Eleanor writes on many topics, including parenting, single parenting, party and activity ideas, and career and home life.
Last week, my son turned 18. Sometimes I wonder where all the years have gone. All those little moments through babyhood, childhood, and those sometimes tricky teenage years are now just memories. Now, my son is an adult—an independent young man with his own ideas and plans for the future. And, of course, like any parent, I wanted this birthday to be a very special day. Especially this birthday.
I agonised over how I could make it special and spent hours deliberating over what I could give him for his birthday. My son is a tricky recipient at the best of times. Just like lots of teens, he is quite particular about what he does and doesn't like.
This article describes some ideas for an 18-year-old son's birthday, as well as the choices I finally made. If you are searching for inspiration, I hope you find this article useful!
1. A Watch
Buying a watch for an 18-year-old boy's birthday is definitely one of the most popular choices. I know this mainly from speaking to other people, both helpful retail staff and other parents.
"Why don't you get him a nice watch?" is often the first idea people have in answer to my dilemma. A good watch is a great gift as it can be both a keepsake and something to use.
Why Watches Make Great Gifts
My son already has a nice Rotary watch that he got a couple of years ago. Aside from that, he is literally obsessed with mechanical watches that consist of parts made solely in Switzerland. It is his dream to own a Rolex, an Omega, or a Patek Phillipe—even a preowned one. (Apparently, it's 'not the prestige but the way they are made'.) This is from a boy who actually watches Youtube videos of the inner workings of such timepieces!
Still, due to the astronomical cost of even the preowned ones, that just isn't going to happen in a million years. And he's already got the other decent watch from two years ago. Therefore, I did not give my son a watch for his 18th birthday, but I still do think it is one of the nicest gifts you can give. It is also a choice that can suit a wide range of budgets and something that can be kept for years to come, even if it is not consistently worn.
2. Other Jewellery
My son's father received a gold signet ring for his 18th birthday, many years ago. He wore it every day for at least 20 years. A few years back, he gave it to our son as a keepsake, but although he appreciates owning it, he doesn't wear it as it's not really his 'thing'. However, jewellery other than a watch - such as rings, chains or cuff-links - might be another option for the right young man. Some young men wear earrings, of which there is a wide choice available, including many contemporary designs.
Black leather and metal bracelets are currently quite popular with this age group - in fact, it was one of the gifts suggested to my mother by a jeweller when she was out searching for a gift. These are also cost more efficient gifts that could be given by other family members.
3. Event or Experience Tickets
Even though you don't end up with a tangible item, if you buy someone an experience gift they do get to keep the memory—and sometimes memories last the longest and end up being the things that are valued the most.
Purchasing your son an experience could be a really well-received gift, particularly if there is always something he has wanted to do, and yet has never had the chance. There are so many choices, from driving a supercar to skydiving.
I eventually purchased my son an experience as part of his 18th birthday gift—and I nearly didn't because the idea only just came to me in time! My son, in the past, was always going on about wanting to take flying lessons, so I purchased him a one-hour flying experience with Into the Blue. It had excellent reviews and you get a full hour in the air, as opposed to the 30 minutes offered with some other experiences.
The selling point for me though—in addition to the excellent reviews—was the locality of the airport. It was actually based in our home city, meaning there will be no travelling involved. Just in case my son loses the courage to fly up in the air (I'm sure that won't happen!) Into the Blue offer a 60-day refund if he changes his mind. He also has an entire 12 months in which to book his gift.
Why Events or Experience Tickets Make Great Gifts
There are lots of events that appeal to 18-year-olds. A concert ticket for a favourite artist stands out as a great gift - don't forget they are unlikely to want to go alone so you'll probably need to purchase two tickets! Music festivals are another attractive gift for some 18-year-olds, and the tickets are generally very expensive, particularly if it is an event spread over two or three days, with camping (or even glamping!) involved.
My son doesn't like music festivals, but if I had realised in time I would have purchased tickets as an extra gift for Derren Brown's latest tour at our local theatre. Unfortunately, it was too late by the time I discovered he was appearing, and all the tickets were sold out.
4. Gold Coin or Bullion Bar
My mother gave me this idea after telling me that her friend's grandson received a sovereign coin from his parents for his 18th birthday. Gold coins and bars can be both a keepsake and an investment, although if it is purely an investment you are after it isn't the best choice (that would be an investment account, like an ISA).
I knew that my son really wanted something to keep, that he will still appreciate in years to come, yet he really didn't like jewellery (with the exception of Rolex!). So I looked on the website of the Royal Mint and found coins and bars to suit all budgets. The Royal Mint has two sections—one for bullion and one for commemorative coins.
I didn't know much about the different products before, but since talking to experts I have learned that you never really get back the amount paid for commemorative coins, whereas bullion holds its value much better, although it fluctuates with the market. My son is not interested in coins that depict the Royal Wedding or Beatrix Potter, so I knew bullion was the only way to go.
Why Gold Coins or Bullion Bars Make Good Gifts
In the event, I purchased my son a half ounce gold Britannia coin as his main gift. I chose the coin because it is more interesting in appearance, and also because it has the year (2018) struck onto it. I thought it was a nice touch to have that, as it bears meaning in that 2018 is the year my son turned 18. It is 24 carat gold and very beautiful - I also purchased a lovely oak box specially designed to fit it in, as otherwise it simply arrives encased in a plastic coin holder, inside a tiny plastic bag. Britannia coins and sovereign coins are also exempt from capital gains tax.
My son was really pleased with his gift, although he would never have thought of it himself. In fact, he has since mentioned that one day he might like a Krugerrand as well!
5. Engraved Wallet
A wallet is something every young man needs. Even if your 18-year-old already has a wallet, chances are it is not a special one and could be replaced with something of higher quality. A well-made, high-quality wallet should last for years - and if you want to make it really special, you could get it engraved with a special message (inside, if your son would prefer it to be more discreet).
Why Engraved Wallets Make Good Gifts
Again, this is a gift that could suit a range of budgets—you only have to Google 'luxury wallet' to view the most exclusive brands on offer. Bear in mind, however, that wallets can get lost (or even stolen), so an expensive wallet might not be the best idea if your son is careless when out and about.
A car is sure to be a well-received gift for a young man - but probably only if he has passed his driving test or has the means to pay for the lessons. Don't forget there may be other expenses (in the UK, that consists of road tax, insurance and MOT; insurance is hugely expensive for young drivers). Therefore, it might only be worth purchasing a car for a gift if your son can pay for its upkeep, or if you are prepared to fund it.
Why Cars Make Good Gifts
Nevertheless, the chance to drive around in his own car is the dream of many young men, and a car is a very exciting gift. It's obviously not a keepsake (and older cars often need repairs), but with the opportunity to spread his wings in his own transport, your son might not care much about that!
Share Your Suggestions Below
If you are searching for a special birthday gift for your 18-year-old son, I hope you have found some ideas! If you have any other suggestions, please share in the comments below!