Every year here at The Broke Generation I make it my mission to spread my obsession with purposeful gifts far and wide. With so much wastage coming out of the giving season, I’ve shifted my approach to giving (and receiving) to a much more purposeful one. I’ve received bad gifts and I’ve given bad gifts, but no more!

What makes a purposeful gift?

A purposeful gift is one that you can almost guarantee the recipient will use. Whether you know they’ll use it because you’re certain they already use the product or something similar, or because the product is just so damn handy and life-improving that you just know it’ll slot into their life and make shit easier.

Purposeful gifts can also be something that saves your recipient money, either by gifting them something they would’ve bought anyway, or by gifting them a solution that saves them spending out on something else. 

Finally, purposeful gifts can also be experiences, when thought through properly. I love experience-based gifts because, of course, there’s less consumption, and the joy from the experience can endure for months or even years. That said, like with physical gifts, giving with purpose requires you to be very careful around the experience you choose. It needs to actually be usable and something the recipient would genuinely want to do themselves for it to work.

What makes a bad gift?

The term ‘bad gift’ might bring up some feelings of guilt or greed or ungratefulness for you – but I really don’t think it should. While saying you got ‘bad gifts’ seems superficial and people will bleat on at you about how ‘it’s the thought that counts’, in this consumption-obsessed, waste-ravaged world we’re in right now, those of us who choose to give and receive gifts have a responsibility not to just pass useless consumption back and forth. Enter: purposeful gifting.

My love language is acts of service, which probably explains why gifts that make life easier speak to my soul. 

How to give a purposeful gift

A purposeful gift has four key elements:

  • It is useable in the recipient’s life
  • It solves a problem, provides a new solution, or saves them time or money in some way
  • It can easily be regifted onto someone else if for any reason the recipient didn’t find use for it
  • It doesn’t rely on guessing someone’s taste 

Your heart might have skipped a beat when I said regifting, because like the ‘bad gift’ thing, we’re taught that regifting is rude. Don’t get me wrong. In some ways it can be, and I’m not saying you should ditch all sense of human decency and start brazenly announcing that you’re regifting. 

But what I’m getting at is breaking this cycle of giving gifts back and forth that neither recipient really want, like or need, and being stuck with it. Money is wasted, resources are wasted, and space is wasted while you store the item for the perceived appropriate level of time before donating it to a charity shop where it probably won’t sell either. 

By avoiding gifts that appeal to certain tastes all together (unless you know that your recipient specifically wants that item), you open up the possibility for a circular economy. Purposeful items with an actual use in daily life can easily be passed onto others if the recipient’s life doesn’t quite align with the item at the time. It’s much easier to say to a friend, ‘hey I got these food containers for Christmas, do you want them?’ than it is to say ‘hey I got this ugly handbag, want it?’ Chances are, they might not like it either, but will feel obligated to say they do, and thus the cycle begins again. 

Anyway, enough rambling from me. I think you get it. Give gifts that can be used. Let’s get stuck in with some purposeful gift ideas. 

Some items in this list may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase the item I may get a small percentage of the sale. It doesn’t affect what you pay. This guide is also designed to give you the overall idea for the item and a link to an example, which you might then purchase elsewhere. 

Kitchen gadget gift ideas

I love, love, love finding life-improving kitchen gadgets for gift ideas. I find especially at my stage of life (late twenties) I’m getting to the point where I’d like to upgrade my $1 can opener to one that, well, actually opens cans, and stop grating my own finger trying to grate garlic. My Joseph Joseph Helix Garlic Crusher is one of the best things I’ve ever owned, so if your recipients are either in a relatively new home or maybe need some kitchen gadget upgrades, these kitchen gift ideas will go down a treat! 

Top purposeful picks

Picnic gift ideas

I found so many amazing gift ideas for picnics that this just had to get its own section. Picnics are the most 2020 thing ever, but if yours have been anything like ours, there’s been a soggy sandwich incident and wine that’s slightly on the warm side on more than one occasion. If your gift recipient has taken up picnicking during lockdown, these life-improving picnic accessories will level up their next al fresco gathering.

Top purposeful picks

Eco-friendly gift ideas

I think a lot of us could be more eco-friendly in our everyday lives, but just need that initial kick to get into new habits. If you have friends or family who want to be more waste-conscious or planet-friendly, gift giving is a great chance to help them do that. I’ve been meaning to buy some of those silicone lids and beeswax wraps for months, but haven’t gotten around to it. Gifting people things they can use in their day-to-day lives that are also kind to the planet are a win-win-win! 

Top purposeful picks

Drinking vessels and life-improving beverage accessories

An ultra-purposeful gift is something for your recipient to drink from. Put in some work to think about what types of drinks they enjoy (coffee, wine, gin, etc), and gift a solution that speaks to that. Are they always clutching a water bottle? Do they make a coffee to take to work every morning in a reusable cup? Do they love making cocktails, or wine, or whiskey? I can speak on behalf of booze-lovers when I say that a gorgeous well-made wine glass and a bottle of red would be a bangin’ gift that I’d be so grateful for. Plus one of those vacuum pumpers to preserve the wine between sessions is a wine-lover’s must-have! 

Top purposeful picks

Usable relaxation luxuries

In this wild old year, relaxation has been harder than ever. If your recipient could use a little help winding down, you can gift them some relaxation goodies that remain purposeful – just be careful with things like skin types or particularly strong scents, as that can make a purposeful gift completely unusable. These small luxuries are almost certain to get used, though! 

Top purposeful picks

Consumables

When in doubt, get something they can eat or drink. Consumables rarely go to waste if you choose well, and when you get creative you can actually give a great gift at the same time.

Top purposeful picks

  • Everything but the bagel seasoning – small Melbourne biz started by one of my Insta followers
  • Carbonated water maker – EDIT: controversy around SodaStream’s complicity in the persistent violation of Palestine human rights has been brought to my attention so I have removed them from this guide. Alternative carbonated water makers include this GORGE Aarke one, this Phillips GoZero one, this OhBubbles one
  • Carbonated water syrups – turns your sparkling water into a delicious mixer or soft drink
  • Wine subscriptions like Naked Wines or Good Pair Days
  • Whiskey/Gin subscriptions – my partner uses The Whiskey Club
  • Spices – always handy to have and makes life way easier for recipient’s cooking! Mabu Mabu have native Australian spices, or these done for you staple kits with racks like this one or this set of blends.

Luxury versions of everyday items

Ever had a shit gift and low key thought about the groceries and essentials you could buy with the money instead? This is why I love the idea of gifting luxury versions of essentials, because the luxury aspect makes it a gift, but you know it’ll get used because it’s such a household staple. Things like laundry detergent or hand wash – gimme all that good stuff because if I can have hand soap that makes my tiny apartment feel like a Laguna Beach abode for a few weeks then I’m all in.

Top purposeful picks

Tech solutions

Tech gifts can be a neat way to give purposefully, because often you know exactly what type of tech your recipient is in need of. With loads of us working from home now and possibly well into the future, tech gifts can be more purposeful than ever. Probe your recipient for information on what types of tech could improve their lives, and listen out for gifting opportunities. Maybe their headphones just aren’t cutting it on Zoom meetings, or they’re really wishing they’d jumped on the AirPods bandwagon, or their keyboard and mouse could really use an upgrade, or they’re always losing charging cables. These kinda-boring-but-useful gifts are real problem solvers, and will be used infinitely more than an ugly smelling hand cream. 

Top purposeful picks

 

Purposeful Beauty Gift Ideas

Beauty gifts can be tricky because everyone’s got their preferences, but there are some pretty safe, purposeful beauty gift ideas if you’re on the hunt for something for a beauty lover. A good one here is to find out their usual products or brands, and stay within the boundaries of what they’d normally use. If you have Benefit Cosmetics or Anastasia Beverley Hills lovers in your life, Catch has some sweet deals on those brands right now.

Top purposeful picks

Other ideas for giving purposeful gifts can include finding out your recipient’s go-to products, like makeup or skincare or even their favourite protein powder. Something they would buy themselves anyway is a real act of service, and even though it might not feel as ‘special’ as you choosing something and rolling the dice on them liking it, by taking the time to find out what they truly need, you’re actually being even more thoughtful.

Want more purposeful gift ideas? These housewarming gifts are ideal for new movers.