9 Best Gifts I Have Ever Given or Received

I have always prided myself on being a good gift-giver and I’ve decided to summarize the best gifts I have ever given or received. Not because of the amount of money that was spent, but because of the amount of thought put into the gifts.  And no, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on something for it to be a good gift.

But, I don’t like to give gifts on birthdays or specific holidays – Christmas being the exception.  Although I feel pressure from society to give gifts at Christmas, I still try to be as thoughtful as possible.  Often this means thinking about and looking for gifts all year round.

Feeling the need to give a gift on a specific day just doesn’t feel right to me.  I would much rather give a gift to someone when I find the perfect gift for them.  If everyone else gives gifts on someone’s birthday, why not spread out that joy by giving gifts on random days throughout the year?

I want to give someone a gift because I’m thinking of them and have found or thought of the perfect thing. Not because society says it’s a good day to give or receive a gift.  Since becoming a mom I also feel the need to celebrate my mom on my birthday.  She did all the work bringing me into the world that day; I just had to show up.

Sometimes some of the best gifts I have ever given or received don’t cost money, yet are priceless to me.  Whether you are looking for a unique gift. A gift that doesn’t cost money. A gift that is meaningful. Or a gift that saves the recipient money, this list has something for you.  

In no particular order, here are 9 of the best gifts I have ever given or received.

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The Night Sky Print

A Night Sky print was one of the first gifts I ever bought for my daughter and the first Christmas gift I gave to my son.  It is a print of what the night sky looked like over our city on the date and time they was born.

I have always been fascinated with space and the stars.  I was excited when I found out about Night Sky prints. A picture of the specific sky on the day our little ones were born is the perfect gift for them.  It is something that is 100% personal to each of them which makes it that much more special.  These pictures now hang in their rooms and they will grow up with them.

The Night Sky prints can be personalized for time and location.  You can also include a personal message.  We had their names, birth datse and birth times printed at the bottom of their Night Sky.

The makers of the Night Sky now also offer always coming out with new personalized gifts so definitely check out their website if you are into space or are just looking for a really cool personal gift.

Osprey Day Pack

I have received a lot of bags in my life and this one is by far one of my favourites.  It is so universal that I even now use it as a diaper bag for my little one.

What I like about this bag is that it is lightweight and well designed.  The Osprey Day Pack can also accommodate a camelback bladder which makes it a great choice for long activities.  It is one bag that my husband and I can agree on (and are both willing to wear).  And it makes a great carry-on when traveling.

We take this bag everywhere with us.  Not only can the Osprey Day Pack accommodate a camelback bladder but it also can comfortably hold 2 water bottles.  The water bottle pockets are nice and deep so that the bottles stay in there when you move or bend over.

There is an inside zipper pocket in the main pocket which is the perfect place to keep a passport, wallet, or keys when you’re traveling.  The Osprey Day Pack has both a hip and chest straps that also help distribute the weight of a full bag.  It comes in a variety of colours making it easy to find the right colour for you.

Expense Tracking Workbook opt in graphic

Nest Thermostat

Years ago I got my first Nest thermostat as a Christmas gift.  I immediately installed it in my home and have been in love with it ever since.  Not only is it super easy to install on your own, but it is also intuitive and easy to use.

The Nest thermostat is a smart programmable thermostat. But you don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how to program it or get it set just right.  All you have to do it set it to the temperature that you want and it learns your routine and creates a schedule to match.

Adjusting the temperature is as easy as turning the dial and watching the number change on the screen.  It has a motion sensor in it so it can detect when you are home or away. I always found it amazing how I would come home from work and then our furnace would kick in.

I set up my Nest thermostat so that eco mode was on.   When the Nest detected that we were not home it would go into the eco mode and drop the temperature.  What a great way to save money on your heating bill.  

Because I can also control the Nest from my phone, I would make sure to turn the heat back up when I was on my way home.  

If you are a homeowner on your list, or someone wanting to save money on utilities every month a Nest thermostat is an absolute must-have.

Hand Me Downs 

Some of the best gifts I have ever received were baby hand me downs.  We were very lucky to be one of the last ones in our family to have a little one.  Our siblings had saved everything for us, from clothes to strollers to high chairs and toys.

Related Post – 5 Ways to Save Money with Babies

Hand me downs are a double bonus in my books, not only do they save you money, but they also save the planet.  With the amount of stuff that is being produced and consumed, it’s nice to re-use items when we can.

Another positive with baby hand me downs is that they are often not overly used.  Babies grow so fast out of clothes and toys that often they are still in brand new condition when they are being passed on.

With all the overwhelm of being a new mom, it was so nice to not have to go shopping for a bunch of stuff.  Now that my little one has outgrown a lot of it I am saving it for our next little one or the next friend or family member who has a baby.

Second-Hand Items

But hand me downs are not just for babies. Giving someone something you have in your home that you are not using is a great gift idea that doesn’t cost you anything.  

Around the holidays, my friend group has done a “wrap your crap” gift exchange.  Everyone brings something from their home that still has life left in it but that they are done with.  This is a great way to pass on items you are no longer using. And once again it is gift-giving that doesn’t cost you anything out of pocket.

Personalized Kids Books

As a teacher, I am a HUGE fan of early childhood literacy. What better way to get kids to interact with books than to have the story be about them or have pictures of them in it.

There are a ton of online sites that you can use to create personalized kids’ books. Usually, you just select a template and upload your pictures into it.

Whenever I’ve given a personalized book to a friend’s kid, it always brings a smile to my face to see how much their face lights up and how impressed their parents are.  

This is especially true if you have a little one in your life with a unique name.  Often it can be difficult to find personalized items for unique names so if you can make the item it feels that much more special.

Personalized kid’s books are one of the best gifts for a kid.  It is a nice keepsake that they do not get bored within the first hour of playing with it.

Family Heirlooms

Some of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received were items that have been in my family for years (and sometimes generations).  Knowing that something has been in my family for years and that I am trusted with it for the future, is humbling.

If you are looking or a gift for a family member, maybe there is something that you could pass on to them.  This is easier when gifting to a younger generation, but can also be done with someone of the same generation as you.

Don’t have any family heirlooms to pass on? That’s okay, maybe you have something that is important to you that you can give to someone.  Maybe the family heirloom starts with you.

Home Made Teacher Work Bag

One year as a year-end gift one of my students gave me a bag that she and her mom had made together.  It was a custom bag that they had designed as a teacher bag.  I absolutely love it.  Not only is it super practical it was so thoughtful that the bag has so much meaning for me.

I use that bag every day for work and am constantly reminded of the student and the thoughtfulness behind the gift.

I know that not everyone can design and make custom bags, and not everyone would want one. But what the take away from this gift is the value of homemade gifts.

Taking the time to make a gift for someone shows that you care.  Anyone can go out and buy something, but not everyone can make something exactly as you would.  

As someone seeking financial independence, I am very aware of the value of time as a finite resource.  If someone is willing to use their time to make me something, I am that much more grateful for it.

So if you are looking for a gift to give your best friend or a gift for teachers, think about using your time to make something for them.

Custom Photo Albums

One year for Christmas I got the idea to make a family album as a gift. I had everyone send me their best photos from the year and I compiled them all into a hardcover album. For Christmas, everyone got a copy of the album. 

I did this for both my husband’s family and my own and everyone loved them. With the number of pictures we take, but never really do anything with an annual family album is a perfect idea. 

Now years later this is still a tradition with our families. Everyone sends us their pictures by December 1st and we upload them into an online template and send them off to be printed. 

Christmas morning everyone opens them at the same time and is always excited to see what the big event was that made the cover photo. After they are opened everyone relives all the memories from the past year by spending some time looking at the pictures. 

Custom photo albums aren’t just for Christmas either. They make great gifts for best friends, aunts and uncles and anyone else you are close with. 

I have made a few custom photo albums for friends and family and they are always cherished. All it takes is a bit of my time and creativity. 

With all the cloud sharing software available now it is easy to share pictures in order to get the content for the album. 

If you are looking for a gift for someone who has everything or gift for someone who is hard to shop for, consider making them a custom photo album. 


When my mom asked what I wanted for my birthday one year, I told her time. She could offer to watch my little ones so that I had time to do something for myself. I would love to schedule a day for her and me to spend the day together.  There are many ways that this gift could have been given.

On the day of my birthday, I received a card with a handwritten note from my mom giving me the gift of time.  I could not have been happier.  Since then there have been many times when my mom and I have spent precious time together.  And she has often babysat so that my husband and I could have a date night.

Talking to my mom after the fact she often tells me that she didn’t get me anything for my birthday.  Not providing me with a physical gift made her uncomfortable. Yet it is one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received. And exactly what I wanted.

How can you give someone the gift of time? 

The gift of time is perfect for anyone who is busy. It is also great for someone you have fallen out of touch with or are a new parent. I know that as a new mom, spending quality time with adults or just having someone come and cuddle my little one so that I could shower were some of the best gifts I have received.

The bonus factor here is that giving someone your time doesn’t have to cost you a thing so it can easily fit into your budget.  And it may be considered one of the most unique gifts, because who really thinks to give their own time?

Wrapping Counts Too

Sometimes the packaging a gift comes in can be just as exciting as the gift.   This is often true when young children receive gifts.  After the gift has been opened they are more fascinated with the box it came in rather than the toy inside.

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to get some hockey cards for our nephews.  In order to make the gift more exciting, we wrapped it in a box, in a box, in a box.  By the end, the gift resembled a holiday version of Ukrainian nesting dolls. 

The boys got such a kick out of opening a box, after a box, after a box.  To this day they still like to tell the story about how auntie and uncle got them a box in a box in a box.  Isn’t that just the best feeling with gifts, when you get someone something that they remember.  Not something that just eventually gets tossed aside.

To make this gift more environmentally friendly (as it can be seen as wasteful), you can use old recycled boxes and recycled newsprint as wrapping.  Once the gift is opened, all of the materials can be recycled or re-used again.

This list is full of the best gifts to give and receive.  I found so many unique gift ideas for everyone on my list. Send this to anyone you know who is looking for that perfect gift for someone #bestgifts #giftideas #uniquegifts #handfulofthoughts

Final Thoughts

As you can see from the above list, not all gifts have to cost money.  The majority of the best gifts I have ever given or received were important to me because they were thoughtful not because they were expensive.  

For me, the key to a great gift for someone is getting them something that they remember and use for a long time.  Not something that very quickly gets forgotten and thrown away.

If you are looking for a gift to give your best friend, or a family member spend some time thinking about giving them something personal.  Instead of just running to the store and spending money, maybe you could make them a gift or pass on something of yours that they would enjoy.

Personally, any gift that involves time is that much more priceless than one that doesn’t.

Hopefully this list of the best gifts I have ever given or received sparks some ideas for your own gift-giving.

What is the best gift you have ever given or received?

8 thoughts on “9 Best Gifts I Have Ever Given or Received”

  1. Really great ideas! I like your thoughts on how the wrapping counts too.
    Some of my favorite gifts are heirlooms. We received a tea set from my grandparents and a set of crystal wine glasses from my husband’s grandparents. And I cherish both of them so much! T

    1. I agree heirlooms do make some of the best gifts. They are so meaningful and it is such an honour to be entrusted with them. Our fancy dishes were passed down to me from my great aunt. They had been in a box for years but now that we are in our new house and have the room they are out on display and we use them when company comes over.

    1. New things are great gifts too. There are tons of discount websites out there that you can also get a discount on some of those activities too.

  2. Hand me downs were the best gift for us too. I also liked photo albums and personalized kids books 🙂

    I make a photo album of our immediate family every year too, but haven’t given it to anyone. It’s like my gift to our family- my time compiling the photos!

    1. We do the same thing. I started it randomly one year (personal family album) and everyone loved it. Have now been doing it for over a decade. It’s fun to look back at those pictures from time to time.

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