Legacy gifts: ideas that don't involve a store (and are much more meaningful than anything you can purchase off a shelf). | https://www.frugalconfessions.com/holidays/legacy-gifts-will-last-longer-and-have-more-meaning-than-store-bought-gifts.php

Legacy gifts last much longer than other kinds. And these are the types you don't buy in a store — yet they have so much meaning.

Paul and I usually spend Christmas in PA with my family and will be doing so again this year. One of our favorite things to do is get up early on Christmas morning and walk/drive over to my sister’s house to watch our niece and nephew open their gifts from Santa. Everyone is in their PJs, the Christmas tree is lit and crowned in early morning sunlight, and the room is filled with the sound of ripping paper—it’s a very festive occasion! For a few moments I am transported back to my own childhood Christmases. Afterwards my sister and her husband cook us all a belly-filling breakfast.

While turning a living room into a temporary toy store on Christmas morning is really fun, I often wonder how long the gifts actually last. Children grow out of toys and clothes so quickly. Years later when they are older perhaps they’ll hold onto the memory of a few beloved toys but nothing else will be left. Why not give some legacy gifts mixed in with the more short-term ones?

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Why not give some legacy gifts mixed in with the more short-term ones this Christmas? Click To Tweet

The word legacy seems to be synonymous with ‘expensive’. But legacy gifts do not have to be expensive; they just have to be lasting and meaningful. These are gifts that your receiver will take with them into adulthood, and perhaps even pass along to another generation. Legacy gifts do not have to be expensive; they just have to be lasting and meaningful. Click To Tweet

Some of my favorite legacy gifts that lasted far longer than childhood for me include savings bonds from relatives, a ring my father and stepmother passed down from my grandmother, and a personalized storybook from my great-grandmother.

Let’s see if you can create the same lasting treasures for your loved ones with some of these ideas.

Legacy Gifts that Don't Come from a Store

  • Pass Down a Family Heirloom: This example shows that cost and value are two different things, as passing down an heirloom will cost you nothing and will be infinitely more valuable than any of the other gifts you purchase this year. Take the time during the holidays to pass on a family heirloom such as a quilt, an afghan, a piece of jewelry, or a secret family recipe either from you or from your ancestors. If your child is too young to understand or take care of this gift, you can store it for them until they are old enough.
  • Create a Personalized Storybook: My great grandmother gave us the coolest gift one year when I was 6 (I only know my age because it is in the book) by personalizing a Christmas story with me, my brother Adam, and my grandfather’s dog Jasper. It was magical when we read it as children, and now it is a cherished book in my library. You could create one from scratch, or I believe there are companies that do this with a few inputs of information from you (google “personalized storybook”.
  • UPromise Account Opening and Credit Card Gathering: You can roll up the account opening paperwork and wrap a bow around it to present to the parent/child like a diploma. I did this for my niece when I was a broke college student. To date we have $160 in free money for her college education, with another 9 years of savings to go!
  • Construct a Family Tree: Aside from the occasional school project that involves children in researching their family history, in general children don’t seem to be too interested in their family history. This usually comes a bit later in life when finding one’s roots becomes much more important. By creating a family tree for a child even if they don’t appreciate it right now, you will be preserving your family’s history and ensuring that as a young or middle-aged adult your child will have the information they need to fully research their history. Here is a free family tree template you can download and use.
  • Start a Collection: Along with other gifts, my mother gave each of us one Hallmark ornament of the year each Christmas. These ornaments were stored over the years, and I am happy to say that for the last three Christmases my husband and I have decorated our tree with them. Great gifts Mom!

I hope you can see from the examples above that legacy gifts do not have to cost a fortune. In fact, they are very reasonably priced, and will bring much joy and warm memories to the receiver for years to come.

I would love to hear your own ideas or real life examples of legacy gifts! 

21 replies
  1. Olivia
    Olivia says:

    Every year, besides the normal books, music and such, we give our two sons ornaments. We especially like to visit Tuesday Morning, Pier One, and our local thrift store after Christmas to find something especially nice within our budget. Then we stash them for the following year. One year we purchased a large tupperware-like ornament box for each of them. Both are nearly full as relatives have contributed too. It is a really fun tradition.

  2. Jeffrey Trull
    Jeffrey Trull says:

    I sorta think that if it’s something that isn’t going to last it’s probably not worth giving at all. I hate to say it but sometimes I just donate stuff immediately after Christmas since I know I’ll never use it or wear it.

    I especially like the heirloom idea. My grandmother gives me artwork that she’s had for a long time that I’ve always liked. It’s special to me since it has some great memories for me and it’s nice to have more to decorate with, too.

    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      Artwork is a great thing to pass down! My Aunt gave me a beautiful print from an artist she and I both love (Kessler) who used to sell his work in DC’s Eastern Market. I will keep it forever! Unless ofcourse I pass it along someday…:)

  3. 20's Finances
    20's Finances says:

    I absolutely love your ideas. I have been sick of wasting money on gifts for so long and these add more meaning to the Christmas season! I’m going to steal some of these ideas. (but you posted them, so it’s not stealing… haha)

  4. Krantcents
    Krantcents says:

    We have passed on my mother’s and father’s jewelry and other items to our children. I received artwork before my mother died. It provides an opportunity to appeciate it with the relative.

  5. vivian
    vivian says:

    Thanks for reminding me about my UPromise account. Apparently now you can w/draw the $ as a check! This was not an option when I opened it in 2002 (when my daughter was 1!). I w/drew the funds to be deposited into a CD for her. I will continue to use this service.

  6. Hunter - Financially Consumed
    Hunter - Financially Consumed says:

    I like the Family Tree concept. My sister has taken on this responsibility and we’ve made some amazing discoveries, like one wealthy land owner, and another convict sent from England to Australia. It seems to get harder and harder each year to think of quality gifts.

  7. Barb Friedberg
    Barb Friedberg says:

    I personally like the idea of starting a collection. My mom gave my daughter beautiful snow globes for gifts!

  8. Max
    Max says:

    I love the idea of a family tree. My mother and I had started one together to keep track of our large family. The nice thing is that it often requires you to involve other relatives who may have more connections with certain sides of the family, so you get to know your family even better. For instance, when we hit a roadblock, we had to ask my Great Aunt about some other distant relatives, which brought us closer together as she started telling stories about them. It really becomes interesting when you have roots in other countries and start to discover relatives you never knew existed. One day, I hope to visit all of them.

      • Max
        Max says:

        Well, the relatives on my mom’s side of the family are mostly from Italy. My aunt and uncle have actually gone over to Italy to stay with them, without ever having met them before and with minimal prior communication, and they welcomed them into their home just like any other close family member. We mostly traced our Italian lineage, although I do have relatives from other origins as well.

        • FruGal
          FruGal says:

          Very neat! My one side is mainly from Germany, and the other side came over from Hungary (I am third generation!). I was in Austria for our honeymoon last year and had an inkling while there to plan a trip to Hungary to seek out my roots. Could be in our future!

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