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Last-Minute Christmas Gifts That Show You Care

Beverly is a Southeast native with a desire to share information that will help you, inspire you, and make you giggle.

Show someone important in your life that you care with these last-minute gift tips.

Show someone important in your life that you care with these last-minute gift tips.

What Not to Give on Christmas

We have all gotten one of those gifts where we wondered if the person giving it had any clue at all as to what we liked and didn't like! A vegetarian is given a summer sausage roll. Your mother-in-law gives you a size extra-large shirt when you wear a medium, or your boss gives you chocolates knowing you are on a diet and are allergic to dairy, but he prefaces it with, "I know you don't eat chocolates, but maybe you can give them to someone else . . . " Gee, thanks!

While it may be the thought that counts—and all of us can understand giving on a budget or not having time to shop before a big holiday event—it can still make a big difference to someone if you give the right gifts to make their day a little special and show you care.

Gifts to Avoid

  • Chocolate
  • Plates of goodies
  • Bread
  • Cake
  • Alcohol

While these may sound like things everyone would love to receive, just because you like it does not mean that someone else will. If you do not know the person, such a generic gift may be unwelcome if the person is an alcoholic, on a strict vegan diet, allergic to dairy, gluten-intolerant, or allergic to nuts.

If you are just giving a generic office gift to the whole staff, think about including fresh fruits or a gift certificate good for multiple eateries so that those with food restrictions will have a choice and not feel left out and under-appreciated.

Music Gifts

Your favorite music CD may make you feel all warm and cozy, but people's music preferences vary. If you do not know the type of music they like, consider a gift card for a music store if folks are older and not technologically savvy or iTunes or downloadable music to someone who owns an mp3 player or smartphone.

If you really, really have to give them your favorite CD, then include a gift card to the music store where you got it so they can return it or re-gift it and get something they really like!


The wrong size or type of clothing should never be given either. If you want to surprise someone, but do not know their size, be sneaky . . . straighten their shirt for them and check the tag, ask a friend, look on the inside of their jacket if they hang it on a chair, or tell them you like that shirt or those shoes but are not sure what size to get and ask them what size they wear.

If you give a clothing item, it is a good idea to include a return receipt, unless you got it really cheap and do not want them to know, in which case, you might want to attach another small gift item just in case the clothing item is not appreciated.

The bottom line is to get to know the person before giving them a gift, like a coffee of the month club when they do not drink coffee. It is always best to try to match the gift to the person than to give them something they do not like or will not use, like a life-size portrait of you and your dog sitting on Santa's lap or a Duck Dynasty baseball cap and matching doormat unless it is a gag gift and is supposed to be tacky!

The Most Appreciated Gifts at Christmas

The most appreciated gift you can give anyone is something that shows you care and you listen and pay attention. If your friend is complaining that she just can't find a pair of shoes that fits her feet right, consider giving her a gift certificate to a specialty shoe store that measures feet, has a stride evaluation machine, and a variety of shoes to fit anyone's feet and budget.

If you know someone who loves cats, find a cute, even antique cat figurine on eBay or give them a cat calendar and a packet of catnip seeds in a flower pot painted with a cat theme or a cat pot hanger on the side. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. It just needs to look like you put some thought and effort into the gift.

Get Creative With Gift Cards

Gift cards are nice, but just handing a card to someone, even if it is for their favorite store, seems like you did not put enough effort into it. Try putting a gift card in with a pair of warm fuzzy gloves or holiday-themed socks or create a care packet theme with a pack of gum, some tissues, lip gloss or lip balm, and non-allergenic hand cream or body wash, so it has a more festive appearance.

The ideal Christmas gift should put a smile on someone's face and make them feel you put some effort into the choice. It may seem cheap and easy to buy everyone the same thing, like a fold-up umbrella or a coffee mug filled with candy, but chances are the person already has these items and will just end up giving them to someone else they do not really care about.

If you are really uncertain what someone likes, then try to create a themed gift like a gift card to the bookstore and a copy of a current magazine on a topic you think they would like. Or you could give them a dollar store soak-and-grow dinosaur with a ten-dollar bill and tell them to invest the money; you hope it grows ten times in size, but if not, soak the dinosaur capsule in water, and it will grow instead.

Being creative with gift-giving takes talent. Sometimes just wrapping a small gift in pretty paper with a stylish bow is enough to brighten someone's day, but a good gift should always reflect the things you know about the person you are giving it to.

Have Fun and Be Creative When Choosing a Gift for Someone

Here are a few ideas that are generally well-received by others:

Flower Bulb and Painted Pot (Around $5)

You can find painted flower pots in the dollar stores or paint your own. You can even use an old glass jar. You will need to use composted soil or potting soil, not just regular dirt out the ground, and you can be fancy by putting some gravel, rocks, or wood chips on the top layer.

Strawberry Plant

You can buy about 25 plants for under $15. Put one to two plants in a medium planter or, again, a large glass jar or even an old ceramic bowl. To make the container fancier, spray paint it, have the kids decorate it with acrylic paint, or wrap foil around the container and tie a ribbon around it.

Multiple-Use Sandwich/Lunch Containers

These run about $6–$12 in specialty stores. We found them in our local Marshall's Dress shop for under $6. They have easy-to-open, hold tight lids with multiple compartments, and are BPA-free so that you can microwave them. Some hold salad on the bottom and sandwiches on the top or have multiple small sections for snacks. This makes a good gift for coworkers who bring their lunch in bulky containers or eat their soup right out of the can!

Pocket-Sized Travel Goodies

Just about everyone likes a naturally scented soap or body lotion, especially one they can keep in a desk drawer, pocket, or purse. You can make it more personal by packaging it in a cute container with a stuffed animal or pocket calendar with a theme you know they like, or take it further and put together an emergency to-go kit with deodorant, toothpaste, and brush, small first aid or sewing kit, etc.

If the person travels a lot or lives out of their car, you can personalize it to contain things you know they often use, like headache medicines, mints, or gum.

Favorite Magazines (or a Subscription)

Most people don't have time or money to buy their favorite magazines or maybe really want to read that Inquirer story but are too embarrassed to pick one up at the checkout lane. If you know someone who loves cars or planes, maybe get them a model car kit from the toy store with a hot rod magazine and a car care kit if they like planes, perhaps a flight magazine and a model toy plane, or invite them out to eat at the airport and watch the planes take off and land or give them tickets to a local air show or antique car museum.

Reusable Uniquely-Made Ornaments

World Market and other specialty stores often have fun handcrafted ornaments made from all-natural materials, like the owl made with pine cone pieces or hand-carved, hand-stitched ornaments. If you know someone who owns a collie dog, try to pick out an ornament that looks like their pet. Try to go with what you think they would like, not what you want. Some ornaments of animals and insects can be hung on the wall all year or used as fan pulls so that they will have multiple uses all year long.

Gift Card for Movies or Concerts

A pre-paid card for a movie box or online move order company with a DVD attached or tickets to a concert with a CD of their favorite group attached. If you do not have money for that or don't think they will use it, then try a movie night theme with popcorn, a box of candy, and a DVD; be mindful if the have food allergies and what movies they prefer.

Naturalist Books

Animal, bird, plant, or insect identification books, preferably with full-color photos. Most people will love these books, especially ones geared to cover local flora and fauna. While some are a bit pricey, you can often find them at discount bookstores for under $10.

An Indoor Kitchen Herb Garden

Most people like plants, especially ones they can eat. Just remember, if you are giving actual plants, you need to plant the seeds at least two weeks in advance; otherwise, give them the seeds and growing directions, though pre-made pots filled with soil and growing plants are more thoughtful and easier on the recipient.

Flavored Fruit Teas or Herbed Salts or Dried Herbs

These gifts are often preferred over sweet treats, especially for health-conscious friends. You can also put together mini-baskets of foods from around the globe with an assortment of foods and condiments, so if they do not like one item, there will be something else they might enjoy. Again, it helps to know if they have any dietary restrictions or allergies, but unique samplers provide a lot of fun for most people.

Speciality Food Gift Baskets

If all else fails and you are stuck shopping at the grocery store the day or night before a gift-giving event, consider putting together an exotic fruit basket, jams, and jellies or condiments (unusual or unique bbq, mustard, soy sauce).

Specialty cookies, dried fruit, nuts, unique flavored olives, or pickles can all be placed in an attractive array with a holiday-themed stuffed animal or pack of holiday candies. It may not be ideal or show you care, but it can be fun and entertaining, and they can always give away anything they don't like if you give them multiple things to choose from.

Tip: Presentation Is Everything

Remember that presentation in gift-giving is almost as exciting as the gift itself. Brightly packaged, large bows, colorful themes, and package decorations that can be used as ornaments or tabletop decorations all help to make the gift recipient feel as if they are special and loved, even if the gift itself is not that expensive.

Tip: Keep It Simple and Go With a Bouquet

If all else fails, buy flowers and a holiday-themed or colorful vase (It is good to have some cheap vases on hand and many places like Michael's AC Moore and the Dollar Tree sell these vases for a pittance, plus they can be found at Goodwill and garage sales cheaply as well).

If you have camellias growing in your yard, find a clear bowl, fill a quarter way with water, toss in some sequins or glitter and marbles, and it is likely to be well received, as are things like sparkling grape juice with a ribbon tied around the neck. All help create a festive and fun feeling that will lift someone's spirits even if you did throw it together last minute on a budget!

Themed gifts are a hit.

Themed gifts are a hit.

Themed Gifts Reign Supreme

Got a gardener or fisherman in the house? Do you know a shut-in? You can make a gardening basket with seeds and plants, a trowel, organic fertilizer, send someone a bonsai tree, or give a lazy person a cactus they can't kill as long they ignore it.

For the shut-in, why not build them a post outside of a window and put up a bird feeder? Got someone who loves their car? Get them a car cleaning kit.

Think about what someone likes. Listen to their conversations. What would they love to have? If someone sees a seven-layer chocolate cake and says how long it has been since they had a piece, then why not bake them one, or if you are not good at baking, try a local bakery and buy them just a few slices if a whole cake is too expensive.

Put a little love and a little thought into your gifts, and they will always be welcome no matter what you give.

If someone is really hard to buy for, consider a gift for their pet or a silly hat in the shape of a Christmas Tree or a stupid tie or socks. The goal is to make someone smile, laugh or shed a tear of joy that you remembered them and wanted to get them something as a small thank you for all the joy they have brought you over the years.


savvydating on November 22, 2014:

I wholeheartedly agree that all gifts should be personalized to fit the receiver's personal preferences, and I'm really big on wrapping those gifts with stunningly beautiful paper and ribbon with big gorgeous bows.

I have to say, I've received gifts that were given little or no thought (as have we all). Gifts like that almost seem like a slap in the face. I always end up tossing them in the trash---where they belong.

So yes, by all means---we must give some real thought to our gift giving. Otherwise, it is pointless to give. Nicely written hub.

Beverly English (author) from Savannah on December 16, 2013:

If you really get caught last minute, you can always do Amazon e-gift certificates and place in a cute card tied in ribbon. Some of the best gifts I have ever gotten came from local farmers and cooks, like local honey, homemade jams and olive oil based herbal soaps. I think the unique and usable factor is always appreciated as are fun gifts like a box kite or put-together wood airplane with a rubber band turned prop, so the kid in all of use gets to play and be silly.

Mackenzie Sage Wright on December 16, 2013:

Hey, these are great ideas. It's so true-- I hate last minute gift shopping because I always feel rushed and like it's not personal. I'm not big on gifts, I like to do the home-made thing usually. Great hub & happy holidays!