"So, what do you want for your birthday" my Mum and MrEH both asked a few weeks ago. Now I guess you know that the whole simple/frugal living thing is working when you struggle to think of a single tiny thing that you actually want?! Thankfully my family are pretty good about buying things that people need and will use, as presents - in the past our christmas & birthday lists have contained such everyday things as shampoo, makeup, footwear and even foodstuffs (vanilla extract proves particularly popular!) all of which are useful and far more worthwhile uses of money than something completely random that will never see the light of day after the person receiving it has thanked you politely.
There's been a big move in recent years towards the "charity gifts" market - fresh water for a family, seeds and agricultural tools, even livestock - all of these are wonderful BUT only work if they are from a charity that the person you're buying for actually supports - people have very strong ideas about charities and I know a good number of people whose choice is to exclusively support UK organisations. I'm venturing no opinion whether they are wrong or right, but I do know that it's their decision and the rest of us have no right to judge them on it. We've tried to move more towards thinking about the useful aspect of presents - I put together a box for MrEH with all manner of toiletries he uses in it - everything from razorblades and shaving oil to talcum powder and deodorant. Not only does this save him the hassle of having to buy those items himself, it frees up some of his disposable cash too through the year. He usually buys me camera memory cards which I go through at a fair rate, and things like makeup in brands that I love, but couldn't justify buying for myself. It's a win-win situation - you know you're buying something for the person that will be genuinely appreciated.
I decided to stick with the "things I need" approach to answer the question I was asked - the case that my clarinet came in when I bought it was in poor condition when I got it - a lot of the interior padding had deteriorated, and one of the catches had also failed, meaning that on a couple of occasion bits have started falling out as I picked it up. Likewise, my 8 year old and heavily used camera bag was starting to show serious signs of wear and tear, not helped by some "robust handling" from British Airways when we flew back from Orkney earlier in the year. Both of these things would have been purchases I would have struggled to afford or to justify for myself, but I was delighted to receive. My cherished Clarinet is now housed in a rather glam bright purple case, and my camera gear will shortly be transferring over to a new bag in fashionable black. The old camera bag will be heading MrEH's way - it's still got some life in it, and the zip pull on his existing one failed a few months ago making it difficult to open. His will head to the charity shop - although it no longer works for us, it may well help someone else out.
It's amazing how fast the thing of buying "useful" presents spreads - and remember, the most "everyday" stuff that's bought for you by others, the more of your own money you have free'd up for tea & cake!