Sunny has struggled to give gifts to parents, in-laws, and others who have no wish-lists. Learn from the voice of experience!
It seems like everyone has a person in their life who doesn’t ask for anything on special occasions. In my life, it’s usually my parents, but it could be an aunt, an uncle, a friend, a sibling, a boss, or all your in-laws. Maybe that person is you, and you’re wondering what to ask for for Christmas or your birthday because you can’t think of anything. However, there is usually still an expectation that some type of gift will be given. Here are some gift ideas for just about anyone, whether they already have everything or didn't ask for anything.
Gift Ideas for Just About Anyone
- Donations to Charity must appear on every list like this.
- Likewise, Cash is king.
- Motion Sensitive Night Lights are my absolute go-to gift for someone I don’t know too well. Just plug it in and forget about it - at least, until you’re wandering around at midnight and it lights your way.
- Dash Cams are a fine gift for someone who drives a lot.
- Portable Chargers are always well received. Anker is a well known brand in our house.
- One can never have enough Socks.
- There are those among us who will get great use out of Cups and Mugs. You know who you are. I like Joco coffee cups because I find the look of coffee through glass soothing.
- Touchscreen Gloves make it easy to use your touchscreen devices in cold weather.
- Vanilla extract is expensive but necessary for the home baker. A fun gift idea is making it yourself and giving a bottle of Homemade Vanilla Extract to someone else—it’s a fancy, not too complicated way to show you care.
- Plants can be hit or miss. However, you could go for a Basil Plant or Thyme Plant, which is another great gift for someone who cooks a lot. Alternately, Cactuses and Succulents require less care than most common houseplants, making them a resilient alternative.
- Head Massagers are cheap and very appealing to some people.
- Umbrellas come with all sorts of designs and sizes, even down to one that’s meant to stay in the car.
- Rechargeable Batteries (and the chargers that go with them) seem like they’ve become more and more common over the past 15 years, and for good reason. With our dependence on electronics, rechargeable batteries are solid gifts even for people who use them already. They’re good for the environment, too.
- A Hot Water Bottle might seem like a relic of another time, but trust me, anyone who thinks so a) has never tried one and b) really, really needs one next Christmas.
- For someone who travels often, a Luggage Scale can be an interesting gift. When my dad flew a lot for business, my mom got him a luggage scale to keep his bags under the weight limit.
- Digital Photo Frames are perfect gifts for grandparents. This is an awesome gift to give if you take a ton of photos because you can select just the best ones to put into the frame.
- Daily Message Calendars are a great gift for someone who might otherwise forget to take a moment to think each day. The New Yorker puts out a daily calendar each year, and more than one of my friends receives it.
- Bubble Wrap is multifunctional. Some recipients will use it to wrap fragile items. Others will sit there for the rest of the night squeezing for those satisfying pops.
- T-shirt Rags are something everyone should have around the house. It’s nice to have some cloth you don’t care about for cleaning and dusting. I use Trimaco, but you can pick up any brand in most places that sell paint.
- A GoPro might excite an active person.
- Tiger Balm is my go-to gift for persons of a certain generation.
- Gift Cards are a classic gift option for someone who didn’t ask for anything. Listed below are a few of my favorite specific gift card ideas.
- A gift card to your favorite restaurant, maybe one they haven’t tried before.
- A gift card to their favorite restaurant.
- A gift card to a restaurant you’re sure is terrible but you’re interested in hearing someone else’s first-hand experience. This is not a gift for someone whose opinion of you is important.
- A gift card for a pizza delivery (or another delivery service, like Grubhub, so they can take a night off cooking).
- A gift card to the grocery store, the gas station, or Amazon.com. Basically, any place they’re probably going to spend money anyway. This way you know it will be used!
- A gift card to something random that they wouldn’t have thought of.
Give the Gift of Experience
- Groupon is a great resource for finding experiences in your area, including many of those below.
- Escape Rooms are a fun, challenging way to bring people together.
- Concerts, Dancing Lessons, Stand Up Comedy, and Classic Movies in Theaters are other experiences you can enjoy together.
- If you want a shared culinary experience, you can purchase Death Wish Coffee, Toxic Waste candy, Every Flavor Jelly Beans, Miracle Berries, or ghost peppers (caution - very, very hot!!!) to eat together.
- Immersion Tanks are not too common, but it’s the most relaxing hour you can buy.
- Axe Throwing isn’t offered everywhere, but it is exhilarating.
- In some places, you can actually drive a tank over a car. This is on the bucket list.
- You can buy the boxed set of a TV show online. This is an especially good gift if there is a show that you just know this person would love. Say something like, “I’ve always wanted to hear another person’s opinion on this character” or “This feels like a show I’d love to talk to you about!” Then you have something to talk about next time you see each other.
- Similarly, you can buy a copy of a book for yourself and another copy for a friend and have an exclusive book club.
- Fitbit offers a low impact way to stay in shape that comes with a built in community component. You can buy one for yourself and one for a friend and help keep each other motivated. My best friend and I have the Inspire model, and I can't remember how we stayed in shape without it.
- Games like Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Guesstures, Family Feud, or Trivial Pursuit are fun if the gift giving will be at a party. For smaller groups, I’ve had great success with Dixit.
- Buy a basket, fill it with picnic supplies, give. Instant Picnic Basket. Done.
Unique Things They Wouldn’t Buy for Themselves
- A Gold Pan can really get kids excited. If you get some Pay Dirt, you can raise the chances that they find real gold! Adult supervision recommended - I’m sure we lost a lot of our “pay dirt” into the yard.
- Geodes are another fun gift for kids. There are plenty of kits that allow young minds to explore the world of geodes..
- Geode Puzzles are beautiful and unique. They are also heavy, so be careful.
- Ravensburger allows you to create a custom puzzle. Just upload an image, and they’ll ship you a Personalized Puzzle. This was the first gift in a long time that actually made my mom cry (in a good way).
- If you grew up doing a certain puzzle over and over, I have some good news for you - you can probably find that exact same puzzle, or a very close duplicate for a lower price, somewhere online. I gave my brother a copy of our favorite puzzle from when we were young, and he’s put it together every year since.
- Ecospheres are both small and peaceful. My brother got me one last year and I often find myself watching it on my desk. I would not advise surprising someone with a pet, but I love my ecosphere more than my fish and it's no responsibility at all.
- Plunger: Half gag gift, half incredibly useful.
- My doctor told me that a Toilet Squatting Stool would be healthy. I got them for my relatives one year so I wasn’t the only one.
- Bathroom Odor Covering Sprays are good gifts because they are easy to use - your recipient can leave them in the bathroom. I’ve found that people don’t buy this themselves because they forget to think about their guests while they shop.
- Flowers are an excellent gift.
- Most comic strips sell Comic Strip Prints online. This is a really nice gift for someone who has everything else.
- Ice Cube Molds come in all shapes and sizes and can really spice up a drink.
- When I was growing up, Polaroid cameras were super fun at gatherings and on trips. To get the same experience today, you can buy a Portable Photo Printer. I only have experience with the HP Sprocket, but it’s a hoot.
- Soda Stream lets you make all sorts of soft drinks at home. I know my family was hesitant, but once we tried it we were hooked.
- Nostalgic, hard to find, or discontinued items really show that you put time into choosing the right gift. I’ve given Kool Aid Pouches, packs of Pokemon cards or baseball cards, collectibles like Furbees and Legos, and gifts that were hard to get when the person was young like Tamagotchi and Tickle-Me-Elmo, all to great effect.
- You can buy fancy versions of just about anything. Some that I’ve given people include olive oil, cheese, wine, soap, beef jerky, moisturizer, and (delivered) filet mignon.
- If your significant other is hard to shop for, you can consider luxury undergarments as well.
- Food Delivery Services like Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot deliver the ingredients for a delicious meal. We’ve never had a complaint about ours.
- Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video subscriptions are another way to watch a show together. If they’re already subscribed, you’ve paid for their next month or more - what’s not to like about that?
- For music lovers, a subscription to Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, or Pandora may be the way to go.
- For sports fans, just about every league offers its own Sports Streaming Service Subscription now. A yearly subscription comes with all the NFL, MLB, or NBA content anyone could watch.
- A Massage or a Pedicure are popular gifts.
- Depending on the person, a gift certificate to an acupuncture or chiropractic practice might be something they’ve always wanted to try. I have several relatives who swear by chiropractic.
- Cleaning Services are a blessing for some. Find out beforehand if they already employ one.
- Likewise, a Gardener can make people more confident about their homes.
- Memberships to warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club can be very fun to try for the first time.
- Audible is a very cool audiobook service.
- Pay to have their car detailed. Or washed. Some people need that more.
- There are a few services now that will Map their DNA. I personally know people who have found their 23andMe results extremely meaningful.
- Dollar Shave Club is a nifty way to get something delivered every month, and most people shave.
- Many online services don’t offer gift cards. One alternative is to give Prepaid Credit Cards with instructions on how you imagine the person might spend the money.
Gifts of Kindness
- Write them a letter. Some sample topics include: what you’ve been up to, what they mean to you, your favorite memory of them, what you’ve learned from them, what you’d be proud of if you were them, what you think they do well, something that reminds you of them, or some moment that reminded you of them.
- Basic Cable Management. Peek behind the TV in my parents’ living room 2 years ago and you would spy the very definition of a fire hazard. 3 Surge Protectors and 1 hour later, and I can sleep soundly knowing that their house won’t burn down.
- Buy them Hangers, then help them organize their closet.
- Babysitting is a lifesaver for busy parents. Parents, you know what I'm talking about.
- Carbon Offsets are a kindness not just to your recipient, but also to the world.
- The Autograph of a Hero is a gift long treasured.
- Gold, Silver, Platinum, and other precious metals are easily ordered online and just as likely to hold their value as cash. Consider going with Eagle coins as these are the worldwide standard for bullion (and they feel amazing in your hand), although I’ve also bought a Silver Bullet (yes, a real silver bullet) for just about every horror fan in my life.
- Similarly, a Stock of a person’s favorite company can be a welcome gift. It will involve that person creating an investment account if they don't have one already, which can be a great long-term asset.
- You may have heard that the blue light from a modern screen might be bad for your health. If that’s something you’re concerned about, consider Blue Light Glasses, which block that light spectrum. Gunnar is the classic brand, and worn by everyone I know who has these for their computer.
- One fun gift I received was a Framed Newspaper Front Page from the day I was born. It amazed me that the person had put so much time into my gift.
- For persons in certain professions, Stainless Steel Bar Soap can be a lifesaver.
Things Everyone Should Have
- Jumper Cables, for anyone who doesn't have an electric car, can be given by themselves or as part of...
- A Car Emergency Kit. You can find these premade, or you can make them yourself. Possible inclusions: flares, money, food, blankets, salt, candles, maps, a radio, or a jack.
- Similarly, a Home Emergency Kit could save someone's life. Posssible inclusions: Water, food, first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, filtration, plastic bags, wet wipes. Consult your local government agencies for locations specific to your area.
- Fire Extinguishers are another lifesaver. Take them seriously.
- There are plenty of varieties of Blankets that can make good gifts: Fleece blankets, travel blankets, handmade blankets, emergency blankets, outdoor blankets, and electric blankets have all been given and received in my household.
- It feels like I can never find a Reusable Shopping Bag when I need one, and there are so many variations that these make fantastic gifts.
Tips For Thinking Of Gift Ideas
Of course, it’s possible that someone who has everything already has everything I just listed. In that case, here are some things to consider when thinking of your own ideas:
- Is there something the person’s child or family could enjoy?
- What did this person give me last time?
- Is there something I would be excited to receive myself, in case they give me the same thing next year?
- Is there something they wouldn’t be expected to still have next time I see them, so that if they don’t like it they can get rid of it and no one will be offended?
- Is this person a little more mature, where something like lottery tickets or Cards Against Humanity might be appropriate?
If you have any other great gift ideas for the person who doesn’t know what they want, be sure to leave them in the comments.
Liza from USA on September 30, 2019:
This a great gift idea to buy for family and friends! Just about a perfect time since the holiday season is approaching fast! Thanks for sharing :)
Nisha Nair04 on September 18, 2019:
Liked the ideas which you shared. Nice article.Great work :)