December has come, there’s a nip in the air, trees are going up and halls are getting decked — the holidays are around the corner and it’s time to start buying some presents. But where to look? Where to START?
Here. Start here.
The Best of the Best
These are the websites that are tried and true winners — places to find unique, cute, high quality goods that’ll be sure to make your giftees smile.
- Uncommon Goods
- Unemployed Philosophers Guild
- Think Geek
Those Stores That Keep Sending You Catalogues
You throw their magazine into the recycling bin every month, but these are great places to look for gifts, especially for moms. Check out the home decor, dining, and gift sections for cute plates, vases, pillows, and knick knacks.
- Viva Terra
- West Elm
(It’s not just furniture. There’s cute home goods like these Dapper Animal Plates or Charity Mugs, the proceeds of which go to such charities as the ASPCA, St. Jude’s, and Doctors Without Borders)
- Crate and Barrel
(great for jewelry for Mom)
- Harry and David
- Mrs. Fields
(lets you create a chocolate bar with a huge range of toppings, from potato chips to pistachio nuts to bacon or flakes of gold. Create chocolate bars with toppings that relate to your giftee’s interests and tastes. perfect stocking stuffer.)
- Coupon books filled with chores, activities, promises to spend time together. (One movie night, one ticket to a baseball game, one hour vacuuming, one conversation with cell phones turned off)
- Any kind of artwork of something you’d think they would like. Are they into boats? Paint ‘em a boat. Hiking? Draw a forest. Are they weirdly into chickens? Do a multimedia collage on a small canvas that looks roughly like a rooster. It doesn’t matter if it’s terrible — the point is, you took the time to create something for some them. You could staple together notebook paper with a card stock cover and make journals, to do lists, calendars — moms especially eat that stuff up.
- Recipe jars are great for this, just fill a mason jar with dry ingredients for soup or cookies, attack the recipe to the jar, and you have a meal and a present in one. Here’s a big list of DIY recipes, from cookie mixes to bath salts.
Gift Basket Ideas
Gift baskets are a tried and true tradition for a reason—pick a theme your giftee will love, throw everything into a cute basket with some crinkle paper, slap on a bow, and you look all thoughtful.
- Barnes and noble or Kindle gift card
- Book mark
- big coffee mug, like this First Lines of Literature mug
- fuzzy socks
- a themed blanket
- A tote, notebook, or t-shirt from Out Of Print Clothing
- Book-Related Board Games, like It Was A Dark and Stormy Night or Ex Libris
- Notebooks (try Barnes and Noble, Anthropologie, buyolympia for cute designs, and Etsy of course.)
- Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
- Thesaurus/Dictionary set (consider the Pictorial Webster’s A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities or Pictorial Webster’s Pocket Dictionary. For thesauruses, try offbeat ones like The Describer’s Dictionary or The Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.)
- Pens and pencils, of course!
- Workbooks and templates like Ready, Set, Novel!, or No Plot? No Problem!, or these Novel Writing Templates — roll those up with a ribbon and they become a cute, and helpful, stocking stuffer!
- stress ball, a mind puzzle, story cubes; something to use during moments of writer’s block. (Alternatively, you could also buy them a writer’s block.)
Couch Potato Basket:
- Netflix or iTunes gift card
- comfy throw blanket
- chocolate remote control
- microwave popcorn
- Something related to their TV show of choice. Try searching the name of the show on Etsy or RedBubble, you’ll be surprised how creative fandom can be. For instance, buy them a Breaking Bad “Respect the Chemistry” mug, or a set of Game of Thrones Coasters. Strings of Color is a great little website with TV themed t-shirts, and Team of Art’s etsy has coloring books for tons of TV shows like Parks and Rec, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men.
Harry Potter Basket:
(because please, we’d all love one)
- A wand from Alivans
- a time turner or golden snitch from Etsy
- a journal made to look like a magical textbook (More here)
- House scarf, sweater, wizard’s hat
- Search etsy for temporary tattoos like the Dark Mark, Deathly Hallows, or Harry’s lightning bolt scar!
Final Tips to Consider
It’s about them, not you. No one likes being handed a gift and told “I’m sorry, it sucks, I’m so bad at buying presents.” Giving someone a gift isn’t about you and your insecurities — it’s about showing another person you took time out of your day to think about them.
Instead of one big thing, try a hodgepodge of little things. Put them all in a basket or stocking. (Target usually has small stockings for cheap.) You don’t have to spend a lot on each item, but make everything mean something to the person or representative of your friendship… This is also a great way to hit a lot of areas of a person’s personality.
No one wants a generic gift. My grandma is known for shopping at Bealls every year and giving every grandkid the same pair of slippers, or a lotion set, or something that was probably very cheap but has nothing to do with them as an individual. Listen to people (a task which requires year-long effort), learn their personality, their interests, their style. People tell you who they are with every conversation, you just have to stop thinking about yourself long enough to pay attention.
But maybe you need to give a gift to someone and absolutely, positively, regretfully but alas unquestionably know nothing about them. If all else fails, if you can’t think of anything, there are ways to give generic gifts and mask the fact that they’re generic. Try a fancy mug from Anthropologie coupled with a chocolate spoon or a packet of hot cocoa mix; or a box of chocolates; or a $15 gift card to Target. Throw on some fancy wrapping paper or a cute bag, and hope for the best!
Anyway, I hope this provided someone with a little gift-giving inspiration. Good luck!
What are your favorite websites for buying gifts? Leave a comment!