The affordable, thoughtful, sustainable gift guide

The affordable, thoughtful, sustainable gift guide

A little while ago, I posted an ethical gift guide full of absolute gems! It’s here, if you want to give it a gander. But I realized that while showing these beautiful gifts that are well-made is filling a need, there was also a huge gap for people like me: how to give thoughtful, ethical gifts without breaking the bank.

I may write about ethical fashion and sustainable living as a professional job outside of my 9-5 career, but that doesn’t mean I can afford everything I’ve selected on my guide. Individually or just a few, yes! But not more than a couple special items. And most of us are in the same boat.

So what’s a conscious gifting enthusiast to do, when there’s not a lot of money to go around?

This is where Part 2 of my conscious gift guide comes in: gifting affordably. Read on for this year’s top gift ideas!

1. Vintage decor

There are so many cute gems at thrift stores or antique malls! If you know the personality of the person you’re gifting well, you can find a kitschy joke or you can find a precious item they’ll treasure. Think of their hobbies, their likes, or things they collect. One of my best friends loves oddities, and when she moved into her apartment, I got her a giant vintage ceramic cat, who now sporadically moves around the apartment like a game. Where will he be sitting next time I visit?

For people who may not be super open to secondhand, choose really special pieces crafted for quality, like this brass apple – it’s a wonderful desk ornament and adds an air of sophistication.

Why it’s a cool gift?

Vintage items have a patina to them – the feeling of being an ancient treasured thing. And why not weave in a story about it in your card? Telling them why you chose it and why it’s so special can make it even more thoughtful.

2. Secondhand Books

I LOVE this as a gift idea. I am so excited to have a lot of fun with choosing the perfect old books for my family this year. I know it’s weird, but hear me out: vintage books are pieces of freaking art. If you get down to the 1970s, 1960s and earlier, you can find some wicked covers that can hold their own on the coffee table, or even as a focal point on a shelf.

Why it’s a cool gift?

It’s not cookie-cutter, and it saves the trees. There are billions of books in the world, so have fun going on a treasure hunt for one that really speaks to your person’s aesthetic, interests or reading tastes.

3. Plants

Why don’t more people give plants for the holidays??? It’s a glum, dreary season with grey skies and short days, and plants are proven to improve mental well-being and productivity. I’ve even given one to my dad, who cared for it diligently in his office!

Why it’s a cool gift?

It’s unique and universally appealing. If you get something low-maintenance like a Pothos, even people without a green thumb can keep it alive. And what’s less expected than a plant in the dead of winter? It’ll be an injection of joy.

4. Zero waste snacks

Oooh, ooh I am so jazzed about this. At an office Secret Santa one year, I was gifted a bag of popcorn kernels and seasoning salt and as a new homeowner with no money and no snacks in my cupboard, this was the best possible gift I could have received. Two years later, I still use those seasoning salts, and buying popcorn kernels from Bulk Barn and popping them on the stove has become a weekly tradition! (thanks, mystery Secret Santa!)

Why it’s a cool gift?

Besides the mason jars being reusable, who doesn’t love snacking? You can choose any kinds of foods, from healthy to indulgent. Or even putting ingredients for cookies or muffins so beginner bakers can easily make their own goodies 🙂

5. Vintage Silk Scarf

There are some beautiful (and affordable) vintage scarves out in the world! For someone who loves accessories, this is a thoughtful and fun little gift. Plus, if you’re giving them something else, you can use the scarf as gift wrap!

Why it’s a cool gift?

It’s multi-use, but also super cute.

6. Printed photos

Especially for grandparents, this can be such a beautiful gift. One holiday, my sister gave me a hand-painted trinket box with a whole bunch of little photos of my newborn nephew inside. It was so so cute, and I still have those photos on my fridge! It’s so rare to have these kinds of things in our actual hands. Another option is to do a photo book, which is more work upfront but has a lovely finish. Choose a method that works for you!

Why it’s a cool gift?

Printed photos are a novelty nowadays. Make memories tangible – something they can flip through, smile at and remember by. Especially great for people who live far away!

7. Experiences

I’ve been more and more into this as I’ve been getting older and our lives become packed with events, work and other things. Gifting an experience feels like the ultimate heart-swell of a gift. My parents used to buy my sister and I tickets to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra each year, and we would go enjoy Mozart, or Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky. I remember my Aunt and Uncle taking us to see the Nutcracker when we were really young, and it’s still one of my most cherished memories. There was also Snow White, and another year, Mary Poppins from my parents.

Why it’s a cool gift?

I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas when I was 6 years old, but I CAN tell you in detail the things I remember from the night we went to see The Nutcracker. It’s so cemented in my brain that I am dreaming of seeing it again as an adult. Memories are an invaluable currency, and it doesn’t have to be something fancy like going to the orchestra. It could be spending time on an adventure hiking in snow-covered forests. It could be parking by the airport to watch planes land. It could be baking bunches of cookies together. No matter what it is, memories outlast things.

8. Subscriptions

This is another new one I thought of this year (and can’t believe I’ve never gifted before!) In the age of streaming and digital entertainment, what a cool idea this is. Know someone who likes news? What about a year-long membership to an online newspaper? Or like my dad did last year, gifted my grandma a login to our Netflix so she could watch Outlander! Even better, magazines (especially in print) have become so beautiful and intentional in this century that they would make a perfect gift for someone who wants that coffee table prestige.

Why it’s a cool gift?

Name a niche, there’s a subscription for it. Highly personalized with endless potential, a subscription is not a thing, it’s opening up a whole exciting new way of life.

Hope you enjoyed all these affordable / sustainable / thoughtful gift ideas! Happy Holidays!



3 thoughts on “The affordable, thoughtful, sustainable gift guide”

  • Hey! Great blog post! I just got back from scouring Value Villages for Christmas gifts for my kids. Generally there is too much hype around the newness of gifts for kids – so while they still will get some new items like a LEGO set, stocking stuffers and books are really easily thrifted gifts. Another things I did last year for my mom was a subscription for her to receive a new bouquet of flowers from a local florist every season. I just bought four gift certificates and put them in four decorated gifts envelopes for each season.

    • omg those are all such brilliant ideas! Thanks so much for sharing your tips! I love the flower subscription <3 so lovely.

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