June is the Month for New Beginnings: A Gift Guide

I think the most exciting part of my life has always been when I start something new, and what’s newer than setting up your very first home? It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student, newlyweds, or just someone starting over. It’s exhilarating, daunting, and slightly scary.

I had already picked out my apartment when Greg had asked me to marry him. That set us on a whole different path than the one I had planned. Like most newlyweds we had so little. I had invested my entire fortune on a new bedroom suite. In hindsight it was a good investment. We had it for 30 years before we sold it–and it was still in great shape.

We were already married two years before we bought another stick of furniture, relying instead on a huge cardboard box for a dining table and two industrial cardboard drums for chairs.  Good times!

My mother had bought me a set of pots and pans. Someone else gave us a set of towels. But the kitchen supplies came from what little cash I could scrape together. To this day, if I buy newlyweds a present, I almost always include a laundry bin filled with pantry supplies and cooking utensils. It’s what gave me the most pride when I was young because they made me feel like an adult–a self-sufficient adult no longer attached to mom’s apron strings.

With June coming up, it reminds me of weddings, college, and college graduates. Here are my picks for great gifts.

It all depends on how well you know the person, but if they’re starting from nothing, you can be assured, they’ll need everything.

• Pots and pans: Depending on their situation and cooking ability, you can either buy a cheap set that will last them a couple of years, or a great set that could last a lifetime.

Storage containers: Glass, please. Let’s try to reduce our dependence on plastic.

• Pantry staples: I use a laundry bin, but you can do something smaller like a stock pot filled with spices, a sturdy set of cooking utensils, and a set of silicone oven mitts.
I have one of these silicone mitts and plan on getting one more. They are far better than the old quilted ones. No heat transfer at all!

Another idea would be to get a large pasta bowl and fill it with all the ingredients necessary to make a grand pasta dinner, including the pricey olive oil and fresh garlic.

• Kitchen Towels: Towels might seem a cheap gift, but boy, are they useful. I bought this particular set for myself. They’re good, absorbent bar towels.

• Food: You can’t go wrong with food. In a large brown bag, fill it to the brim with canned goods, spices, pastas, flour, sugar, and rice. A nice gift certificate to a grocery store will allow them to buy fresh meat and vegetables.  When we were starting out, food was a luxury, I kid you not. I know a hundred ways to stretch a chicken. LOL!

Living Room
• Throw pillows, bedspreads, and hooked rugs: If you’re handy, you can make these. My mother was always making me throw pillows, curtains, and comforters. They weren’t just gifts from the heart, but keepsakes. When deciding on a gift, don’t discount your innate talents. I still have the handmade gifts I was given.

Entertainment: Books, DVDs (though most young people seem to prefer to stream), or restaurant gift cards. Theater tickets are great gifts too.

• Streaming subscription:
Most people already have televisions or a laptop, but they might not be able to afford Netflix or Amazon Prime, so a year’s subscription is a nice perk.

Linen: If you know the size of their bed, give them a quality set of sheets. If not, a set of thick bath towels are just as nice.
Clock: Mundane maybe, but there are some clocks with clever assets, like the kind that recharge your cell phones.

Other stuff: I mentioned streaming, but don’t forget other subscriptions, like magazines, or Amazon Prime for shopping. College students get a special discount for Prime. Join Amazon Student FREE Two-Day Shipping for College Students

Fire Extinguisher: I will admit, this is a boring gift, so be sure to make this an add-on to your ‘other’ gift. This is something people starting out NEVER buy for themselves. No one expects to have a fire which is why no one seems to have a fire extinguisher. If you’ve ever lived through a house fire, you’ll know what I mean. It could mean the difference between losing a kitchen and losing an entire home–or worse.

Plants: Okay, I’ll admit this is something I basil plantwould’ve wanted. Even if they don’t have any dirt to call their own, a potted plant is a sweet gift and costs very little. You might be turning someone into a future gardener, and then you can send them to me so we can talk about tomatoes and geraniums. 🙂

If you’d like more gift ideas, check out this post and this one.

I get sentimental with young people starting out. Although cash is always appreciated, I still remember the “little things” I was given back when I had nothing. They’re precious to me.


How did you start out? I hope you did better than the cardboard box we had. I have to laugh about our “dining room table” but it really wasn’t so bad.

What was your favorite gift when you got married or first left home?


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This post may contain affiliate links. Clicking on these links cost you nothing, but they do help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting MariaZanniniHome. I appreciate you!

All original content copyrighted by Maria Zannini 2016 - 2018.


  1. JackieBCentralTexas

    Maria when we started out we had a huge surprise because our wedding shower netted us all the items for our kitchen for cooking and storage, our bedding, our bath towels and wash cloths and hand towels.

    Our kitchen table, ancient black and white TV that my husband contributed and my personal bed set were also “starter” set up and we appreciated them for a few years before we had money to “trade up” to new and nicer.

    My favorite item was the toaster oven given by a friend that we used for many years. The 2nd favorite was the set of stainless steel pots and pans my Mother gave us, they lasted all the way till 2011 when we lost them in the 2011 fire along with many other gifted kitchen items that had survived all our moves and all the years of marriage.

    Your list for newlyweds is spectacularly well thought out and you and Greg proved that one could make it with very little back-in-the-day but try that now with people and they would faint from shock without all the “new” furniture and etc.

  2. Jackie: I should’ve thought of a toaster oven. That’s an excellent gift.

    You might be right about young people today. Most of the newlyweds and college grads I know got new stuff from their parents or friends. When we started my parents struggled too much to afford much so what they gave us was much appreciated.

    I’d like to think those starting out wouldn’t put themselves in hock over a few sticks of furniture. It’s not worth it. You can make do with castoffs or Goodwill until you can afford new.

    For what it’s worth, even though I had good credit, we never bought anything we couldn’t pay in cash.

  3. With both of us in the military, living in the barracks, neither one of us had ANYTHING for the house. But my favorite gift was a laundry basket filled with kitchen utensils. We got lucky that we were transferred to a place (Alaska) that furnished the quarters (because, you know, we had NOTHING). Really good furniture, too (solid wood). When they decided to do away with the program and sell it, we bought all our dressers, tables, and bookcases (and then some), because where can you buy a dresser for $20? Even in 1980! We still have most of it, too, and use it.

    Okay, I guess I went off topic. Got a bit excited. 😀 Sometimes memories can grab you, huh?

  4. Stacy: That’s a great story! I love that you were able to buy the furniture. Solid wood furniture has become something of an urban legend.

    Every once in a while if I find a piece of solid wood furniture with nice lines dumped in the garbage, I’ll pick it up and refinish it, and then resell it. I hate to see nice furniture tossed when it can be refinished like new.

  5. Most weddings we go to now provide us with ‘lists’ generated by a particular store which ticks off as each item is bought. As a result our priority is to scan the list as soon as it’s out and choose fast— on the basis of three specific criteria a) What we can afford and b) what will last and c)what will be well used. We still have a large number of wedding gifts that are used every day – including a knife that’s kept its edge for nearly thirty years.

    • Mike: I posted something on Facebook about an incident in the UK where the bride and groom wrote one of their guests. Instead of thanking her for her 100 pound gift, they said she should’ve offered more.

      I don’t mind wedding and baby registries because people know what they need, but when young people ask for foolish and extravagant items I know that it’s all about appearance for them. I give them a wide berth. We will never travel in the same circles.

  6. Angela L Brown

    When I first left home, it was as a college student. I went to the University of Memphis, two hours away from my taken-for-granted home world. The essentials were a shower caboodle filled with toiletries and flip flops (cuz we had a community bathroom on each floor of the dorm), a bathrobe, a microwave for the extremely cheap food that could be afforded on my dorm clerk chump change, and a good set of bedding for my twin-sized bed. Having those basics helped me survive my freshman year in college.

    Yep, good times lol!

    • You roughed it more than most college students do today. A friend of mine just set up her daughter with a complete set of mini furniture, decor, and fridge. I thought it was a bit much but I don’t know the college mentality of today so I can’t judge.

  7. When I got my base housing I had zero furniture, and couldn’t afford any. My first acquisition was an old six-foot-long couch a couple advertised for free in the classifieds. They even delivered it for free when they found out I was military. It was upholstered in a hideous gold floral, and a bit shabby, but clean. I was very grateful for it; before that I slept on a blow-up mattress I’d bought for three dollars at KMart.

    That free couch made me keep my eyes open for more bargains, and I started to notice all the things people threw out that were still usable. I scrounged an old TV tray from a dumpster, cleaned it up and that was my dining room table for a year. Until I could afford some cookware I cooked everything (including spaghetti) in a copper teapot my aunt had sent me for my birthday.

    Eventually I upgraded the TV tray to a battered old card table from a flea market that I recovered with cheap place mats that I sewed together. Gradually I repaired and painted four mismatched chairs to go with it that I’d found thrown out. A pottery warehouse let me have three wooden shipping crates that I made into a bookcase. I asked my mom to send me some old beach towels she had, and I cut them in half and hemmed them into bath towels. I never managed a television, but I did buy an old boom box at a garage sale for a dollar, and that was my stereo system. 🙂

    At the time I wished I could have had nicer things, but being broke taught me to be resourceful and thrifty. I appreciate all those lessons learned to this day.

  8. Lynn: I love your story! And how nice that the couple delivered your couch. We try to do little things like that if we know the family is in the military. Their lives are tough enough.

    You did a great job recycling and upcycling too. We learned to dumpster dive and keep an eye for things people were tossing out. Getting by was so tight in those early days. Makes me extra grateful for what we have now.

    I think we used Greg’s old 9 inch television for several years before we could afford a new one. We didn’t watch much tv then so it wasn’t much of a hardship.

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