Gifts for a Grouchy Old Man

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Finding the right gift for the grouchy old man in your life can be challenge at times. This is a page about gifts for a grouchy old man.


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June 16, 2004

The following are the answers to a request for our former ezine, the Thrifty Gift Digest. We are not saying that your husband, dad or grandpa is grouchy but there are some great gift ideas here for the "I don't need anything" sort.

Gift Request

My dad is really hard to buy for, he says he doesn't need anything and frankly he really doesn't. "Save your money!" he says. Yet it doesn't feel right to give him nothing. Does anyone have ideas for a "grouchy" old man? : )


How nice to have someone tell you to save your money! Your first gift to this dear old grouch should be gratitude.

Some folks have relatives who stick up their noses at home-made gifts and throw a hissy fit if they suspect you spent less on them than they did on you. The same people also seem to have a knack for paying too much for stuff you could have gotten along at least as well without! So, praise gramps for being practical and for setting a good example.


Next, consider things that only you can give. For instance, you might give nice pictures of your children. Or perhaps you know of some tiny little something other people don't know he cares about -- perhaps you are the only member of the family who knows about or remembers some happy event in his life that can be commemorated.

Maybe you know the name of the ship he served on, or you remember that he always gets interested when some historic event is mentioned -- do a little research, and find a way to turn that knowledge into a gift.

Consider gifts of service. There are things money just can't buy. You can hire a taxi to take you shopping, but not someone who will also remember the right sizes of things needed. You can hire a cook, but you can't always get the cook to make it just the way Aunt Phyllis did.


You can hire a laundress, but she wouldn't know which ragged old clothes are rich in memories and should be carefully preserved. You can hire a gardener, but not one who also listens to old war stories (for the hundredth time) with rapt attention.

There are also services that don't seem to be for sale at all. Who but family would, without being asked, find out the location of his old sweetheart's grave and put her favorite flowers on it? Who but family would dig out the old Christmas decorations and hang them as near as possible to the same way they've been hung for as long as anyone can remember? Who but family would spend hours drawing him out and recording his memories for posterity?

Who but family could sort out the boxes of old photos and keep all the cousins and uncles correctly sorted out?

And don't forget gifts that you make. It isn't the cost that matters, but that you put some thought and some time into it. Even if he has a dozen matching pot holders, and never cooks anyway; one potholder made by a grandchild will get top billing.


He may have a closet full of ties, but one hand painted with a theme that means something to both giver and recipient will be worn oftener. How about a frame around that picture of the grandchild, made by the grandchild with a little help from you?

Rose B

How about handmade gift certificates for time spent with him, such as lunch out or a movie or a walk in the park?

Lynn West of Eugene, OR

In response to Tiffany - to get for "the person who has everything" I try to get them "Consumables". Anything to be used and have nothing to show for it - like snack foods that you know they would never get themselves or movie tickets or chocolates, ice cream, etc. Kids love this too with individual size things - like juice boxes, snack sizes. You get the idea.



In response to Tiffany, my Dad is the same way -- he doesn't want any gifts! So I give him the gift of my time, sometimes along with a small material present as well. This Spring I bought him 2 dwarf cherry trees for his garden, and part of the gift was that I planted and mulched them, since I knew he wouldn't do that, and I water them when I visit.

You could offer Dad a dinner or lunch date at a nice restaurant or even a simple hot dog stand - but you do the driving and you pay. Or take him to the movies or to a museum. Mow his lawn, and then take his lawn mower for a tune-up and pay for it. Or buy the weed-n-feed for the lawn and then apply it for him.

This is limited only by your imagination. Most seniors would be happy to have some services performed for them.

It seems to me that my parents don't really need more material "goods" in their lives, but they can usually use some sort of "services" instead.



Here are some things I give my "grouchy old Dad" when he says, "save your money."

1. A variety of lottery tickets wrapped up in a box. He's an avid lottery player.

2. I pre-pay his gardener, whatever dollar amount you choose, then make up GC on the computer.

3. I buy him pre-paid gift cards to local gas stations.

4. I pay for his newspaper subscription (a month or a year whatever you want)

5. GC to his favorite restaurant.

6. GC to the grocery store where he shops.

7. I also pay close attention when I'm around him to things he uses a lot that may be wearing out or when he says,"Maybe someday I'll get this or that." All year long I listen for these slight hints, and always jot them down for future use. Hope you can use some of these ideas.


Something which might work for him - if he has a kitchen table which would allow this. Take a round wood piece, attach a turntable to the underside and purchase a piece of glass to cover this wood circle.

Now, using a poster board choose pictures of your family members and glue these pictures to the poster board, completely covering it.

When dry, place on top of the wooden circle, covering with the glass piece. Now he can enjoy seeing these pictures when he just sits at the table or when he places his food items on the turntable as a handy way to reach what he wants to eat.

You also might talk him into letting you have any special momentos he's collected over the years and then you get the privilege to attach them within a shadow box for him to hang on the wall. No need to keep these things hidden away in boxes.


I just read about a wonderful idea to create a " Memory Jar" for your parent(s) as a way to honor/thank them for raising you. Take a pretty jar and fill it with small cards on which you have neatly written (or typed) a childhood memory. Anything goes from funny to heart-warming to bittersweet. The author included holiday/birthday memories, family vacation memories, the day the family pet died (sniff), etc.

I am going to involve my two siblings and make it a joint project. We want to include things that may surprise our folks. Things like teaching us how to bake, garden, clean, share, drive a car (a stick shift, too!) etc. and even times when we were punished and look back now to appreciate it for the love it demonstrated.

I think we will also note the sacrifices we now know they made for us. This seems perfect for all kinds of relationships, especially those where it may be awkward to tell the person face to face. The point is not to honor only perfect parents, (who would get a jar?) but to thank them in a tangible way for all they have done to put you where you are today.

The idea is to attach a card with instructions to read one card a day. You could make refills for future years. I read that one "grouchy old man" watches TV every evening with his jar on his lap.

Hope this sparks your creative engine. I think I may have an address for ordering a kit but that goes against my thrifty grain. You can do this with a thrift shop jar and colored index cards.

Terri - Ohio

My father-in-law is much the same. He has two of everything! We decided on a consumable gift for him this year. He loves a good steak but rarely will buy it unless it is on sale. We called the local meat market and arranged to have already frozen quality steak delivered to him and loaded in his freezer.

Now while this in not a inexpensive gift, we considered it thrifty because we know he will use it and it won't just sit around gathering dust--as many of our past gifts have done. I don't know what your "grouchy old man" likes, but a gift of food or other items that get used up is always appreciated by older folks.


Hi there! Here's what I've done in the past for those "Save your money - I don't want anything" grumps.

1. Make them their favorite sweets (cookies, pies, squares) and put them on a plate, or spruce up an old coffee can with paint or decoupage. Even if their favorite isn't a sweet, anything works!

2. Do something sentimental (even for the grumpiest of grumps). A single sentimental picture of you with this person (maybe from childhood) put into a frame that you've picked up or made (frames can be made as simply as pasting fabric or pretty paper onto cardboard). Other things I've done are memory boxes of my relationship with that person, scrapbooks (you can pick a theme such as 'My favorite things about you' or a collection of memorabilia from some point in their life.

3. Write them a letter. It's simple but means a great deal if you can find the words to express what that person really means to you. Tie it up with a ribbon to add something pretty.

4. Grumps are often practical. Consider gifts that they'd use everyday. Make a basket with medicinal or health items they routinely use like antacids, shaving supplies, hair goop - whatever they use. This is thoughtful and personal while providing them with something they don't have to buy themselves for a while. Other ideas are stamps, stationary supplies or recreational stuff. A can of worms goes over great with an avid fisherman!

5. Give them an award for something - greatest grump, most practical person, best dad....make a certificate or fashion a trophy. You can recycle an old one as well.


I, too, have faced the problem of gift giving for parents who really do not need anything. Magazine subscriptions are great for this stage in life. Also if they are travelers, a photo album and any supplies for mounting photos meet the special need.


I have found that gifts of the fellow's favorite candy, cookies, wine or cans of coffee or tea that he likes would be accepted. Perhaps he would like a pair of moccasins to wear around the house or yard. Also you could give him coupons he could redeem for house cleaning, a luncheon date, a hug and kiss, use your imagination as you know him much better than any of us. Good luck!


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