In pursuit of financial independence and personal fulfillment

The amazing benefits of a practical Christmas list

Were your childhood Christmas dreams filled with visions of a 200-shot carbide action official Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time?

Did you long for the Sears Wish List catalog to arrive in the mail, so you could etch circle after circle into each glossy color page filled with the year’s hottest toys?

If your adult Christmas list is just a slightly more elevated version of the same youthful exuberance for the shiny object du jour, let me lay an idea on you.

Christmas is a great time to get things you know you should buy, but don’t really want to buy on your own. Or, you can ask for things you would buy anyway so you can avoid spending the money in the future.

These days, I’m all about practicality with my Christmas list.

Top of my list this year? Thirteen new smoke detectors.

Our house was built 11 years ago, and it’s recommended you replace smoke detectors every decade. Do I want to buy $150-200 of smoke detectors? Not particularly. Will I be happy to have them? You bet. Perfect Christmas gift.

I’ll also ask for $80 in new shocks for our front-loading clothes washer. It’s also old, and it vibrates much louder than it should because the four stabilizers are worn out. They’re easy to replace thanks to YouTube videos, and much cheaper than buying a new washer.

Ain’t nothing sexy about washer stabilizers, but there is something alluring about keeping a $1,200 appliance running for a few more years.

These are both examples of things I should replace, but just haven’t risen to the must-fix-now level. They’re just good, practical gifts.

Here are the benefits of a practical Christmas list:

  • You get stuff you’ll actually use
  • Practical stuff is usually more affordable than luxury items
  • By sticking to things you actually need, you help avoid lifestyle inflation
  • You could cut expenses by not buying the same stuff yourself later

Other practical Christmas ideas

The annual request that I get the most mileage out of is restaurant gift cards.

I’ve been trying to cut my restaurant spending this year to keep it under $2,000. I like going out for dinner. I have no intention of cutting that spending category to the bone. So I ask for gift cards to places I go all the time anyway.

Fast-casual restaurant gift cards are great because you can usually get several visits out of them, especially if you look for coupons or sign up for their mailing list. A $50 card goes a long way when you only spend $13 each meal. I still have several cards with balances left from last Christmas and it’s already a week into November.

What are some examples of other practical things you can ask for?

  • LED lightbulbs (they’re worth it!)
  • Pots or pans to replace worn out ones
  • Quality coffee or tea
  • An electric blanket (so you can turn down the furnace temp even more at night)
  • Tools
  • Cosmetics or toiletries you would already buy anyway
  • New dish towels
  • Car wash punch cards (buy them in the winter and they’re sometimes cheaper)
  • Quality food storage containers
  • Emergency kit
  • Portable hard drive to back up important data
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Beer, wine or liquor you would buy yourself anyway
  • Shoes
  • Clothes
  • Mega coupon book (like Entertainment or similar)
  • Movie passes
  • iTunes gift card for music, movies or apps

By being more practical about your list, you’ll not only save money you might otherwise spend in the future, you can enjoy the benefits of Christmas all year round.


  1. lisa

    I usually buy practical gifts for holiday time- blankets, clothes, gas gift cards, food basket,etc. I got my oldest a car emergency kit and 2 months later, he needed to use it! With the oldest having a student loan, I put $ towards it every month and then include a note in the card that says how much was paid towards the loan over the year.

    I have found that a fun gift is appreciated too. So, I add something fun- comic books, funny t-shirts, a retro toy….Nothing expensive, but something I know they’ll enjoy. I find that if anything gets returned, it’s usually a practical gift.

    • I Dream of FIRE

      A loan repayment gift is an interesting idea. I don’t think I’ve heard that one before.

      Good timing on the car emergency kit! What happened?

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