas.

Need more ideas? Here’s our list from last year:

Got unique gift ideas you want to share? Do tell! Do tell! … in the comment section. See you there! And while you’re there, what do you want for Christmas this year?

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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65 thoughts on 38 Creative Gift Ideas

  1. Hey Tina, some great ideas here for gift giving!

    I especially like the ones that are creative and low-cost.

    I think we have a big opportunity right now to rethink what it means to give gifts. Instead of focusing on new gadgets and toys, we can use our innate creativity and desire to help others to give gifts that have real meaning.

    Just wrote a post about this as well:
    3 Original Gift Ideas for the Holidays

    Have a week!

  2. I have friends who are creating new gift-giving traditions. Some of those include; gifting an amount of money to a charity of the person’s choice, planting a tree, buying a toy to support the WWF and gifting the toy to a needy child, initiating the sponsoring of a needy child. You can also use other gestures that make other people special without giving them physical objects. You can also gift “experiences.” I have seen wedding websites organized that way. You are only limited by your imagination.

  3. Hi, christmas is coming soon. It is inevitable that we have to buy some things to give it to friends. The gifts can be simple and cheap, what important is the loving and caring heart.
    Your tips are ready useful for this coming Christmas.
    Have a beautiful day.

  4. Porn for Women – thats hillarious – I’ll stumble to that!

    Do you know the guy on that Microsoft “I’m a PC” commercial – the “I have a beard” guy?” Well he’s a photographer and you can buy signed prints of his from about ~$40. A rather unique and affordable gift I think!

  5. Jimmy Southidara

    all great gifts. I want the illuminated keyboard!!!!

  6. Thank you for including in you list. Over 1000 people have come to us from this post and we appreciate the help you have given to help fight human trafficking and slavery.

    John Berger, CEO
    The Emancipation Network

  7. I am generally skeptical of lists, but this is a good one. Lots of good ideas!

    A good mix of functional and feel good. :)

  8. What about giving a SERVICE as a gift?

    An oil change

    A massage

    Gift card from the grocery store?

    A TAROT READING???!!!!

    Yes, I read tarot professionally, and taa daaa!! I’m ethical.

    I can be reached at 773-677-5306, and am happy to read for folks via phone. And I take PayPal.



  9. What a great blog you have here. I have to say that I definitely want that porn book…plus a bunch of other stuff on your list!

  10. I love the origami sticky notes–how cute!

  11. you have a nice blog. Thanks for sharing the ways of giving gifts.

  12. Francis

    Oh god I have to grow me a Tickleme Plant. I remember seeing that in the botanical gardens when I was younger. I didnt know it made such a great house plant.
    What a great find! I ordered the Greenhouse for my kids…they are going to do cartwheels when the see a plant close up when they tickle it!

  13. wow great lists! thanks for this!

  14. Thanks for sharing with us all these great gift ideas; I really like the light up keyboard ;D

  15. Ada

    All fantastic ideas–wanting heated computer keyboard more for now

  16. Lolita

    #4 is so cool, I want a tickle me plant greenhouse for valentines day!
    I heard of talking to plants but tickling them….this will be a great conversation piece in my apartment

  17. I wish I read this post before Christmas. The ideas are quite uncommon, especially the ones on gifting Flexible Illuminated Keyboard and Bubble Scrubber.

  18. Khuram Malik

    I gave my mum 5 vouchers i printed on my computer last year, for her Birthday (Cost, about $1).

    Each voucher had a different activity on it, e.g…

    – Mow the Lawn
    – Make Breakfast
    – Drive me to work
    etc , and i gave her one blank one.

    I told her she could use those vouchers any time throughout the year, just the once.

    She absolutely loved her present, and said it was the best present she had ever received. My siblings and Dad bought her some pretty expensive gifts, yet, it was my present she was talking about and showing-off at work for the whole of the next week! :)

  19. Tanya

    Brilliant, this has totally saved xmas!

  20. James

    Where do you find these great ideas? I love those Tickle Me Plants
    Perfect timing as I am having a huge xmas party and I was looking for a green party favor. I can’t wait to grow my own and give away the party favors. That plant is more like a pet. Who knew plants move! The video made me a Tickle Me Plant fan.

  21. Nancy

    Not sure if you got my post. I subscribed after I wrote it and my note disappeared. Looking for a gift idea for a birthday gift for a friend who collects anything having to do with the number 8. She has jewelry, so I’d like to find something different. Thanks for your help.

  22. Just a quick note of thanks for including us in this. Your readers have really stepped to help – you have been the second largest source of leads to us this month, second only behind facebook. You have great readers , and it is wonderfull to see that consumers really do want to use the gift season to help others and give beautiful gifts at the same time.

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