My dad the penny pincher
April 10, 2014 5:50 AM   Subscribe

My dad's birthday is coming up. He is a special scone. Can you help?

He is stereotypically Yankee and hates when his kids spend money on him. I've tried the gift giving tactic of giving him a nicer version of something he currently uses but it doesn't go over well.
About him:
- Electrical engineer but not big into computers outside of work. Does not have a smartphone but I think he would love a customized photo case.
- Lots of outdoor hobbies. Keeps bees, meat birds, laying birds and goats.
- Bow hunter / regular hunter
- Although he spends the majority of his time outdoors he will not buy special clothing for this ( exception is camo for hunting). So, no fancy woolrich wool vests or jackets.
- Recently bought house in Florida with my mom and is very excited to start living there a few months out of the year
- Lives in Vermont
- Has no interest in anything related to male grooming
- Really likes Harry Potter
- Doesn't care about home decor

Gifts that have flopped
- Custom embroidered hat for his apiary (too flashy)
- Kitchen gadgets (frivolous)
- Locally handmade winter hats (foofy)
- Shaving brush and cream (nicer version of Gillette, foofy)
- Artisan black tea (nicer version of red rose, didn't like it)
- Long underwear (apparently not as nice as his holey ones)

Gift successes
- Handknit hats by me
- Game camera which he uses to spy on a beaver that is wreaking havoc on his property
- Homemade scones
- Bogs
- Framed photos of me and my sister
- A Harry Potter snuggie

His default gift is a plaid shirt from the gap and carhaarts. Both will be worn at work for years until they rip and are demoted to outdoor wear. He has tons of plaid shirts and carhaarts and doesn't need any more. He is a great dad and I want to get him something special. Any ideas?
posted by pintapicasso to Shopping (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Does he chop/burn wood? If so, he may enjoy playing with a moisture meter to see how dry his seasoning process is getting his wood. Also useful for suspected mold issues!

If he has access to maple trees on his property, you could get him some tapping equipment, or even just a book on maple sugaring -- the season's over for this year but maybe he'd be interested next year? I mean, once you're raising bees, maple syrup really is the next step.

Warm wool socks. You could even handknit these although it takes time.

Is he into single-malt scotch? If not, assuming he drinks, could you *get* him into single-malt scotch?
posted by pie ninja at 5:58 AM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Experiential gifts are perfect for people like this. Take him hunting or fishing, for example.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:58 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

- Recently bought house in Florida with my mom and is very excited to start living there a few months out of the year
- Really likes Harry Potter

Has he been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando?
posted by Etrigan at 6:01 AM on April 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

This is what worked for my father (similar to yours, but with Floridian hobbies/lifestyle): A digital photo frame that you can either pre-load with pics of the family or wirelessly send pictures to. Mix in some nature photos and a pic of Hogwarts for good measure.
posted by kimberussell at 6:03 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Vermont, outside hobbies, thrifty, no-nonsense? Knit him a pair of split-finger mittens (or convertible gloves, but I think split fingers are warmer).
posted by peachfuzz at 6:04 AM on April 10, 2014

Something else handknit like a scarf or sweater? He seems to like things you've made.

Could you knit a scarf like the ones worn in the Harry Potter movies?
posted by Area Man at 6:05 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about something from the hunting section of LL Bean or Cabelas?
Other hunting ideas: a range finder, a tree stand or decoys.
You could arrange a hunting or fishing trip in Florida.
posted by Snazzy67 at 6:09 AM on April 10, 2014

I'm a Dad, and not a penny pincher, but I can tell you that I would much rather have a picture frame that my daughter made out of painted macaroni and styrofoam stickers than a sterling silver one from Tiffany's. Even something as simple as a box of cookies.

My parents, who are also hard to buy for, get for Christmas every year a photobook of the previous year's photos of their granddaughter and it is a huge success.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:09 AM on April 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

A copy of the Tightwad Gazette compendium?
posted by DarlingBri at 6:11 AM on April 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Concentrate on things he'll need for Florida. Perhaps some nice swim trunks or a hat to keep the sun off of his face.

I'd do a box of things from bargain store. swim trunks, floppy hat, bottle of No Ad Sunscreen. (No Ad has no fragrance and is cheap and good.)

Perhaps a Kindle, or an Amazon card to load a Kindle with beach reading.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:18 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

What about something else by you? Or a "gift certificate" to a shared experience -- take him out to dinner or to a museum or tractor show or something?
posted by spindrifter at 6:19 AM on April 10, 2014

Does he have any interest in bird watching? Maybe a bird whistle and some bird seed, or a bird guidebook?

Would he like a guidebook for plants to eat, or for animals that he might see on his property?

If he continues to tinker, would he like a Make Magazine subscription, or something from the Make store?

Your dad sounds awesome, although hard to buy for. Good luck!
posted by shortyJBot at 6:21 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like he especially loves handmade gifts by you. If you want to expand beyond knitting, how about some edibles? There are tons of threads around ask me for ideas -- jams/jellies/pickles, pancake mix, granola, infused liquors like limoncello, bbq sauce, the little pies in a jar...

Canning is actually very easy, and you can do water canning with just a big pot and a rag on the bottom, but if you don't want to bother, freezer jams are even easier.
posted by susanvance at 6:28 AM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

He seems to like it when you make something for him, so maybe make something for him? Can you knit a sweater? That would probably impress him quite a bit.
posted by xingcat at 6:28 AM on April 10, 2014

I can tell you what not to get him based on my own experience with a tightwad husband: couples massage. Absolutely hated it, wast of time, immediately washed the soothing lightly fragrant oil off as soon as we got home. I think he would have enjoyed another trip to Costco much more.

How about a Costco membership, gift certificate.
posted by waving at 6:45 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Where in Florida is he going to be? Near golfing? Fishing?

Perhaps a lemon tree for his house in Florida?
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:46 AM on April 10, 2014

Search ebay for postcards of the town he grew up in that are from when he was a kid, and then frame them. This was a HUGE hit with my dad.
posted by MsMolly at 7:14 AM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, can you give us more detail about the Florida house? I think there's probably a rich seam of gift possibilities there. Where in Florida? Is it near the water? What will his outdoors time look like there? Etc.
posted by saladin at 7:26 AM on April 10, 2014

He sounds like my dad, or me, really.

Some people are just not big fans of "stuff" as gifts. They don't want you to spend money on them, and they'd rather just have your company... they'd rather go buy their own hat or their own jacket than have you buy one. It's a combination of being picky, of a bit of martyrdom syndrome and not wanting people to spend money on you, and a bit of being thrifty, and a bit of just not caring about stuff that much anyway.

Instead what works for my dad (and what I appreciate as a gift) is something handmade.

My dad loves barbecues. So, we went to California and visited a friend's ranch, helped to bring down a tree that was dying, and brought him back some special firewood to use in the backyard fire pit for grilling. Then, we looked up a couple of barbecue sauce recipes using ingredients he typically likes, and we made a few jars of each.

Best gift ever. The wood cost nothing and the barbecue sauce cost $5-10 for ingredients. He appreciated the time we put into it though, and he appreciated that he could share his gifts with everyone and have a nice experience.

A year later today he still talks about wanting to go get more of the wood because he liked it so much, and he asked us to give him the sauce recipes, and he makes his own sauces now.

Shoot for that angle, I think. Make him some food, or something else handmade that he can share with others. Sounds like he will appreciate that most.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:31 AM on April 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

Maybe a fishing charter near the new Florida house, especially if you and your sister join. Something like this.

Yes, it's a clothing gift, but maybe some Darn Tough socks. Less "foofy" and more "versatile, quality product with a lifetime guarantee."

My dad has had endless fun with the Bug-A-Salt Gun.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:43 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Consumables like good are usually good for people like this. Does he grill? If Di some nice steaks, enough for the whole family do he can cook for your all. Gift card to a favorite restaurant. Btw sauce as Old Man McKay suggested, either a collection our homemade. Nice updated photos of you all.
posted by wwax at 7:58 AM on April 10, 2014

Maybe take a look at the Lee Valley Catalogue. They sometimes have very neat gifts for pretty much your dad's exact demographic. Lee Valley Site Good luck in your search.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 8:15 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe a charity or cause he really likes? I'm a lot like him, I don't need stuff, and I'm picky about experiential gifts. So, for the past couple years, I've asked people to donate to food banks instead. People have been doing it, too!
posted by spinifex23 at 8:39 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does he read the paper? A lot of the Vermonter folks around here seem to really like getting the local newspaper when they are away in Florida but it's a hassle for them to set-up with their existing subscription. Maybe a three month subscription for him while they're down there?
posted by jessamyn at 9:19 AM on April 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

These suggestions are fantastic. Thank you!
- I don't have a hunting or fishing license, so I won't be going on trips with him
- the moisture meter for chopping wood has the potential to be a big hit
- he tapped trees for years but right now a neighbor is using our maples for sugaring
- he loooooves cabelas, I've given gift certificates but will poke through the catalog
- he will continue to work remotely while in Florida but his free time will be spent gardening, fishing in the bay and ocean, laying on the beach and keeping bees. Also he will be consumed with working on the house. Probably no other animals. His house is outside of Naples.
- he hates the Burlington free press but I think that is a fantastic idea for our tiny local paper. I will look into it.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:34 AM on April 10, 2014

Just something to keep in mind: Research has shown that experiences make people much happier than things. If I were in your shoes, I'd treat your father to some sort of experience. What kind? I don't know. But it's likely to provide more memories and more enjoyment than a gift card or some new Thing to keep around the house.
posted by jdroth at 10:03 AM on April 10, 2014

I just got my boyfriend these Hogwarts lounge pants for his birthday and he really likes them. They also have styles that have the different house names on them instead of Hogwarts.
posted by jabes at 10:15 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

If he's in to fishing and he's near the water, how about a kayak?
posted by saladin at 10:32 AM on April 10, 2014

I don't have a hunting or fishing license

In many places you can get a one day (or other short-period) fishing license. They're very cheap and don't require any training or anything. I recently did this for a charter in NY and everything was done online in about 2 minutes and I think I paid $5. Sites for: FL, NY, and VT.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:34 AM on April 10, 2014

If you're up for it, I would try handmade socks. One of my knitting friends even found this great camouflage variegated yarn that she used to make socks for her dad.
posted by epersonae at 3:22 PM on April 10, 2014

Custom photo calendar!
posted by bq at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2014

When I read "Really likes Harry Potter," I actually said "adorable!!" out loud. Your dad sounds awesome.

This is more of a small stocking-stuffer-type add-on gift, but my boyfriend recently got me these awesome organic fair trade chocolate frogs made for the Harry Potter Alliance. There's also a dark chocolate (vegan) version. They're pretty ethical, tasty, and cute, and actually contain trading cards--I got Luna Lovegood.

Also, as several people have suggested, he sounds like the type to enjoy experiences rather than objects. Would you be able to do any kind of "Day Doing X with Y" where X is something he enjoys and Y is you or the rest of your family? Would you be able to save up for some kind of special experience, perhaps pitching in with your sister or/and mom--lessons in something? Pottery, stained glass, woodburning, nature photography, I don't know. A trip out west to bow-hunt big game (I know someone who goes to "Moose Camp" once a year or so)? I didn't see whether he fished--fly tying? Make him a special dinner or send a special food gift (birthday cake/cookies?)--my own penny-pinching dad was in awe when I sent him some nice steaks from Allen Brothers.
posted by spelunkingplato at 9:15 PM on April 10, 2014

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