When most of us think about frugal gifts, we often picture homemade preserves and hand-crafted baubles. But one of the best gifts we can give is an investment in someone else's frugality. And for long-term value, books can be often be the very best investment.
I'm sure there are hundreds of useful books out there, but the following are the top ten favorites at our house (in no particular order). Whether you find them new or used, they can offer the recipient hundreds or even thousands of dollars in savings over the years. And if you don't see anything that fits someone on your list, at least keep your eyes open for something else that will!
- The Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook
by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good, is packed with recipes for the crockpot. There are no cute little filler stories here, just lots and lots of recipes. And these aren't "gourmet" recipes with obscure ingredients; they're recipes submitted by home cooks from all over the U.S. Especially for working people, this book can help make it easier to overcome the temptations of convenience and take-out foods. It may be available elsewhere, but if you have trouble finding it, try www.goodbks.com.
- Wake Up and Smell the Money: Fresh Starts at Any Age-And Any Season of Your Life
by Ginger Applegarth, tackles the planning and decision making that most of us find difficult. Unlike most financial books, though, it's very easy to read. It covers budgeting, setting long-term goals, planning for retirement, and much more. Included are many worksheets and activities that help you get down to the honest details and really get started on the financial security you desire. While this book is perfect for the recent college grad or the newly married, it also specifically addresses the problems of those who start planning later in life. This book is generally available through all major booksellers.
- The Encyclopedia of Home Maintenance & Repair
by William Perkins Spence, can be surprisingly useful to the "newly handy" as well as to the veteran do-it-yourself whiz. It is relatively easy to read, and contains info on simple tasks like estimating wall paint, in addition to more complicated projects like repairing plumbing and installing electrical wiring. A bonus is the listing of recommended tools provided in some of the major sections. This book should be available new or used through most major booksellers.
- Managing Your Career for Dummies
by Max Messmer, isn't just for workaholics. If you're going to work, why not make the most of it? That's just what this book is designed to help you do. It contains easy-to-read tips about cover letters, resumes, job hunting, interviews, and making the best impression at work. Some of the more interesting tips deal with identifying your marketable skills and making a career change. Even if the recipient has been in the job market for quite a while, there's plenty of useful information in this book. And as most of us already know, the "For Dummies" books are readily available through just about any of the major booksellers.
- The Bell Blue Book: Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration
from Alltrista (formerly Ball and Kerr canning products), is the definitive reference book for preserving foods at home. It contains all the information necessary for a novice to get started successfully, yet also offers interesting tips and recipes for the experienced canner. Unlike most books, it is very important to be sure you buy the latest version of this one, since it contains the most recent information on food safety. Although you may find it elsewhere, the simplest way to purchase this book is through www.homecanning.com.
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette
by Amy Dacyczyn, is available in three separate books (I, II, and II), or bound altogether in a single volume. And what frugal book list would be complete without it? For everyday money-saving tips on everything from groceries to tennis shoe repair, I've never found a better single source. Although no reader will find a use for every single tip, there's certainly something useful for everyone in these books. You may be able to find these books used, but new copies seem to fly off the shelves in bookstores. Plan ahead in case you need to ask your local bookseller to order copies for you, or allow time for back orders if purchasing online.
- Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces: A Layering System for Big Results in Small Gardens and Containers (Rodale Organic Gardening Book)
by Particia Lanza, explains an innovative way for making the most of a garden without all the traditional digging and tilling. Based on a concept of layering soil and recycled materials, it's perfect for busy people who still want all the benefits of raising their own produce. Even for novices, this book will provide both inspiration AND instructions for gardening successfully. You can easily purchase this book new or used through most major booksellers.
- Cheap Dates: Fun, Creative, and Romantic Dates That Won't Break Your Budget
by Steven C. Smith, is equally useful for the college student or for harried parents. If nothing else, this book may help get a young couple off to a solid start toward a lifelong frugal relationship. The suggestions are fun, creative, and practical for almost anyone. Although used copies seem to be in short supply, this book is available new through most major booksellers.
- FamilyFun Boredom Busters: 365 Games, Crafts & Activities For Every Day of the Year
edited by Deanna F. Cook, is a handy resource for any adult who might encounter the dreaded, "I'm bored!" Stay-at-home parents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, and grandparents should find quite a few inexpensive and creative ideas in this book, especially those that focus on using recycled materials. This title seems to be readily available new or used through most major booksellers.
- Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence
by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, certainly isn't the most subtle of frugal gifts. But, it can be a cherished one for those on your list who has already expressed a desire to take control of their lives and their money. Step by step, the authors help their reader understand past relationships with work and money, then forge new perceptions, values, and habits. If you know someone who is just waiting to make that first step, find a new or used copy through almost any bookseller.