15 Practical Gifts for Your Cash-Poor Friends • Budget FASHIONISTA

2022 brings us a different holiday shopping challenge. You probably have friends and family members who are struggling to make ends meet in this tough economy. Maybe rising price pressures have strained their budgets, or high interest rates are making it harder to pay off debt.

For these people, it doesn’t feel right to give impulse gifts when they really need ultra-basic and practical gifts like cash and food. Although it’s equally awkward to gift your proud best friend $50 in a holiday card.

Fortunately, there is a middle ground — where you can meet a good friend’s basic needs without being offensive. That’s the inspiration for this list of practical gifts. These are effective picks that anyone can appreciate, but will be especially loved by those who aren’t as financially strong this year as they’d like to be.

The best practical gifts for 2022

Close up of woman's hand holding a gift card, a practical gift.

You knew gift cards would be on this list. They’re as good as cash and can serve almost any purpose, from putting food on the table to paying streaming bills. Here are six different practical gift cards to consider for gifts this year.

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1. Walmart or Amazon gift card

If you know a friend is going through a tough time financially, but you don’t have specifics, a Walmart or Amazon gift card is the right choice. These retailers carry every basic item you can think of – including food, clothes, shoes and toilet paper.

Don’t worry about the very simple feeling of a Walmart or Amazon gift card, either. You can easily add a personal touch by making a card or holder for that gift card. For inspiration, check out this tutorial for adorable, handmade fabric gift card holders. Or, if you’re not crafty, pair the gift card with a simple bouquet. It’s a nice touch that will brighten your friend’s day.

2. Grocery gift cards

A grocery gift card tucked into the default sleeve may seem like a handout. Here’s how to get around that.

You know your friend’s favorite food. If she likes gooey butter cookies at the local Schnucks Market, for example, buy a package of them with a gift card. Present cookies and gift cards together. Your message could be something like, “I know you love these cookies. You can use the gift card to replenish your supply when these run out.” Of course, your friend can use the gift card for anything they want, whether it’s wine, cookies, or even toilet paper.

3. Pets offer gift cards

Your pet-owning friends will appreciate a Petco or Petsmart gift card. Since they have to buy pet food somewhere, this gift card helps directly with the monthly budget — although it’s a thoughtful idea on your part.

Your gifty pet supplier gift card can be used in the most practical way — by redeeming it for dog food. Or, maybe he’ll make a few treats for Fido that would otherwise be out of the question. Either way, you’ll likely bring a smile to your friend’s (and Fido’s) face.

4. Local restaurant gift cards

A touch more pleasant is a gift card for a local restaurant. It’s still food on the table, though, and helps your giftee stretch his own funds a little further.

Look for local restaurants that are reasonably priced so your friend doesn’t have to spend more than the gift card amount to get a full meal. Restaurants that offer take-out are also a practical choice, as your giftee can bring food home and skip buying an expensive drink.

5. Netflix gift card

Netflix allows existing customers to use gift cards to pay their bills. This presents a great gift giving opportunity for you. Imagine surviving hard times without escaping to the TV every now and then. Sounds awesome, right? There are times when we all need a little comedy or drama (from someone else).

6. Gift cards for household chores

Have you ever seen a friend’s household skills disappear when she’s stressed? I have and it’s not pretty. This happens because stress consumes so much energy that there isn’t much left to clean the house. Your friend who is struggling is probably focusing on bigger issues, like not having enough cash to pay bills.

If you see this happening to someone you know and love, try to fund some of that family’s work. Depending on where you live, this might involve a gift card to a cleaning service or a local fluff-and-fold laundromat.

7. Underwear

Underwear may be the world’s most practical gift idea, but it’s hard to pull off. From lacy Calvin Klein panties to hipster bulk packs from Target, you run the risk of guessing the wrong size or grossly misjudging your friend’s preferred style.

Take the risk and the awkwardness out of it with an AdoreMe gift card. Like AdoreMe Fabletics, but for underwear. You can subscribe and get VIP benefits or you can shop full price on the website.

8. Meal Subscription

A meal subscription is a fun way to put food on the table. It’s especially perfect for your friends who (1) like to cook and (2) like to throw themselves into work when they’re stressed.

Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction from chopping vegetables; It’s a neat task that’s easy to complete as long as I focus. And focusing on cutting means I’m not thinking about my budget or the economy or politics.

My pick for meal subscriptions is Dinnerly. It is affordable and the recipes are delicious and straightforward. A meal for two costs about $10. Dinnerly doesn’t have an official gift program, so you’ll have to get creative by setting up a subscription in your friend’s name.

Hello Fresh is another option. It’s more expensive, but Hello Fresh offers gift cards.

9. Bulk food

Omaha Steaks is the clear choice in the bulk food category. During the holiday season, you can gift your cash-strapped friend a huge box of frozen meats, burgers and side dishes at fairly reasonable prices. You can also buy an Omaha Steaks gift card on Amazon, but it’s a less exciting gift to open.

10. Home Spa Gift Baskets

If a gift card or food-related gift seems too subtle, look for gifts that add a little luxury to the everyday experience.

An aromatherapy kit for the bathroom is an example. This home spa gift basket features nine lavender-and-jasmine-scented products that will turn a morning shower into a sensual getaway. Those 10 glorious minutes of self-care will hopefully distract your loved one from his money woes and brighten his day.

11. Luxury toothpaste

Luxury toothpaste can serve the same purpose. And yes, luxury toothpaste is a thing! Check out the Marvis flavored toothpaste collection, which includes Jasmine Mint, Peppermint, Ginger Mint and Cinnamon flavors. The set has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon based on 759 customer reviews.

12. Fragrance shower head filter

Lavender shower head infuser.
iWater’s shower infuser delivers a beautiful lavender scent that promotes relaxation. Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and botanicals help soften skin and resist the harsh effects of hard water. Check today’s prices on Amazon.

I have a scented shower head filter and it is amazing. This makes for a beautiful gift that your giftee can enjoy every day. This filter infuses shower water with vitamin C for healthy skin and hair. Also, it leaves a lovely lavender scent.

13. New bath towels

New bath towels are a very practical gift, but they’re also experiential. They add color to the bathroom and comfort and texture to the post-shower ritual.

Choose colors strategically. For the friend who’s feeling down, a bright color can add some zing to her morning — but you don’t want to clash with her bathroom, either. A neutral like navy is almost always a good choice, as it’s more attractive than gray or beige and goes with almost any outfit.

Try Amazon for affordable bath towels. And don’t skimp on size. No one likes a bath towel that fits like a bodycon.

14. Cashmere socks

Fuzzy socks are a touch cliché as a holiday gift, but cashmere socks change the game considerably. This four-pair set from Amazon is affordable and not so fancy that your gift won’t want to wear them.

15. Soft blankets

Finally, you can spread warmth and comfort with a Sherpa fleece blanket. You know, if your giftee has thought about turning off the heater to save on utility bills. If things aren’t too bad, he can at least enjoy sitting on the couch watching some cozy TV. Pair this blanket with her favorite tea and a cute mug to make it a complete experience.

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