Financial Travel Tip #97: Sending Gifts Home Without Spending a Fortune

by Nora on September 13, 2013


Sending gifts home to family and friends while you’re abroad might seem like a lovely idea, but in practice it’s difficult to do without spending a fortune.

When I started traveling full-time, I tried to keep up with all the birthdays and holidays, celebrating with family and close friends by sending trinkets from my current destination home as presents.


I spent a fortune.


Even if the trinket itself was light in weight, the cost of postage was heavy – and depending on where I was at the time, arrival was questionable (late arrival was assumed, regardless of when it was sent).


I quickly realized that in order to live a financially sustainable life of full-time travel, social spending habits need to change – across the board.

Ironically, I might not have honoured as many holidays and gift-giving occasions with presents if I weren’t traveling; somehow I felt an obligation to send a little piece of my life abroad back to them, just like bringing a souvenir back home for somebody (without coming home with the souvenir).

It’s an example of how ingrained ideas and habits can reveal themselves when your circumstances change.



Sending Gifts Home

But I’m not tackling the greater topic of social spending habits here. We’re talking about sending gifts home without going broke.

I still send gifts home, but much more judiciously and periodically. Here’s how I do it:


Online Ordering

The easiest way to send a gift home from abroad is to order it online and have it delivered direct. An extra $5 on gift wrapping makes it an occasion. It’s also a great opportunity to earn frequent flyer miles by shopping through online portals.


Traveling Companions

Occasionally you might cross paths with somebody who is headed to your old neck of the woods. Assuming they’re somebody you trust (and they have room in their bag), you can give the present to them to bring back and mail from your home country.

My mother – bless her – sent a few care packages to me this way when I was in Australia, saving hundreds of dollars in postage.



I have a few family members who have e-readers and love books. We share books we’ve recently enjoyed with each other (and in a way, we are brought closer despite physical distance) by buying them online and sending them to their account (kobo, kindle, etc) or email address.



This is a lovely way to recognize a holiday or celebration in a low-key way. A well-selected e-card with a message is free (or very low cost), and usually appreciated.


Visits Home

I like to use visits home as an occasion to bring trinkets from my current destination to give away. Visiting home also carries its own unique set of spending (and giving) scenarios.

Every time I’ve visited my home town of Toronto, I’ve spent big bucks. It’s partly because I tend to spend time abroad rurally and my expenses naturally increase in cities, and it’s partly because I often use visits home to restock on any packing list items that require replacement.


But it’s mainly because I use my time visiting with family and friends to make up for the celebrations we’ve missed while I was abroad. It’s never named as such, but it’s reciprocal; there’s always a reason to splash out when in the company of long-missed family and friends.


How do you send gifts home while you’re abroad? Or do you at all?



{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David September 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm

This is a nothing article.

It’s not difficult to do at all, any idiot knows how to send an ecard

Amazon, Ebay, etc.

Or just send from wherever you are in the world. doesn’t cost a fortune if it’s lightweight


2 theprofessionalhobo September 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Hi David,
Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m sorry this topic was too primitive for your needs.


3 Fil September 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Another great article. But, unfortunately sending a gift to everyone on your list can be costly! So, I like to send to the ones closest to my heart. Then when I return home, I always make sure that there is some kind of little trinket for the ones I missed. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!!! and they always appreciate it!


4 theprofessionalhobo September 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Nice one, Fil! Very similar to my strategy.


5 Tiffany September 13, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Ah….yes…missing all the birthdays, Christmas, ect I struggled on how to handle that while traveling abroad for such extended periods at first. What Chris and I do now as our tradition is when we go home, very shortly after arriving and the jet lag is over we put on a cultural day for our family. We don’t tell them anything that we’re going to do. For example when we put on our Australia Day we asked everyone to arrive at a certain time so that when they entered the house there was traditional Aboriginal music playing, cave drawings on the side walk and when they walked into the house we had it decorated with all sorts of little treasures from down under (which were everyone’s small little gifts but they didn’t know it at the time). We cook a cultural meal and usually come up with a game of some sort, like Australian bingo where teams had to try and guess what it meant to have ‘a steaky beak’ or what ‘ta’ meant. This has been a great coming home party, a change to share a lot of stories at the same time and now our tradition.


6 theprofessionalhobo September 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Hey Tiffany,
What a fabulous way to celebrate and share your travels with family and friends! Very cool. I’m inspired!


7 Michele September 17, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I have spent a years teaching our now adult children about the importance of relationships and experiences not things… I have been trying to work out what to do while we are while we are travelling but this has made me think of things like groupon vouchers etc and they can all be brought online and emailed so think I might do that. Thanks for making me think about it.


8 theprofessionalhobo September 18, 2013 at 7:11 am

Hi Michele,
Groupon vouchers are a great idea! I haven’t really gotten into Groupon, but I hear it’s fantastic.


9 Tim H September 18, 2013 at 7:41 am

I’ve made my gifts more meaningful and saved money by taking a little more time. My typical gift overseas is now light, cheap, and fits in a standard envelope. But I go the extra mile to give the receiver a brief written story behind the item. Maybe about the vendor who I bought it from or any adventure I had purchasing it. My hope is it ties the person gift, making it a little more special.


10 theprofessionalhobo September 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Hey Tim – Very nice. I’ve done similar things myself – it’s just a matter of finding something small and meaningful enough to send.


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