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Twentysomething Gift Ideas for The Twenty-Something in Your Life

Updated on November 18, 2011

Not Too Young, Not Too Old

If you're like me, buying a gift for people who aren't quite settled into a specific phase of their life is hard. To be honest, buying a gift for anyone is hard. So hard in fact, that in my family we just make lists and pretend to be surprised Christmas morning. And while I know that sounds highly impersonal to a lot of people, it's the truth. Most of us don't go around saying what we want and if we do, it's only culturally and socially acceptable until the age of 12.

And when that happens, the awkward phase of trying to figure out what they want begins. Now mind you between the ages of 13 and 19 are hard to buy for, but it seems like once somebody hits 20, it gets nearly impossible. Chances are the person is still in college or training for their career, single, and living on their own or about to. What do you get that person? And more importantly what should you avoid? Well, that's what I hope to answer in this hub. For that awkward almost adult in your life, I will describe what you should and should not get for that person based on personal experience, observation, and my Shawn Spencer-like gift GPS.

What to Observe and What Not to Buy

While I know some people want to lavish their loved ones/friends with cool gifts that you really think they might be into, it's also important to know what they are not into. And if you are like a lot of people in the modern era, it's hard to observe from afar. The people you buy for you don't always see and so a lot of times it's easy to just assume what they liked five years ago is still okay to buy as a gift. But the cold truth is, it doesn't. You have to do research and by that I mean ask around, observe their current situation, and even use Facebook.

If the young adult in your life works an interesting job like at an art museum, use that as leverage to think of something they might appreciate. Or if said twenty-something is president of their university's film society, you might can work from there. It's about noticing the little things that really helps you gain information to make the right selection.

Now, if you happen to be in a situation where you are Facebook friends with them or Twitter follow them then that works as well. However, you should proceed with caution. Not everyone lives and dies by their favorite books on Facebook but it can provide good insight for what they might want.

Okay, so now that you might have an idea about what they like, then it's time to really consider what not to buy.

Music- With iTunes and other internet MP3 music providers, it's always good to get an iTunes gift card but I would say absolutely do not buy an individual song or album for anyone. As I've said in previous hubs, music is intensely personal and you have to consider that the young person your purchasing music for may not like what you think they like. Plus, it's going to be really awkward to say they enjoyed it when they didn't.

Books/Magazines- Reading as evolved in our society just as much as music but the way we read has also changed. That being said, buying individual books isn't the way to go unless that person specifically stated they wanted a particular one. Another thing to consider is that the person might not read books on a regular basis.

Magazines are the same as well. Unless you know for certain that person wants a particular subscription or has an interest in the subject matter, it's best not to.

Beauty Products (Shower Gels, Sprays, et al)- This applies to young ladies namely but can apply to young men as products like Dove Men and Axe are hot on the market. One of the big reasons to avoid something like this is that with so many allergies and sensitivities, it's hard to know if someone can even tolerate these types of products. Another reason is pretty obvious, you don't know what someone wants to smell like. So it would be best to steer clear of this altogether.

Undergarments/Sleepwear- The reason to avoid this category is obvious, it's just plain awkward after about seven to give someone Tweety pajamas or Spiderman underoos. Just say no.

Hopefully with a tad of background information and a little insight, finding the actual gift should be easy.

Gift Ideas

Here are some ideas for the twenty-something in your life. Now mind you, there's no one-size-fits-all person so there isn't always a one-size-fits-all gift. So please consider these suggestions.

Gas Gift Card- This can potentially apply to anyone who has a car and needs gas, so this is a no-brainer in many respects. However, you probably should know which gas stations they frequent and if they live away from you which gas stations are in their neighborhood.

Sample Size Goody Basket- I like this as a gift for people because you can fill it with specific products they use or might want to use in sample sizes. Things to consider for the basket can include: tea or coffee (depending on which they prefer), shampoo, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, travel size comb and brush, and so on.

Hat, Scarf, Gloves Set- Most people need a coat around the holidays, so what better way than to give them something to complement their outwear? Now, you might want to keep in mind the color of their coat so you can coordinate accordingly or stick to neutral colors.

Address/Phone Book- With all of the technology that exists these days this might seem obsolete, but it's actually very necessary. Especially if the person drives, they need a written copy of numbers they might need in case the phone dies or some other emergency arises.

Cookbooks- While I did mention that choosing a book was an iffy situation, Cookbooks are a worthy exception. Of course you wouldn't buy this for a take-out fiend, but it does work for the young person who wants to learn how to cook and/or improve their skills in the kitchen.

iPod/MP3 accessories- Most twenty-somethings on the go have some sort of MP3 with all of their music, but may need a particular accessory to complement their purchase. If they have a car, they might want a car adapter or if they had a boombox as a kid, you could consider a docking station.

Calendar- Again, this might seem cheap or in poor taste, but it's necessary as many of us still like to know what day it is without flipping opening our phone. There are plenty of outlets that pop-up this time of year that sell only calendars.

Laundry Gift Basket- Chances are, if the young person in your life is on their own, they might have some laundry essentials but not everything. It would be nice to put together an actual clothes basket filled with delicate wash bags, Bounce sheets/balls, Downy, and maybe even an iron/steamer for those days on the go.

Miniature Sewing Kit- Again, this is a little item that you don't always think of but it works.These usually consist of safety pins and samples of a needle and thread for when your clothes fall apart or a button goes missing.

Makeup/Toiletry Gift Bag- This can work as a multi-purpose gift. For women, you might consider an actual makeup bag filled with cleansing wipes, cosmetic brushes (if she wears makeup), compact, etc. For men, you could get a shaving bag filled with aftershave, disposable razors, shaving gel/cream and so on.

Cleaning Gift Basket- Nobody really likes to clean, but for when the mood strikes what better way to do it than with a nifty basket. You could stock a shower caddy with items like electronics wipes, toilet droplets, dust cloths or whatever else you might think they need.

Kitchen Essentials- This is necessary for those young people you know who like to spend quality time in the kitchen. These items could include but aren't limited to mugs, tupperware, and small knick-knacks like a pizza slicer and tongs.

Phone Accessories- Like it or not, a lot of our lives revolve around our cell phones. So with that in mind, a gift that includes a phone case, headset, bluetooth and so forth would be greatly appreciated.

Blanket/Throw- There are very few people who don't appreciate a warm blanket or throw to snuggle under on a cold, rainy day with a book or nook. That being said, I wouldn't suggest a Snuggie.

Umbrella/Rain Accessories- Everyone needs an umbrella at some point, so why not get them a nice one? If they have an umbrella you could consider a rain scarf or poncho if you know they might like it.

Recyclable Bags- A lot of millenials are going green these days, so what better way to support their efforts than with a set of recyclable bags? Now you can either buy a general all-purpose set or if they frequent a certain department store that sells them, then you can go there and get a set as well.

Winter Immunity Kit- If you haven't heard that phrase, don't worry I just made it up. But you could get a small basket filled with items like hot tea, cough drops, and tissues to help them survive the brutal cold and flu season.

Personal Finance Books- As hard as it is to come by money, it might be a good idea to help the twenty-something in your life keep the money they do come by. If they don't read, you could also consider an app for their smart phone.

Personal Organizer/Briefcase- Like I said, some people still write things down so it would be a good idea to help them keep it organized especially when they're on the go at work/in class.

Computer Accessories- Most young people have a computer of their own and while it is a convenience, it is also a pretty grand expense. Items like printer cartridges, surge protectors, and laptop cases will be great for the techie in your life.

Toolbox/Kit- Even if the twenty-something you know isn't Mr. or Ms. Fix-It, they're still going to need some help with fixing the little things in their life. These kits come in all sizes and colors to fit the personality and lifestyle of the person you intend to buy for.

This is just the beginning and while there are more ideas I could share I think this should help you get off to a running start.

Iffy Gifts

I titled this capsule iffy gifts and that's because it includes items you could buy but really need to think deeply about before purchasing.

Gift Cards- I did mention gas gift cards earlier, but I consider that a gift of great use value. Getting your twenty-something a gift card to Target or Walmart is good but you might need to be certain they shop there. Restaurants are good for gift cards but you want to consider if they are interested in eating at that specific place or if they even like eating out.

Home Décor- This I left out because while it seems to be a good gesture, it's also hard to guess how someone likes to decorate their space.Color and shape is one thing to consider but also not everyone uses the same types of décor so it's best to tread lightly.

Journals- While everyone may like to express themselves, it usually doesn't always happen the same way. Also, a lot of twenty-somethings don't even use pen and paper any more if they have a computer. Besides, unless it comes with a cool 90's voiceover, you should just keep walking.

How To Books- Unless someone expresses interest in a topic, it's best not to buy them a book about it. Also, it can be considered a thinly veiled insult, so be warned.

Socks and Slippers- As much as I love this combination, not everyone feels the same way. Not everyone wears socks and slippers and if they do, it's not always like you imagine it. Plus, there's nothing more embarrassing than getting someone's shoe size wrong!

Fashion Accessories- This is another thing that I consider too personal. If you don't know what someone likes to wear or how they coordinate, it's best to get out of the closet before you become one with the moth balls. Purses, belts, and things are nice but if you don't know the style or the size, it's best to forget about it.

Health/Wellness Items- Of course I've talked about stuff to prevent colds and other health issues, but there's a line in the sand. Nothing is worse than someone giving you Immodium or Gas-X to insinuate the embarrassingly obvious. But if you're going to include general items like Ibuprofen it can work.

Pet Gifts- Not everyone has a pet, but those who do treat them like their children in a lot of cases. And as much as you'd like to get Fluffy a chew toy, his mama may not approve.

Fitness Items- Again, it assumes that you think they're unhealthy/out-of-shape in a way. And if they are into fitness, it's still something they'd rather pick out themselves. Now if they've expressed desire for a gym membership or a Tae-Bo DVD, then by all means do it, otherwise, you're taking too many chances.

Netflix/Blockbuster Membership- Both of these companies have gone belly up due to the economy and their bad business decisions. That being said, the twenty-something you know might have ditched their accounts to save money and if they do receive this as a gift, they'll be too much pressure to renew in a year's time. If they like free stuff and don't care, then go for it.

Jewelry- Near the top of the list of things never to buy someone unless you're romantically involved. Sure, it was cute when they were younger but now it's just awkward especially if they don't wear the same types of jewelry. Now this can work for all purpose items like watches and ID bracelets but if they don't wear one or don't desire to, it's not worth the investment.

Hair Products/Accessories- I'm all for a travel comb and brush set, but getting particular products is not your best interest or theirs. Most people have a set type of product they use and like a certain version, so it's best to avoid this. Accessories like headbands and scrunchies also fall into this category as well unless you're absolutely certain.

Bundle Gift Sets at the Front of the Store- It's December 21st, you enter Walmart, Kohl's, etc. and you see a gift box full of ______. Stop right there. This is the easiest way to not only get out cheap, but get out quick. Unless it's something this person desires and uses, you don't want to be the cheapskate who's also unimaginative.

Homemade Snacks- Before you declare me a Grinch, hear me out. I happen to suffer from severe nut allergies and have to be very careful about what I eat. And I'm not alone, many people suffer allergies or in some cases "allergies" like Monica Gellar. So unless, you know they love your Double Stuff Oreo Surprise you might want to think about this.

I hope this hub helps you out and well, Happy Shopping!


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    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks Ruth Pieterse for coming by and commenting!

    • profile image

      Ruth Pieterse 

      6 years ago

      Enjoyed your hub. Voted useful and interesting.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I'm glad you found this hub useful everythingdazzles! Thanks so much :)!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hi effer,

      I think anyone can appreciate money but to me there's something always special about a gift someone took time and effort to find and buy. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting!

    • everythingdazzles profile image


      6 years ago from Houston

      This hub is filled with some great ideas for my girlfriends! Thanks!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Alecia...Thank you for this wonderful hub, filled with great gift ideas for the twenty-something in our life.....I have a few, but my favorite of course, is my 22 year old Granddaughter (My FIRST)......and she is special to me.... Although I know I am going to give her a check (typical female, she loves money)...I always like to give a gift I can wrap as well.....makes me feel like I'm giving a REAL gift. I will not have to beat my head in, trying to "think" of something, thanks to you! You're a pal!..............UP++

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hi stillwaters707,

      Thanks for coming by, commenting and sharing!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thank you so much Docmo!

    • stillwaters707 profile image


      6 years ago from Texas

      This is so good, I'm sharing it in two places. Here and fb! Great hub, Alecia. This may apply to all ages.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      6 years ago from UK

      Great ideas and thoughtful suggestions here Alecia. A timely hub for the Christmas season...

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks midget38!

    • rafeeqq profile image


      6 years ago from Mandeville, Jamaica

      These are Great ideas

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Wonderful ideas for gifts, Alecia!! I love these, since Christmas will soon come around! Thanks and I'll share as well!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I understand where you're coming from MelChi, sometimes it's hard to think of a great gift for someone but if you do a little thinking outside of the box, it gets easy.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      These are some great gift ideas! Sometimes you just hit a blank and go with a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine, or a gift card. Thanks for sharing - I will definitely keep these in mind for the next time I need to shop for a gift. Voted up!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks Sunshine! I love Gift Cards too :)!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Fantastic gift ideas! I prefer gift cards. My birthday is in June:)

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks for stopping by Robin. Yeah, I think sometimes people don't think of what someone might not want before they think of something they do. And acting like you like it is the worst.

    • Robin Oatley profile image

      Robin Oatley 

      7 years ago

      There are some great ideas in here! And some ideas for what not to give. Sometimes people give you a present and all you can think is: "Are you kidding me?". And then you still have to pretend you like it..

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks for stopping by Cogerson. Yeah, gift cards include all ages, but I've heard several people complain it's too impersonal so I wanted to cover all the bases. I'm glad I could cover all of the bases for you. Happy Shopping!

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas...I would say Gift Cards cover all ages...then again the 20s are now a distant memory for me and my wife. Thanks for sharing this hub and at the perfect time as we head into the busiest shopping days of the year.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks Weestro! Yeah, I'm not trying to be snobby but only you know what you like on your feet and what works!

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      Wow Alecia, great hub...plenty of ideas here. I was glad you had socks on the iffy list. Every year I would get a pair of nice blue socks from an Aunt! Voted Up and useful.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks Christina! I'm glad that this hub could be helpful to you!

    • ~Christina profile image


      7 years ago from Northern Virginia

      What a great Hub. I love that you cover what NOT to buy as well as some really great ideas about what to buy. Especially like the kitchen basket and laundry gift basket ideas - everyone starting out needs that stuff and often have no idea what to buy for themselves. Voted up!


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