- Holidays and Celebrations
Gifts for Anyone and Everyone - Even if They are Hard to Shop For
Whether it's the cost factor, the relationship factor, or plain old insecurity, a lot of people get very nervous about giving gifts, no matter the occasion. There are two main philosophies when it comes to gift giving: give something a person wants and give something a person needs. (Of course, if you can get something someone needs and wants, that's the best of both worlds).
What to Give When You Don't Know What to Give - The Old Standbys
There are two easy gifts to give when you don't really know someone: books (the book industry has an entire category of books that run for $10 called giftables) and something from Bath and Body Works.
By the way, I steer away from bottles of wine and lottery tickets, the wine because you never know who either has a problem with liquor (they don't drink or can't drink) and the lottery tickets because how would you feel if they won $300,000?
Either way, the key with this type of gift is to include the gift receipt . . . just in case.
Most small sized books with a quirky title fit the bill for this type of gift. For some reason, this particular book seems to really tickle people's fancy.
For Those Who Like Quirky, Fun, Superfluous, or Just Plain Stupid Gifts
- Uncommon Goods
I almost hesitate to point you to Uncommon Goods because there is so much to choose from you could get lost forever. They have everything from butterfly puddlers to beer making kits and about a thousand things in between.
- Neatorama Shop
Neatorama is a fun and smart web site. I couldn't possibly enumerate all the good stuff they have here, but they range from Toe-tal Recall socks to the Hello Kitty watch, you can find an assortment of wonderful weirdness.
- Exit9 Gift Emporium (in NYC)
I wandered into Exit9 Gift Emporium 12 years ago while roaming around Alphabet City and immediately fell in love. I can't categorize them except to say that their selection is varied and just cool. Like, you know, cookie cutters to make 3D rockets.
- The Museum of Modern Art Gift Store
Yes, this is more upscale than the rest, but the MOMA store has a lot of fun things. This link sends you to their best sellers page, but feel free to explore. My favorite thing now is the All-In-One Kitchen Tool Set.
- GIANT Microbes | Gag Gifts, Teacher Gifts, Doctor Gifts, Gifts for Girlfriends and Boyfriends
Now that Giant Microbes offers neurons, skin cells and blood cells in addition to E. coli, the chickenpox and the common cold microbes, I feel like there is enough variety for pretty much everyone.
For Someone Who Doesn't Have a Lot of Time - or for someone who doesn't have a lot of money
These gifts can have a dual purpose - they save people either time or money or both. In the case of Omahasteaks.com for example, you are giving food but you also save the hassle of going out and shopping for the food. Or you can buy a Spring Cleaning at your local Merry Maids (or other comparable, bonded service).
For Someone Who Likes Games - but not someone who loves them
Apples to Apples, Settlers of Catan, and Boggle are all good games. However, if you are giving to a true game lover, he probably already has these. In that case, I recommend going to boardgamegeek.com. They have more games than you can imagine and they are all rated. Have fun!
For Someone Who Likes to Cook
My mom highly recommends this kitchen gadget with the funny name of mandoline. It makes slicing everything from carrots to potatoes a snap.
Mix and Match
- For the disorganized, try a filing cabinet.
- For the really disorganized, hire a professional organizer to come in and do the grunt work.
- For the t.v.-aholic, get a book with information about what happens behind the scenes of one of his/her favorite shows. Better yet, see if you can arrange a visit to the studio.
- To be continued . . . .
For Someone Who Likes to (or Has to) Travel
- Plane Chair Covers
Machine-washable fabric seat covers that fit securely over the headrest, allowing easy seat belt access. They have a lot more fabrics than they used to.
- Magellen's Travel Supplies
There are all sorts of traveling goodies here, separated into two dozen categories, including a section just for gifts. I especially like the "First Class Sleeper" which is an inflatable half bed to make flying coach comfortable.
- Bose's Noise Cancelling Headphones
C-NET, which for my money is probably the best reviewing site online, gave the QC2 headphones an 8/10 - the best out of any of the noice cancelling headphones. You are looking at a hefty price tag, but travelers swear by them.
- FLIGHT 001
Flight 001 has a lot of fun and functional items with neat and spare designs.
- Eagle Creek
I love Eagle Creek things. Even if you don't have the inclination to buy someone luggage, anything from their Travel Pack-It System. I especially like the cubes. They are very versatile.
For Someone Who Likes to Write
My favorite gift to give a writer is a glass blown pen that can be dipped in ink and written with. It is beautiful and very elegant. These pens are nice to write with or good just for displaying. You may also want to pick up a matching ink well.
Another good gift (credit to Kristine in New York for suggesting it) is a magazine subscription to a literary magazine. There are too many magazines to mention and it is going to depend on what kind of writing your gift receiver likes and what you think he or she is going to do with the gift (wants to know what is out there in order to publish, etc.). Try googling "literary magazine" and one other word that describes your person and you have something to go on.
Also Good For Writers: Going Old School
For People Getting Married - or engaged
- The best thing to give newlyweds is cash to use for their honeymoon - just make sure they are going to open the envelopes before they go away. For fun, give them small bills to use as tips when they are away. For extra flair, get all the ones made into a pad, like a pad of paper so that they can actually peel off money as they go along.
- As uncreative as you might find it, the other good thing to give people who are getting married is something off of their registry. Yes it won't be a big surprise, but it will definitely be something they want because they are the ones who put it there.
Most places with registries will allow the couple to buy things that have not been purchased on their registry at a discount after their event has passed, so you might want to think about getting a gift certificate instead of an actual item to make your gift "go further."
Wedding Gifts From You
Do you get people gifts from their registry for their wedding?
. . . and Baby Makes Three
The problem with shopping for babies is that everything for them is so cute I want to buy everything. Since that is not practical, I have made a few rules for myself.
1) I assume that someone is going to show up at the shower with a Whoozit and that someone else will buy a Gymini.
2) If at all possible, use the registry. That's what it is there for.
For My Brother-In-Law
My brother in law never cares what I get him or even if I get him anything. Somehow that makes me try harder.
Both my brother and my brother-in-law have requested cufflinks as gifts, which is great because if I am ever at a loss for what to give them, I can just get them more another set.
Although there are a lot of jokey cufflinks (shaped like poker chips, or the S of Superman, etc.), I prefer to get those that can be worn to work. They are generally more expensive because they are of a higher quality.
Music for Your Teenager
The easiest way is to buy a gift code to iTunes.
The (High School) Graduate
who is off to college
- Roll of quarters for laundry and/or vending machines.
- Coffee warmer for when the cafeteria is closed and all you have is soup mix. Also for coffee.
- A digital camera (although this is less necessary with smart phones everywhere).
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
- Sweatshirt and other paraphernalia from new school. Extra points if you contact the school store and have it delivered to the student the first week of school.
And, if you're looking for something that no one else ever thinks of, try a Swiss Army knife.
Swiss Army Knife
- for any gender. While you can't take it on a plane, it's is super handy basically everywhere else. Here is the one my parent's got for me my freshman year of college:
Three's a Crowd . . . So Is Four - and five
What if you are going to be sending a gift to an office or for a party? Keep in mind the number of people getting the gift and what sort of access everyone will have to it. If you are sending a gift to an office like security, where people don't stay in the office setting, make sure to send something easily portable.
Keep in mind that some people are very particular about others not touching their food, especially with the flu going around. I've discovered Cheryls.com, which has individually wrapped cookies and brownies.
You'll get the most bang for the buck with any kind of popcorn tin. The traditional assortment is butter, cheddar, and caramel, but some tins have up to seven compartments with different snacks in each. And they don't just have popcorn. Best of all, it can feed a lot of people and lasts quite awhile.
of a sort
I have found that the best gifts I have every given and or gotten were the gift of time. For those who know you, people want to spend time with you. Take them out to dinner, or go to the zoo together or a museum.
Sometimes, all you really need to do is show up.
Know Your Audience
For a White Elephant Gift Exchange - or a Yankee Swap
This can be tricky.
For those of you who don't know, a "white elephant gift exchange is a popular party game played during the winter holiday season in the United States. The objective of the game is for guests of a party to each contribute one gift to the game, and ultimately each guest walks away with one gift from the game. Along the way is a random drawing to determine the order in which players get to unwrap gifts or 'steal' previously opened gifts." (from Wikipedia.com)
Gifts are generally capped in the $10-$15 range.
What you give is going to depend on what type of party you are going to. Is this a gathering of friends, who would appreciate an Action Figure Jesus doll (something I once received) or are you better off getting a $10 gift card to Blockbuster's paired with some microwave popcorn? Your call.
GrumpyOldLady wrote in to remind me that most people use "gifts" that are already at home that they don't want for a White Elephant gift exchange. (See comment in guest book below.) This is true in many cases, but it is not necessarily true for a Yankee Swap, which is almost exactly the same thing.
Sure, you could go with a more upscale action figure, like Sherlock Holmes or Mozart, but will anyone laugh as much? Accoutrements has a whole assortment of action figures that range from Edgar Allen Poe to Jane Austen to Crazy Cat Lady and beyond. It's a fun little gift that makes people laugh.
For the (Invisible) Men in Your Life - and Women
When I grew up, it was par for the course to give a gift to the postal carrier (Sam), the Sparkletts Guy (Sparkletts Guy), the UPS guy (Tom), etc. When I got older, I discovered that this is an unusual practice. It shouldn't be. If you have enough, definitely go out of your way to show these people that you do notice and appreciate them. Tips are probably best, but not everyone can accept them (postal carriers are not allowed to accept cash or gifts worth more than $20).
Don't confuse this with year-end tips for the doorman or nanny. They should get a lot more because they do a lot more and are serving far fewer people. Go with cash for these indispensable people in your life. Rates vary with location; ask around. A good article on cnn.com talks about this.
Try a box of specialty chocolates. Perhaps no one in his right mind would spend that much money for candy for himself, but it makes for a very classy gift. (Thanks to Michelle Slatalla of The New York Times for the suggestion.)
Really any gift basket would be good. I feel that especially in this economy, service people are going to get even less than usual.
My favorite, favorite gift (and the one I gave my mailman this year) is a gift card to Starbucks. It is a real treat; since their coffees cost more than some people can justify paying, those people won't buy it for themselves, but if you have a gift card, you are forced to have a little luxury in your life. If you are able, you should actually brave the cold and go to a Starbucks store to buy them because there is no handling fee, you can choose the amount, and you can choose a card design.
Survey Says - Five Years Old Edition
Which Was the Best Gift I've Given A Five Year Old Niece or Nephew?
The personalized stickers were for a kid with a unique name.
Don't Forget Teachers!
There are an untold number of really clever gifts for teachers, but to tell you the truth, unless you can come up with something unique (and I'm talking about getting a cartoonist from the Disney company to incorporate your teacher's name and subject into an original drawing of Donald Duck and then framing the thing unique), you really ought to go with cash. Or, to be less crass, a gift card.
Teachers are underappreciated and are happy to receive anything, but all of the teachers I know have enough mugs and aren't making what they are worth. It doesn't have to be anything listed here, but why not give them something that isn't going to collect dust?
And don't forget religious school teachers. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive, but a little something would be nice for them as well.
Gifts for Teachers
Do You Give Gifts To Your Kid's Teachers?
Although I think getting a gift card to a nearby restaurant is a great idea, I suggest you call the restaurant instead of ordering it through a third party. That way, you know what you are getting and who you are getting it from. Additionally, if you actually go to the store and pick it up, you save on shipping!
A Word on ReGifting
If you get a gift that you don't want and can't return, what are you supposed to do with it? There aren't that many options, but regifting is one of them.
I am very much in favor of regifting when done with panache. Some people feel slighted when they receive a gift that you didn't shop for. I feel that if you see something you think someone would like, even if it is something that someone else gave to you.