1. Food Gifts
This is the safest, most conservative, most classic choice for the anti-materialist. But even within this tried-and-true category there are plenty of bizarre and exotic choices for someone with more adventurous tastes.
And yes, food is a thing, and it’s the most substantial gift on this list (well, it’s technically the second most, as you’ll see). But the great thing about food is that it disappears as soon as you use it.
The old standard. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. Okay, some gift baskets are boring. But not the baskets from Harry and David. Spanning all the classics, like meat, cheese, wine, chocolate, baked goods, and way, way more, a gift basket from Harry and David is one of those rare items that reminds you how absurdly good food can be. This may be the old standard, but it won’t disappoint.
Food From Around the World
Looking to help someone expand their horizons a little? How about some curated food boxes from around the globe?
Try the World is a subscription service delivering selected food items from around the world. Every month, you receive a box containing 7 to 8 curated items from that month’s featured country. And best of all, you can sign up to send 1, 3, 6, or 12 boxes, so you can choose how long you want the subscription to last.
Universal Yums provides a similar service, but geared more toward the vending machine rat (we mean that in the nicest way possible) rather than the gourmet. With small bags of snacks from different places around the globe, Universal Yums is for the person who prefers a bag of pretzels or gummy bears to a jar of specialty pâté.
Be aware, however, that neither company accommodates food allergies or dietary restrictions (as of this writing), so these are best reserved for the true omnivores on your list.
…of the Month Clubs
For the hungry (or thirsty) monomaniac, Amazing Clubs offers specialized flavor of the month subscriptions in so many categories it’s almost ridiculous. Whether it’s beer, wine, chocolate, bacon, cake, bagels, hot sauce, or even cigars, there’s a good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for here. And if you don’t, maybe you shouldn’t be looking for it.
We tend to think of “food” as consisting of the stuff we’re used to eating (whatever that might be), but the truth is that anything you can ingest that doesn’t cause perceptible harm can be considered food. And people eat some weird stuff out there. Here are a few of our favorites.
Kopi Luwak Coffee
These super-premium (and expensive) coffee beans are collected from palm civet turds. Why? Because the enzymes in the palm civet’s digestive tract alter the flavor of the beans to make an unusually smooth and earthy brew. The main concerns with kopi luwak are authenticity and humane treatment of the palm civet (we’ve written about this before). For these reasons, we recommend Kaya Kopi as a supplier.
Cricket Energy Bars
Yes, they make energy bars from crickets. High in protein and much more sustainable than other sources, some people think they’re the future of protein supplements.
Newport Jerky Mixed Bugs
If you’re buying for someone who likes a little variety, then crickets may get old after a while (though cricket energy bars do come in different flavors). But just to be sure, maybe you should throw in a bag of mixed bugs.
2. Adventure/Experience Gifts
Some minimalists and anti-materialists simply prefer to put their energy into doing instead of acquiring. For this kind of person, life is an ongoing adventure to be pursued through new and exciting avenues, and stuff just gets in the way.
Luckily, there is a wide range of experiential gifts to choose from for anyone on your list looking to build their “life resume.”
Bucket List Activities
Virtually everyone has a handful of things they want to experience at least once, and Cloud 9 Living offers a lot of the usual suspects in this category. Whether it’s driving a race car, flying an airplane, whitewater rafting, ziplining, skydiving, or some other such thing, this website allows you to search by city for activities and experiences all over the US.
Similarly, Go Dream offers adventure and experience gifts all over the world, like glacier hiking in Greenland, ballooning over the Austrian Alps, or jet skiing around the Statue of Liberty.
If they live in or near a major urban area, or if they’ll be visiting one soon, the choices for entertaining, educational, and bizarre local tours are nearly endless. Many of these options are specific to the city itself, so you may have to do some research on your own depending on where you are (sorry).
But there are a few companies, like Urban Adventures, that offer tours of multiple cities, with themes ranging from food to history to shopping, and many points in between.
Maybe it’s the influence of zombie apocalypse themes in popular culture, but these days if you live anywhere near the wilderness (be it mountains, desert, forest, or prairie), there’s probably a survivalist school nearby. In a survivalist class you can learn how to make a fire from scratch, build your own shelter, identify edible plants, and generally become self-sufficient and harder to kill. Since it’s location-dependent, you’ll again have to search based on where your recipient lives, but it’s well worth it for anyone interested in learning to live off the land and off their own wits if need be.
From one of the largest and most famous companies in modern travel, AirBnB Experiences are activities that are planned, directed, and led by a local host. As opposed to traditional tourist activities, which sometimes feel like you’re observing from the outside, AirBnB Experiences are designed to immerse you in the local culture, so you can experience a small part of what it’s like to live there and be part of the community. And if you don’t want to choose the specific experience for your gift recipient, AirBnB gift cards work for Experiences as well as lodging.
3. Music Lessons
Just about everyone at some point in their lives has wanted to learn how to speak the universal language of music. Now that’s easier than ever, because you don’t even have to leave the house.
Of course, everyone learns a little differently, so some people will respond better to a real live teacher (or robot teacher, as soon as they start making those). So this might be a local thing.
But for many people, the convenience of learning at home, at their own pace, will trump all other concerns. And for them, there are plenty of choices, almost no matter what instrument they play (even if they play the harp or the didgeridoo).
The most common instruments people want to learn are the guitar and the piano, and accordingly, you’ll find the most options for these, including some really great ones.
For the piano players (or aspiring piano players) on your list, Playground Sessions (co-created by famous musician and producer Quincy Jones) and the Hoffman Academy are two of the most popular choices, with the Hoffman Academy being more explicitly aimed at kids (though both are appropriate for musicians of any age).
For guitar players, Guitar Tricks and Jam Play both offer highly-rated, well structured lesson plans that help guitar players progress while focusing on the things they really care about learning and offering lessons focusing on different genres of music.
Often the only barriers to learning music are the initiative to get started and the discipline to stay with it. A lesson subscription can be one of the best ways to give someone a hearty shove in the right direction.
One thing that highly motivated people are often bad at is taking care of number 1. If you know someone who is too busy, preoccupied, or stressed out to do nice things for themselves, then some paid relaxation might be the best thing you can do for them. And it might even make them more pleasant to be around for a few days, so consider this a gift to yourself as well.
Whether it’s a massage, facial, body wrap, exfoliation, mud slathering, or any other specialized treatment, few things will leave them feeling more vibrant, refreshed, healthy, and relaxed than a spa visit. Virtually all spas have gift cards (and who doesn’t these days?), so you can pick a local spot or grab a gift card from Spa Finder, which is good at thousands of spas across the US.
For the more adventurous, or for people who play sports, work in physically demanding jobs, or are otherwise hard on themselves, cryotherapy has gained popularity as a recovery method.
With cryotherapy, you step into a chamber that emits a super-cold gas like nitrous oxide, typically around -250° (yes, really). Why do you do this? Because a 2-minute cryo session (reportedly) gives you the same results as a 45-minute ice bath. Chronic pain, joint inflammation, and muscle soreness from intense workouts are a few of the most popular reasons to get cryotherapy.
Floatation tanks are less about rejuvenating physically and more about working out the mental bugs. In a floatation tank, you put on a light-blocking mask or goggles, put in some earplugs, and then lay down in a tank full of salt water that’s a precise 98.6°. The effect of floating in the body-temperature water combined with sensory deprivation makes you feel as if you don’t have a body at all (in a pleasant, relaxing way). It’s basically an ultra-intense form of meditation, and it’s a great way to clear your mind of useless clutter.
There’s nothing better for relaxation and overall health than good old fashioned exercise. But you have to know your audience with this one, because some people will misinterpret a gym membership as an expensive way of saying, “You’re fat.”
5. Event Tickets
When people think about event tickets, they usually think of musical concerts. And while concert tickets make a great gift, there are plenty of other events to choose from based on location, like art festivals, museum events, exhibitions, conventions, and so on. No matter what they’re interested in, there’s probably a group of people (for better or worse) that are getting together somewhere to do it.
6. Extraterrestrial Land
This is the most substantial gift on the list, but it won’t clutter up their physical space with anything more than a framed certificate. And you might be surprised at the low price that extraterrestrial land is going for, so this is an affordable option if you’re looking to help someone diversify their holdings.
Websites like Lunar Registry and Buy Mars (not the most creative name, for sure) allow you to buy real estate that’s literally out of this world. Though be forewarned: there’s currently no international governing body enforcing these land rights, so if Elon Musk wants to build a Tesla factory on the Mars plot you bought someone for Christmas, there’s probably nothing they can do about it.
7. Become Their Work Slave for a Day ( Or a Week)
Sometimes you have to get creative with what you’ve got to offer. If you know someone who’s buried in busywork or maintenance tasks, then lending your own physical abilities for a while may be the best thing you can do to help.
You might want to consider itemizing your services. One full house-cleaning or two lawn mowings can go a long way toward alleviating someone’s burden. There’s pretty much no end to the ways you can structure this agreement, so feel free to get creative.
Hopefully, after reading this list, you no longer fear buying gifts for people who say they don’t want anything. Because that’s never really true. What they mean is that nobody’s been creative enough to figure out something they really do want.
It’s about time you became that person. May the gift giving force be with you.