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Gift Guide Part #9: Hard-to-Shop-For People

Gift Guide Part #9: Hard-to-Shop-For Peeps (Plus, Lots of Budget-Friendly Ideas!)

Who’s left on your holiday shopping list? There are always a few people who are impossible to buy for, so this month (in our weekly email) we asked who was stumping you the most. Your answers: grandparents, teachers, tweens and teens, new crushes, co-workers and inexpensive gifts. Here are tons of ideas, most of which are under $30…

TWEENS AND TEENAGERS:

If the kid-in-question is a reader, The Hate U Give is a slam dunk 2017 novel for young adults, longlisted for a National Book Award. Break-open geodes are fun to do and make for great bedroom decor. Also, all kids love the thrill of gift certificates — say, to H&M or their local ice-cream shop. (Side note: the glow-in-the-dark coin counter is rad and I kind of want it for myself).

GRANDPARENTS (AND IN-LAWS):

Grandparents often crave quality time more than anything. “My grandmother says a lunch date is her favorite,” says CoJ reader Katie Larissa. “We get hamburgers and sweet tea, and I ask questions about her childhood.” But edible and personal gifts also feel heartfelt: “I had my grandparents’ honeymoon photo made into a puzzle,” says Lana. Or take the opportunity to spoil them with hand cream or the softest socks. “I give my grandmother stationery and stamps, since she likes matching them to the occasion, which is adorable,” says Katie. If all else fails, go for a lost key finder!

NEW BOYFRIEND OR GIRLFRIEND:

You’ve been dating for only a few months, but he or she already has a piece of your heart. To keep the good vibes flowing, try a sweet pair of earrings, a getaway rental or the perfect game for getting to know each other better.

TEACHERS:

We asked a middle-school teacher named Hilary, and her favorite gifts are school supplies, gift cards for Amazon or Target, and heartfelt notes from the kids (“I save all of these,” she says). She advises skipping homemade food and mugs (“Dear lord, I cannot take any mugs!”). Another teacher, India, backed her up: “We get SO many chocolates and lotions,” she says. “But a note and $5 gift card is beyond wonderful. It’s truly being remembered and noticed that means the most.” Fellow teachers out there, do you agree?

CO-WORKERS:

For your work squad, go for things to make them smile — like a last-all-day lipstick or text-friendly gloves. For a boss, consider this $29 plant for his or her desk.

HELPERS:

A cash gift is always appreciated, of course, but if you’re thinking of giving your babysitter, dog walker or handyman/woman a small gift, you can’t go wrong with something delicious or pampering.

PETS:

“Don’t laugh, but my family always give small gifts to each other’s dogs and cats. It feels so sweet when everyone opens their presents and the animals are included,” says Cup of Jo reader Arden. If you’re looking for fun ideas, try whole wheat biscuits (with a touch of chicken broth), natural rubber chew toys or a new perch for scratching and cozying up at home.

DONATIONS, CASH GIFTS AND PURCHASES THAT GIVE BACK:

A few great charities we believe in, which help support girls, women and the environment, plus a sweet (and easy) way to give straight-up cash online with a beautiful card. Also, you can make a gift purchase from two great companies that bolster communities by offering employment to people getting back on their feet and selling awesome products.

What would you add? And who else is stumping you? Let us know, and we’ll chat in the comments!

P.S. Last year’s hard-to-shop-for guide, and the FULL 2017 holiday gift guide.

(Photo by Betty Petrella.)

  1. One of a great present variant for friends and relatives could be leather goods – olpr.com.
    Handmade unique accessories.

  2. Anonymous says...

    Slam-dunk teacher gifts: Amazon gift card, cash, and alcohol. Any combination of the three works! This comes directly from a teacher with years of experience. :)

  3. Taylor says...

    I wouldn’t chalk it up to a regional thing, but my Southern mother would be aghast if I ever complained about any gift received. Every year, teachers complain about how many mugs they get and I don’t understand it. These children and their parents went out of their way to choose something and gift it. I don’t care if it’s a mug, a handwritten note, or a can of green beans— if someone gives a gift, you are grateful. As a Title 1 teacher, it always breaks my heart when families go out of their way to gift me something. We don’t know anyone’s story and I say, take any gift with a kind heart.

    • Laura says...

      I love you for this! I am Southern also, but I think that is besides the point. Generosity, in any form, should always be appreciated.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, such a great point! i think the teachers in this story (and these comments) of course are so appreciative to their students and parents, and very gracious when receiving a heartfelt gift. it’s just between us ladies that they really hope and pray that they don’t get another mug :)

    • Nikki B says...

      I, as another Title 1 teacher, know that every single mug, letter, tidbit that is given to me was given to me with love and I am extremely grateful. But I also think we shouldn’t shame the need to complain as well. Yes we are lucky and blessed to teach the kids that walk in our classrooms BUT it’s also a job where we should be allowed to vent, lament and even complain once in a while. Just as there should be no “mommy” shaming, let’s get away from “teacher” shaming too. Every classroom doesn’t need to be pinterest worhty, every comment doesn’t need to ooze gratitude and love.

      Maybe, if we all stopped our own judgement of other teachers; what they say on comment boards, how they manage their kids, their teaching styles, what their classrooms look like … we wouldn’t have extremely high turnover in our work. The job is hard enough, let’s assume the best.

  4. SR says...

    My husband is a seventh-grade teacher. Given the choice, he’d choose a Target/bookstore/coffee gift card + a note from the student any day! One of his students recently saw something at the Dollar Tree that reminded him of my husband, and he purchased it for his desk. It’s now one of his favorite classroom items! (So sweet.)

  5. I am an obsessive gift planner with a strict budget. We went back to assigned names for the adults in the family while everyone buys for the kids this year. I got my sister in law who is fairly minimalistic so she is hard to shop for. So I asked her if she wanted to suggest anything or would want a surprise gift of self care. She opted for the latter so I came up with a theme. A book of poetry for the heart and soul (also good for the brain, I got Devotions by Mary Oliver) some pretty and useful body care (minty salt scrub, flowery chapstick from a local shop, etc) for the body outer, and for the body inner I will package up some bags of tea with a container of homemade winter spice granola. I am so excited to package it up all pretty. We have to keep the budget around $50 and it is harder to be surprised as an adult. But I am so excited to package this all up nice and pretty!

    I am also gifting an “experience” of sorts and wrapping up a bottle of fancy sprinkles with an invitation to come decorate cookies at my house for my nieces. I am just going to make and freeze dough ahead of time.

    • C says...

      so sweet!

      this is so thoughtful! we stopped drawing names b/c i felt like its just an exchange of money but if everyone gave gifts like yours I would totally draw names :)

  6. Em says...

    I’d like to send my partner’s family a gift (they live far away). Just something that’ll arrive at their door, show them I’m thinking of them, and maybe impress them a little. ;) Any affordable ideas? Maybe some food?

    • I bought my step mom perogi from this company and she loved them! http://www.polana.com

    • Em says...

      Thanks! This gave me a few ideas :)

    • Jacqueline says...

      Hands down my go-to gift for people who I won’t see in person is Russ and Daughters! https://russanddaughters.goldbely.com/categories/gift-packages. Also incredible for new parents. It’s not cheap but it comes beautifully packaged, always gets a great response!

  7. Michelle says...

    I’m a teacher, and my favorite gifts are the ones that are a little unusual and have a personal touch from the student. For example, one boy planted me paperwhite bulbs. It was so sweet to come home one day and see them all in bloom (and have the lovely scent in my home!). Another student gave me a tiny Dixie cup with an even tinier plant. She planted me a maple tree in September and gave me the fruits of her labor. She also named the tree Mapley McSyrup. I’m almost in tears just from the memory of these!

  8. Anna Whiteman says...

    Try Porter Road Butcher rather than Omaha Steaks!

  9. Megan says...

    Do you have any recommendations for a brother in law and girlfriend who live in NYC? Tickets or restaurant gift cards??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oooh fun question! what about a gift certificate to an amazing restaurant, like lilia or olmsted (both in brooklyn), or i sodi (in the west village)? they can be kind of splurge-y places, so it would be awesome to go and not have to worry about the bill. another amazing gift, depending on your budget, would be a museum membership for a year, if they live close enough to make sense. for example, moma, the whitney or the met. xoxo

  10. Saz says...

    I’m a primary school teacher in the UK, and gifts at Christmas, and end of summer term are common.
    Really, I appreciate every gift I get, even if it’s something I don’t really like (like I don’t actually like boxes of chocolates, but I know other people go nuts for them!)
    However, it’s so lovely to be thought of, even if the thought it “oh crap, I should get something for Kid’s teacher!” and obviously grabbed off a supermarket shelf.
    Things I DO love: A nice candle, a house plant, my particular favourite chocolate. I do try and slip into conversation with my class fairly often what my favourite this and that is, so that if they have a role in the decision making process (they often don’t – in my experience), they might at least be able to say “Miss R likes Cadburys” or “Miss N doesn’t like vanilla scents.”

  11. Amanda says...

    THANK YOU to all the teachers who commented on this post. It was incredibly useful in helping my sister decide what to give my niece’s teacher. We’re going with a thoughtful thank you note to reread on dark days, $50 Target gift card, and a nice gift bag filled with thoughtful, useful French beauty products (just got back from France).

    Oh, I had a nice laugh regarding the delicious bottle of wine comment. I too enjoy a nice bottle of wine from friends.

    • Blandine says...

      Wooaw, that is incredibly generous. Is this common to give such gifts to teachers? I am really unfamiliar with this tradition, having grown up in France and living abroad now.

    • Jasmine says...

      Correct – incredibly generous. I think a few teachers have commented here how appreciated a heartfelt note and a $5 gift card are – that’s more common ;)

  12. Chelsey P-E says...

    A plant for the classroom can be a nice touch. Teachers are constantly paying to make their classrooms beautiful and lively.

    I gifted my favourite teacher of all time (grade two) a baby spider plant. It hung in the classroom for years and she still has it at home now that she’s retired. I recently got a cutting from it to start my own (I ended up marrying her son 20 years later).

  13. Stephanie says...

    This year for my five year old is hand rolling beeswax candles! You can buy a starter kit on amazon for under $40! He will be giving these gifts to his teachers, principal, neighbors and grandmas! Something he made with love, that’s useful too!

  14. Jessica K says...

    I am a high school teacher of many years. Please don’t think I am ungrateful. I am not. I have received enough mugs to stock a coffee shop. Teachers spend their own money on school supplies. The best teacher gifts are gift cards to Amazon, Target, bookstores, or a generic Visa gift card. I also love the handwritten notes from students and parents. I love teaching and it is my life’s calling, but teachers are generally not paid well.

  15. Christina says...

    My husband is a kindergarten teacher and uses a clothespin behavior system- your pin is on green if you’re doing good, move it up or down accordingly. When students surpass the “best” color, their clothespin moves to his tie (this is a really big deal!) One of his best Xmas gifts from a student last year was a new tie, with a clothespin clipped to it, with my husband’s name on the clothespin. So thoughtful and sweet- we still talk about it.

    • Stephanie says...

      That is so cute!

  16. Tatanna says...

    In my home country, we would give teachers passes to the local mineral springs and they would bathe in those waters and claim to be rejuvenated by them (!!!!) I don’t know if I believe it, but my old Algebra teacher did leave Monday with a sore throat/headache and returned Wednesday (after being in the mineral springs) without the sore throat/headache.

    Sadly, she died the following Friday, but I don’t **think** that was because of the mineral springs. She was such a sweet teacher. RIP Ms. Lucy.

    • edie says...

      Tatanna, I’m so, so curious where you’re from? I’m guessing Iceland?

    • LH says...

      Tatanna, are you speaking of the town of Leytron? I grew up there! Flabbergasted right now.

    • Lauren says...

      ^^^^^ okay, ladies, what is going on up here?

      If it were 2004, I’d ask if I was being Punk’d!

    • Tatanna says...

      LH, I grew up in Chamoson, but visited Leytron often. Small, small world.

  17. E says...

    Teacher here cosigning the “no more mugs!” They’re cute, but I have plenty, thanks. I had one family that would always give me a gift certificate to a nearby independent bookstore (I taught both their sons in different years, hence the multiple gifts) which I LOVED. I also knew a teacher who would tell her students that if they wanted to get her something, they could give her an ornament for her Christmas tree, so now her tree is covered in memories from former students.

    • Stephanie says...

      Ok I’m so guilty of the mug teacher gift! But it always houses some sort of gift card also. It’s just the vessel for delivery. I hope that is ok?! Ha. Or maybe I should just save myself the 12 bucks?! ???

  18. Beth says...

    A big YES to the “Heartfelt Thank You” teacher gift! That’s all we truly want. :) I teach junior high and save every single note. If you do want to give something else, I second the Amazon and Target card ideas, too. Finally, we teachers end up collecting so many sugary treats near the holidays; it was awesome when a family provided nice fruit and yogurt in our staff lounge one morning! The time leading up to winter break is super crazy for teachers–I really appreciated the healthier version of a sweet treat to provide fuel to power through.

  19. My sister’s in-law’s (who I’m close to) are the have-it-all types. I’m going for ethical consumable gifts for them this year!

    Lindsey

  20. Elise says...

    The Hate U Give is a fabulous gift for anyone. What an amazing read.

    • I completely agree! I cried, laughed…fantastic read!

  21. Tina says...

    :-) Those dog toys…
    Ok, I was going to post a note from a teacher: please, no more mugs and no more bath oils or shower gels and no more candles. A heartwarming thank you note is the best gift of all. I keep these, too. I do like homemade christmas cookies though as I never get around to bake any myself.

    • Stacie says...

      My husband is also a teacher and I agree with the no more mugs AND no more kettle popcorn. Why is he always getting really gross candy that I think the kids pass on and they decide to give to him instead? lol.

  22. Emily says...

    I love to give (and receive) higher quality versions of every day items. like very nice socks that would seem extravagantly expensive if i bought them for myself but are so nice to have.

  23. Ashley Hill says...

    I am not a teacher, but I have heard from teacher friends that they often have to spend out of pocket for school supplies for their students. What about a gift card to Staples or a store that sells school supplies? While this isn’t a personal gift to the teacher, it does save them from spending out of a pocket. Just a thought :)

    • AD says...

      Yes, thank you so much for thinking of teachers and remembering your friends’ words. So much comes out of our pockets. We keep doing this because we always want our kids to have what they need and love for learning! A hand written note always has the biggest impact.

      Gifts that go far: kids somehow always remember where their teachers get coffee from (if they buy it from somewhere), so a gift card to that coffee shop or one near the school is great. Target is perfect because you can buy organizational materials, socks/undies/back up sweaters and sweatshirts, or all the dreamy school supplies. Plus toys/games for the classroom!

      I would also say that anything made by kids melts our hearts.

  24. Former teacher here, and yes, I agree about the mugs. I think we all had that cupboard in our classroom where mugs went to die. I did save all the heartfelt notes from parents and students alike. (Gift cards to Starbucks were always welcome!) :)

  25. fae ehsan says...

    if a new partner got me a jump rope for christmas, i would end the relationship.

    • Laura says...

      Same!

    • edie says...

      ahahaha. oh my gosh. right?

      if we were in the middle school, MAYBE I would keep it going, but only if they also let me trade lunches in the cafeteria.

    • Hope says...

      Laughing so hard. I didn’t notice the jump rope until the comments. I would assume that the person was telling me I need to exercise more!

  26. Maranda says...

    Another gift idea to contribute for in-laws (although it could work for anyone) is to have a flower delivery sent to their home. I started doing this last year for my future in-laws. It’s one less thing I have to go to the store for and it’s a nice little surprise to find at your door step!

    • Tessie says...

      My mom does this at Thanksgiving and Christmas – she gets centerpieces delivered. The host has a guaranteed gorgeous table (or entry, bar, etc) and my mom does zero scrambling!

    • Kaitlin says...

      I did this for my mom and her fiance this year. They have downsized to a small home and don’t want to receive gifts that will add clutter. So I ordered a gorgeous Christmas-y bouquet.

      But the coolest thing is that their local florist has the option to add-on tickets to the local movie theater or coupons for ice cream cones at their favorite local ice cream shop! So they get the gift of flowers and also a little date for a treat too!

  27. Sammy says...

    I have never gifted mugs to teachers. Does anyone know why are they such popular gifts? Though I’m not a teacher, one of my clients gifted me a peach smelling hand cream once and I actually liked it! But I will make a mental note that teachers don’t want lotions either…

    For some reason everyone thinks I love tea, and I have a friend that constantly gives me gifts of tea (in addition to many others who have given me tea). While I do LIKE tea, I have so much tea now that it will take me forever to drink it all. I never told anyone that I LOVE tea and wonder how I gave off that impression!

  28. Samantha says...

    My mom is a teacher and wow do we get a lot of chocolate and mugs and bath bombs/lotions/candles, etc. But her favourites have been:
    – gift cards to Chapters
    – gift certificates to a few of her students’ parents’ restaurants
    – one mom was incredibly talented at baking/decorating sugar cookies and for a couple of years she got these elaborate cookie bouquets (literally, they were shaped as beautiful flowers!)
    – a Christmas tree ornament handmade by a woman in need and an explanation of the charity from which it was bought/the good cause it was supporting
    – plants in clay flower pots painted by the kids – a cute way to have their art and sweet words always on display
    – a lot of the kids my mom teaches come from very diverse background and sometimes travel back to visit family abroad. a few kids have brought her cute little souvenirs from those visits (key chain from Pakistan, cell phone charm from Japan, pencil case from India, etc.) and she has loved and used them all. such a nice way to share their culture with her.
    I think the key in these favorites (other than the Chapters gift cards which are not so personalized, but very practical) is that they all have a bit of a story behind them based on sharing one’s culture, special talent, cause that’s close to their heart, or just a heartfelt/handmade way of saying thank you :)

  29. My colleagues and I do something called “Snack Attack”– it’s like Secret Santa, but with food. You set a budget (we usually do $20) and purchase indulgent, guilty-pleasure, or luxurious food items for your individual. Nothing homemade (or alcohol) is allowed. I’ve received really great things in the past that were total treats: local chocolate truffles, popcorn salt, apple cider syrup, handmade marshmallows. It’s a really delicious and surprisingly stress-free gift giving tradition!

    • Amanda G says...

      This is an awesome idea! We just did a white elephant at my work and it was almost all booze – I would have loved a little variety, and this seems like a fun way to do it that might not ruffle as many feathers! Plus, then people who didn’t bring alcohol (*cough*) feel left out when their presents aren’t as popular as a bottle of wine.

      And on that note, does anyone sometimes feel the same after a gift exchange as they did getting picked last for dodgeball/capture the flag/etc in grade school? Every time I bring an “unpopular” gift I leave feeling horrible!!

  30. Darby says...

    A heartfelt note, written by a parent or a student is always wonderful. I also found Starbucks gift cards this year that were “design your own”. We got out the coloured Sharpies and my daughter decorated them for each of her teachers. Books, or gift card to a book store, are also a great teacher gift, particularly if the child picks out the book!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so sweet!

  31. Andrea says...

    As a mom of 4 grown kids, I remember back in the day one of their teachers saying to me “if I get one more apple themed gift I’m going to scream”! I never gave anything apple themed because I always personally thought it was cheesy, but apparently a lot of people do. And this particular teacher said if she’d gotten a gift card she’d have wept!

  32. Sarah says...

    A friend of mine who is also a teacher used to joke that his Starbucks gift card balance accrued faster than he could spend it and he wondered if he might have to bequeath the balance to a family member in his will.

    I’ve been at it for almost ten years and have never gotten a mug or lotion set. Didn’t realize I was dodging so many bullets!

  33. Amy P says...

    I’ve been giving our teachers gift cards to Chapters (bookstore in Canada that also sells games, lots of little stocking-stuffer type items, home decor, kids stuff, etc; maybe it’s like Barnes and Noble?). They can buy classroom books/supplies, books for themselves, or even a gift to give away at Christmas to lighten their budget. In the summer I say it’s for their “summer reading list” ;) $10 at Christmas; $20 at the end of the year. And I always make sure my kids make a card; sometimes they’re not in the mood, but sometimes their teacher isn’t in the mood to teach either! :P

  34. karen says...

    From where is the first foto? I seem to remember this kid from a movie. When he falls down the stiff suit makes it impossible for him to get up- right? It will bug me all week if you don’t tell me! Thanks.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      stella scouted it! i think it’s from a christmas story?

    • Kelly says...

      It’s from a Christmas Story! I actually live right next door to where the exterior parts of the move were filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s a museum now and you can walk through the house. It’s pretty neat!

  35. Lorena says...

    Another elementary teacher chiming in..couldn’t stop laughing. It’s so true…we’re truly an appreciative lot, but those mugs!! hahaha…handwritten notes are GOLD! One year I had a wonderfully supportive and hilarious room mom who gave me a great bottle of wine with her child’s photo on it, along with the caption “My kid is the reason you drink.” (Her child was a love-bug). Our two families ended up becoming friends!

  36. Karin says...

    If you know the teacher celebrates Christmas, a Christmas tree ornament is a nice gift. My mom is a retired teacher and still has ornaments that she got from kids and we still talk about “Oh, I remember little Johnny,” etc. There are so many super cute and creative ornaments out there this year!
    Also, since children often like to choose the gift for the teacher, the child can pick an ornament and the parent can add the $5-10 gift card to Starbucks, Target or Amazon.

  37. My go-to grandmother gift is a potted amaryllis bulb. Fun to watch it grow and bloom and it brightens up dull January days.

  38. Bella says...

    More teen ideas! Because we can be a picky bunch :)
    – The Rookie Yearbooks are incredible and so affirming to read as a teen. Highly recommended. Other nonfiction recommendations: Bad Girls Throughout History, Mara Wilson’s memoir, and Mindy Kaling’s memoir.
    – Ban.do stickers! Fancy pencils! A monogrammed notebook! I know few friends who don’t love fun stationary.
    – A little more expensive, but a light up box or a felt letter board make lovely room decor.
    – Lotion, nail polish, and nail files are always appreciated, and you don’t have to worry as much about the particulars of one’s makeup favorites.
    – Gift cards to the local brunch spot would definitely, I’d imagine, go to use.
    – I use my S’well bottle daily, and my friends do the same.
    – If you have someone who just started college/is going to college, high quality SOCKS are wonderful for cold dorm floors.
    – Stocking stuffer wise, YAY! magnets are quirky and fun; the Three Potato Four key tags are perfect for car keys; and interesting playing cards (like Little Feminist or Design Deck or something similar) are a neat choice as well!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, bella!

    • Stephanie says...

      You sound like a very thoughtful teenager. As a mom of an almost 13 year old daughter, I love the insight! Jo should have you as a contributor:)! And not just for gift giving ideas!

    • Jacqueline says...

      I second what Stephanie said, what a cool teen you are, Bella!

  39. Brittney says...

    Our new favorite teacher gift is fancy olive oil and vinegar. I’m always wary of wine because I grew up in a family that didn’t drink alcohol. The kids like sampling infused olive oil and vinegars and picking out fun flavors they think each teacher would like. And my rather fancy 5-year old has been including her latest favorite thing, truffle salt. Plus personal notes/decorated cards and amazon gift cards.

  40. Lindsay says...

    As a teacher, a lot of the gifts I get go straight into the trash! Cheap chocolate, smelly lotions and candles, tacky decor things. I feel bad because some of these are thoughtfully selected but I don’t need the extra clutter of random shit… I’d definitely rather have the small gift card or something inexpensive but less junky (like the gold pens here would be great, or some fancy pencils or a little notebook or a box of holiday tea). I do like the homemade cookies, though. :)

    • Nina says...

      The actual trash? You could donate them to a charity shop, or with lotions etc to a food bank or women’s refuge, or somewhere that provides Christmas dinner to people who are struggling.

  41. bbbbb says...

    I give people who I find hard to shop for (at least the ones I will see in person) plants, ranging from tiny succulents to small house plants. They’re kind of unexpected, they make the air in your home healthier, and you can really pick unusual varieties to match the individual recipient’s personality.

    My older sister and her partner have 3 small children and they are really striving to not have such a strong emphasis on presents under the tree for their family. She asks our dad to instead buy them a family membership to their children’s museum, which they visit all of the time (I think that is such a great gift!). I usually buy the kids some books and craft supplies, and then maybe send a visa gift card with a note saying “use this to go ice skating” or “pizza night is on us!” You get the picture. It’s actually really fun to think up those scenarios!

  42. Oh man – I coulda used some of these great ideas a few weeks ago. But, since Hanukkah started last night and the kids’ schools get out for vacation tomorrow, I’ve already done all the shopping for most of the people on my list. I’ll tuck the ideas away for next year, but putting in a request to maybe post these ideas a few weeks earlier in the future please! :-) Thx!

  43. Robin says...

    Thank you for the gift advice for teachers! These comments are great, as always. My son just started school(!) and this is a great reminder to think about what to give his hard working teachers (no mugs, noted!). Two adults taking care of 25 4 year olds all day long, not to mention trying to teach them anything – it has to have been a long four months! And now with the cold they have to get those kids in and out of SNOWPANTS multiple times a day. I can’t imagine.

  44. Mamacita says...

    Teachers really do not want mugs (no, we are not ungrateful folk, we just don’t want you wasting your money). We get roughly around 5 mugs a year (minimum). If you have been teaching for many years they add up. Next time you are in your child’s classroom, look around. We use mugs to store EVERYTHING! Pens-got a mug for that. Binder clips-got a mug for that. You get it. I agree that a heart felt thank you note or simple $5.oo gift card for coffee would be wonderful!

    • Mamacita says...

      A board game donation to the classroom would be a wonderful gift, too! Many teachers buy classroom games out of pocket!

  45. Stella says...

    A good idea for a teacher’s gift is a book! Books can be as personalized or as general you want and teachers tend to appreciate them. Last year, my favorite English teacher mentioned that he had lent his favorite book to a student and never gotten it back; he said he was glad she had it, but he would like another copy to reread. Come holiday time, my best friend and I remembered what he said about that book and we got it for him and we each wrote personalized notes inside the cover. When he opened it, a big smile appeared on his face and he said it was sweet that we remembered.

    Also, as a daughter of a teacher, I can attest to the overload of the mugs and sweets. Every holiday break my mom would come home with her loot of mugs and candy; she never ate it, but as kids we enjoyed it.

    • Sarah says...

      Same! I’m 30 and my mom is still bringing me her Christmas candy and coffee mugs that her kiddos bring her!

    • Jessica says...

      Same! I was always so excited to see what candy my mom received from her students! (Still can’t wait to check it out this year!)

  46. Katy says...

    I laughed out loud reading the teacher’s suggestions and thoughts! SHE IS SO RIGHT! I taught for 7 years and I received so many lotion sets. Why is that?! Gift cards were always nice, but I liked things made by my students too. I have a few homemade Christmas ornaments on my tree from former students and I love them! :-)

  47. mindi says...

    As a teacher librarian, I’m always super touched by gifts from students, because I know it’s already a lot for some of my families to buy something for their classroom teacher. A thoughtful, kid-written note with a drawing (especially if the drawing some hilarious interpretation of me) always makes me smile.

    I’d like to add that one of the absolute best gifts I’ve received was a lunch from my favorite place, delivered to me. I have barely any time to eat the boring leftovers I always pack, and absolutely no time to leave the building for something, so when a family gifts me a lunch?! Oh, joyous of all joyous occasions!

    • Katy says...

      What a great idea for a teacher! Teachers never get to leave for lunch. Such a great suggestion!

    • Emily says...

      When I worked as a teachers assistant, one of the moms would always bring me and the teacher our favorite coffees when she came in to volunteer. It was such a treat, and made us feel so cared for.

    • Amy says...

      Yes! I teach middle school, and we once had a family that catered in nice lunches for my five teammates and I. It was special and so appreciated! Thoughtful, specific notes from families or kids are my all-time favorite, and gift cards for coffee, Target, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble are wonderful, too. (Scented lotions and homemade treats are at the bottom of my list, personally.) When it comes down to it, though, the very best part of it all is seeing the kids’ faces light up with shy pride as they say thanks and wish you a Merry Christmas.

  48. Angela says...

    Teachers are stuck eating quickly, without time or permission to leave their campus for lunch. I think a great gift would be to show up a little early to drop off with a local eatery menu and ask for their lunch order, which you will return with at their designated lunch period.

    Of course, this is probably only practical for your child’s elementary teacher. If you have children who are in the upper grades with multiple teachers, or you want to gift the oft overlooked staff (PE, art, music teachers, librarian, counselor, etc.), you could perhaps drop by for Sonic drink orders.

  49. Nikki B says...

    Everyone I was stuck on I got the travel pillow: https://www.amazon.com/Trtl-Pillow-Scientifically-Support-Washable/dp/B00LB7REFK that you guys talked about in that travel pillow post https://cupofjo.com/2017/06/best-travel-pillows-for-airplanes/ My boyfriend and I are long distance and I got the TRTL pillow for myself and it’s LIFE CHANGING. I literally got one for everyone this year. I was never a travel pillow girl (military gf, years of travel) and I am finally convinced by this pillow.

    • Jennifer says...

      That pillow is THE BEST! It’s being gifted to several people on my list too!

  50. Mishka says...

    Oh sweet Lord, the mugs! The countless, innumerable mugs! Ironically, I was overwhelmed by the number of them I received early on in my teaching career. Now? I revel in it! The kiddos try to up the ante and get me the most unique mug they can find (think color changing, or hand painted with lemurs, or self-stirring) It’s nice to break out my crazy variety when I have company, and share the stories of each one. And really, when it’s been a long day and I need to snuggle with some tea, it’s nice to know that the mug I’m drinking from came from a place of gratitude.

  51. Daisy says...

    I NEED ADVICE! How do you get someone in your family to stop sending you those holiday gift baskets with preservative-rich pastries and crackers year after every year? I really appreciate the gesture of the gift, but we always end up giving away the food because it isn’t what we normally eat. And my gosh, it’s such a waste of cardboard!!! Is there a way to lightly tell someone you would rather them do something like donate to a worthy cause instead of shipping those $50 baskets?? I’m stumped.

    • Jeannie says...

      Hmm, it might just be best to continue receiving them, graciously accepting and thanking, and then immediately re-homing them (coworkers? you’d be surprised what coworkers will eat! :P I always am!), because for the gift giver, it might be just their most comfortable way of giving? And perhaps it would be kinder to keep receiving them, especially since it’s only once a year.

    • t says...

      No there isn’t. Continue to just graciously accept the cardboard and preservatives. It’s the thought that counts; not the gift.

    • Sid says...

      Maybe attempt to re-direct them to something like a Blue Apron delivery?

    • Emma says...

      I agree with Jeannie – take it into work and leave it in the break room. All those treats get snapped up so quickly!

  52. Emily says...

    Teacher here- Target or Starbucks gift cards are incredible. Candles, wine, lotion, or soap are also great. I really just appreciate a hand written card.

  53. Anne says...

    As a Kindergarten teacher I always appreciate a delicious bottle of wine (doesn’t have to be expensive) and a thoughtful card from the child’s parents. I save any card that includes specific or anecdotal compliments about my teaching and re-read them on dark days when I feel like I need a boost.

  54. Lee says...

    As a teacher I second the ladies you interviewed. No more mugs, chocolates, cookies or lotions please! I don’t expect gifts but a handmade card is lovely and thoughtful while a gift card for coffee is the gift that keeps on giving. Fun socks, cute totes, cute pens and/or pencil and great stationary are always a solid choices. If the teacher is special, take a minute and try to work in something you know they love. It will move him/her more than you know to see the extra thought you’ve put into it. Thoughtful presents from the heart are never forgotten. I still cherish something I received my first year teaching from a student that used his allowance to buy me a silver keychain of a animated character we had a mutual affinity for. He’s a grown man now and I still love my keychain.

  55. cgw says...

    A parent and a teacher here. I don’t expect gifts from my students, especially since I teach high school (less kids give gifts at that age vs. lower grades, which I’ve taught). When I do get something I’m always very appreciative, whether it’s a mug with a packet of hot cocoa, a gift card, banana bread, or simply a note -notes are my most favorite, btw. It’s true that the mugs add up, but I drill a hole and use them as starter planters (great as gifts!), or pass them on later to the donate pile. I know that sounds awful, but I am grateful for the thought and gesture regardless.

    Because of that, I’m a bit more cautious about what I give to my kid’s teachers. Now that she’s older she has her own idea and makes a list, lotions, teas, boxes of chocos. I try to add a small gift card in them along with her choices… well, because, heh. However, one time I received a $50 gift card from a student and that was very awkward, so I don’t usually give out more than $10 per teacher, $20 maybe, to the art teacher (materials are super expensive!).

    • t says...

      Oh, really? That was awkward? We are always soooo grateful of our teachers (because, i mean !!!!) that we pretty much blow our budget on them. They are our top present priority but if that makes them feel weird I am stumped.

    • Mae says...

      As a former teacher who was lucky to teach at a school where gifts were given generously, I never felt awkward about getting $50 gift cards! Teachers are grossly underpaid and often times underappreciated, so I always felt just fine accepting those cards, especially because I knew they were coming from families that could afford them. I even got a $100 gift card to a fancy restaurant once from the mom of an advisee who had caused a LOT of problems…sadly he kept causing them and was expelled the next year, but my husband and I did enjoy that meal! I did always make sure to send a nice hand-written thank you note for those kinds of gifts. I hope all of you teachers out there are showered with great gifts this year!

    • Sasha says...

      I felt awkward getting a gift from a student, whom I have just given a failing grade in a class! She did not know it yet, but I felt so so bad…

  56. I need help for family white elephants! Gift limit $20, recipients range in age from 10 to 85. I like to give a good gift, not the stupid one that no one wants. And not something uncreative, like lottery tickets or a $20 bill. Help please!

    • Kim says...

      If you can find the small s’well bottle on sale, that would work. They are very cute and do a good job. Also wine/liquor is a solid choice.

    • Lana says...

      Dogs Pooping Calendar,
      a WTF Prank candle (featured in the brother gift guide this year), edible bugs, Unicorn Meat, talking Bob Ross Bobble Head! You can google them all and pretty sure you can buy them all on amazon!

    • I would check out uncommon goods! I’ve found really unique fun stuff there

    • t says...

      I actually think Jo’s suggestion of geodes (above) would work for 10 to 85. I mean who doesn’t want to hammer a rock and get a crystal out of that?!

      Also, adult coloring books with pencils (10 year olds can handle that), headphones, starbucks cards (not creative but 10-85 appreciate them), fancy candle, etc.

      and then suggest drawing names next year so you can customize your gift.

    • Valeria says...

      Books!

    • Jessica says...

      Games to play with the whole family! Our family has loved exploding kittens, speak out, scattegories, and wit and wagers. Or a puzzle!

    • Libbie says...

      I bought Telestrations for a white elephant gift this year. It’s $20 at Target, and the most hilarious board game I’ve played. Plus, there’s an activity for the group to do after opening presents!

      For a women’s grab bag, I made a mini spa night package (face masks, a bath bomb and a small candle). It could be easily catered toward different ages (fingernail polish, bubble bath, hand lotion, etc.).

      I’ve also done a movie night package (popcorn, M&Ms, coke and classic movie pack anyone could enjoy!)

      Hope this helps, Mary Kate!

    • Thank you all for all the suggestions!

    • Avalanche Lake says...

      We did a white elephant at work last week and the most popular gifts were:
      -nice coffee and a mug
      -remote-controlled drone
      -tile and another brand of the same thing (for finding lost keys or phones)
      -bananagrams

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      a drone is a cool one! i love bananagrams.

  57. For tweens/teens, I suggest Beanboozled. It’s a jellybean roulette game where you don’t know whether the flavor you’re choosing is yummy (chocolate pudding) or awful (canned dog food). Playing with friends is hysterical. Bonus: price is under $10.

    • Lana says...

      I bought these for my tween nieces last year and it was hysterical!!!

  58. Dr. Teals Avocado Oil Bath Salts. LIFE CHANGING!

  59. Hannah says...

    My dad, stepmom, and 9-year-old step brother live across the country from me and I won’t be seeing them for Christmas. I don’t have a ton of money, so I don’t know if I could get them each a big present. Do you guys have any ideas for one thing I could order online that they would all like??

    • Angela says...

      Family board games they could play together might be fun. Or could you gift an experience? Like a gift card to a trampoline park or an indoor skydiving place?

    • Allison says...

      What about a fun game for them to play together? They could FaceTime you in so you don’t miss out! The PieFace game or Apples to Apples or something silly like that could be fun. Or a yummy dessert? Maybe call a local bakery and then you could let your them know when it is ready to be picked up for their Christmas dinner! I also always love Christmas crackers – https://www.amazon.com/Peppermint-Christmas-Crackers-crackers-enclosed/dp/B076YHJWRV/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1513301565&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=christmas+crackers&psc=1 – such a silly tradition but the paper hats and lame jokes are the perfect end to a big dinner.

    • Sandra says...

      I love games, and they are always great. You could also send them a movie night.–you could get a $5 DVD from Target (my 7 yo son is loving some of those older movies that are probably in the bargain bin now), a thing of microwave popcorn, maybe some cocoa and cozy socks… It wouldn’t cost that much to put together and send.

    • Hannah says...

      These are all great ideas, thank you so much everyone!!

  60. Lexi says...

    My dad is such a hard person to shop for. He is a minimalist, doesn’t need a lot of things, and has the money to buy the things he does occasionally want. My go-to for him is Patagonia. It’s not a cheap gifting company, but I know he will keep their stuff for a long time. I know he doesn’t like shopping for clothes on his own. My motto for people like him? Get the person what they won’t buy themselves.

    • Lexi says...

      On another note, I find that when I can’t think of something to buy someone, I go with a good book. I write a sweet message in the inside cover and add annotations so the person knows I read it and thought of them. Trevor Noah’s book “Born a Crime” is a surefire hit with anyone, so long as they are OK with occasional swearing.

    • Erin says...

      I get experiences instead of stuff for my parents — tickets to a symphony concert is a good go-to for them. They don’t really need any more stuff.

    • Valeria says...

      My father too doesn’t like to go shopping for clothes, and so am I. A few years ago, when there was not shopping online, he was really in need of something new to wear so he asked me if I can go and find some sweaters for him, not as a gift, just to save him to go personally. Initially I was puzzled about that… but then I saw the opportunity of a real gift. I asked him to write a list of all the clothes he needed, with sizes and then I went shopping for a whole day with his credit card. I was surprised to enjoy myself so much as his personal shopper, trying to find things in his favourite colours and looking carefully for the quality of materials and everything like I’ve never done not even for myself! When I came back with dozens of bags, he couldn’t be happier to have a whole new wardrobe, from hat to shoes, without moving from home! (And almost everything fitted!)

  61. Brooke says...

    I always send my in-laws an amazing smoked salmon from Williams Somoma. They talk about it all year til the next one arrives!

  62. N says...

    I laughed out loud regarding the mugs. I have gotten so many mugs from my students over the years that my husband has (playfully, of course) forbidden me from bringing any more home. One of my co-workers calls me the “mug magnet.” I, of course, am so thankful for any gift that my students and their families give me, but I’m good on mugs for the foreseeable future. And I also keep every thank you note I’ve ever gotten from one of my kids. Those are Gold.

    • Ashley F. says...

      Hi N, fellow teacher her…
      Yes, So. Many. Mugs. And I keep the notes and drawings too. Kids and families are so thoughtful even when they just say thanks!

  63. Shira says...

    The Hate U Give is a great read for people of all ages! I’m 23 and it’s my favorite book I’ve read this year.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s next on my list, too! so glad to hear you loved it.

    • Heather says...

      Completely agree! And I’d highly recommend the audiobook. The reader is excellent.

  64. Azi says...

    A question for the awesome readers here. I am a first time baby sitter, and I would love to know if I should give gifts to the family I am working for? If yes, should it be just for the kids or the parents as well? Thanks in advance.

    • tara says...

      i’ve been a substitute nanny/sitter and i normally give families a handmade coupon for a free date night of babysitting. i think they appreciate it [joanna you can let them know your thoughts! ;)], and sometimes it’s nice to have the expense spread throughout the year, instead of me purchasing gifts for 10+ different families (or children) in december.

      a friend who is a full time nanny gives her family an entire weekend away coupon!

    • Sierra Jones says...

      We have a babysitter and just got her some chocolates but I would not expect her to give us anything. In fact, if our babysitter got gifts for us as the parents I would actually be a bit uncomfortable!

      If you wanted to give the kids something little I’m sure they would think it’s sweet – but I definitely would not expect it.

      Then again, I’m in Australia and we don’t do tipping either so it may be different in the US :)

    • Joanna says...

      I would never expect my babysitter to do this! You aren’t paid enough!

    • Mom of Boys says...

      Tara, that is so generous of you! What an amazing gift. This is a perfect one if you want to give a gift. Very, very generous. Less generous but equally thoughtful is dice to play a game with the kids or some origami for the kids or even a homemade bracelet from colorful string.

      As a parent who has an amazing 11th grader baby sit, I would say we are the ones that should be giving the babysitter a little extra something. He is the one managing his way through high school, deciding on colleges and dating. We are the ones that have enough income to hire him and go out once a month. And it is a huge bonus that our kiddos love him and are genuinely excited for us to go out!

  65. I like that coin counter jar too – what an awesome idea! Does it restart when you open it? These are great smaller gifts too – my sister would love that tote! I also bought my mother the Pride & Prejudice game you suggested a few weeks back!

    We are really struggling with my in-laws. They live in Paris, so obviously have access to a lot of great things. They’re also SUPER particular, which makes it so hard to buy gifts for them. France just got Netflix, so we’re thinking of getting them an Apple TV when we get there and helping them set it up. We got my husband’s mom a furry blanket once and she really loved it, but I’ve had some misses in the past so I’m a little unsure.

    • Emma says...

      For adults that are particular and have all their needs met, I love the combination of a consumable +card+ charitable donation. Perhaps a bottle of decent wine? A box of laudree macaroons? Some local honey? Add a sweet card and a donation to a worthy cause like MSF, refugee resettlement, some environmental cause, whatever you can both support! As a picky adult myself, I would appreciate that a lot more than another smelly candle :)

    • t says...

      Yes, agreed- consumables and donation. Especially if they are french it would be funny to get them some popular american consumables so they can try them and scoff.

  66. Amy says...

    Another teacher here. Totally agree with the above. Even a $5 Starbucks gift card is great. No tchotchkes or mugs please! Weirdly, I once got a serving spoon from a student and I use it all the time. It was probably a regift but hey it was useful!

    • Jessica says...

      A fellow teacher here who agrees with Amy–I have never been disappointed to see a $5 Starbucks gift card in my life. And I also agree with the reader contributors in the post. I save every thank you card that every one of my college students has ever given me. It really is true that it’s incredibly meaningful to know (like really know, in their own words) that you helped a student with something, however small.

    • Valeria says...

      As teachers, would you like receiving a book? Not for the class, I mean, just for you. This year I’m giving my 5yo son’s teacher the book “Wonder”…

    • Sarah says...

      I got a note from a parent today which spoke of specific things that she appreciated about my presence in her daughter’s life. It was so meaningful, I brought it home to show my husband. What I *LOVE* about this mom year after year is that she will sign a card with her name, then write “Please don’t write me a thank you note! I’m the one thanking you!!” Phew…guilt gone. I am a music teacher and teach over 600 kids, the idea of writing a thank-you note in time for each kid and gift is overwhelming.

    • Nikki B says...

      One time I got all these semi-expensive and incredibly useful school supplies from a parent as a holiday gift: double sided tape, glue dots, ribbon, nice clothes pins, glitter glue, glitter, binder clips, neon printer paper. It probably wasn’t expensive- no more than 15 dollars from target but they were supplies I LOVED and use. (Elementary teacher here!)

      You guys get your kid’s teacher this. SERIOUSLY.

  67. Ali G says...

    Just a plug for Omaha Steaks (or something similar) for caregivers or other people you know work hard everyday. My dog sitter has 2 special needs dogs, 2 cats, a young kid and a husband that travels a lot. And she still agrees to take my grumpy-butt dog when I need an overnight sitter.
    Having something that is a full meal and can go from the freezer to the oven with no prep work is is a lifesaver some days.
    They also have add-ons for pets :)
    (And thanks for the reminder that I hadn’t yet ordered her gift!)

  68. Kelsey says...

    I’m a teacher and honestly, my favorite gifts are the ones that the kiddos obviously picked out to give me. I teach in an area where families live in poverty and don’t have much to spare, about 30% of my students are homeless. My most treasured gifts are little bracelets and toys from the dollar store or those little coin toy machines that come in the plastic bubbles – the fact that my kiddos want to give me these little items that they see as the best treasures makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode. <3

    • Oh my gosh, those are so meaningful. Thank you for doing such wonderful and important work <3

    • Claire says...

      Thank you for your work with these children.

    • So lovely! Keep doing the amazing work you do!

    • Marianne says...

      Just love this comment.

  69. I always love these gift guides, but it was a fun surprise to see pets on here. :) Animals are so important in my family, and it’s always fun when we open the box full of our gifts and see a couple for our kitty, from my aunt and grandma. My grandma even chided me the other day for not spoiling him enough- “Oh Lindsey, you *have* to spoil him, he’s family”, she said. I love that. So I may be buying him that little cat house. It’s actually so cute! Most cat-related things are hideous and I refuse to buy something ugly for my pet who may or may not like it. But with this, if he doesn’t like it, I have a new nightstand! Haha. Thanks Joanna!

    • Amanda G says...

      So cute! We recently adopted a cat and didn’t think he’d be welcome at my in-laws’ house. Lo and behold, my father in law has insisted we bring him, and my mother in law has already put up a barrier around the Christmas tree so he doesn’t topple it. The mentality is the same – pets are family!

    • Amanda, that’s adorable! I love that.

  70. I’m giving small denominations of bitcoin to my hard-to-buy-for relatives! It’s fun to follow for people that never would have actually invested in it, there is no physical waste in purchasing it even if they don’t care for it, and if my husband is right, it will be the gift that gives for years to come! Ha! And of course, I will show them how to cash out at any time if they are so inclined. A little more exciting than just lottery tickets, I hope!

    • RashmiK says...

      That sounds amazing!!! I was just wondering the other day how to go about purchasing Bitcoin. Would you mind letting me know where exactly does one buy and sell Bitcoin?

  71. Emily says...

    For all you teachers out there (thank you, BTW!)… what is a good gift card amount? Is $20-25 too little? It adds up with multiple kids and I don’t want to go over the top. $50 feels like too much. But now that I type that, I feel cheap! Give me your honest opinions!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      for what it’s worth, our class parent suggests $20-25 for each family, and then we all go in on an Amazon gift certificate together. if any families aren’t able to pay that much (or anything at all) that’s completely fine, and all names go onto the card regardless.

    • Kelsey says...

      As a teacher, I would never expect anything like that! But I guess I teach in an area where families don’t have much to spare. $20 sounds extremely reasonable.

    • Sarah says...

      I don’t think anyone expects any amount of money whatsoever. If someone gave me a $20-25 gift card anywhere I’d be shocked! If and when they come I feel like $5-10 is typical.

    • Anamaria says...

      I taught for three years and almost all the gifts cards I got were for $10-$15. Each year I got a few $20-$25 and a few $5- all are SUPER welcome!! The money adds up on the other end, too, so ten $5 Starbucks gifts cards is a lot of coffee. $20-$25 is NOT cheap. I got a $50 gift card ONCE, from a family I knew outside of school and whose daughter I helped a lot- it is not at all expected and in other circumstances may be a bit awkward!

      At one of the schools, the PTO got together and we each got a cash “Christmas bonus,” so if you wanted to do more you could do that with other parents.

  72. Susan says...

    In need of gift ideas for a super nice neighbor family! In the past we’ve done alcohol for the adults and gift cards for the tween boys, but looking for something new. We tend to avoid sweets because they don’t eat them.

    • Christina says...

      A board game like Speak Out! Or if you want to go a little higher, maybe a movie gift card (movies are so expensive for a family of 4+)

    • Amanda G says...

      I agree with Christina, those are both good ideas! Other games my family loves to play together are Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples, and Dominoes :)

    • I love the idea of sharing a favorite board game with another family too. It’s a gift that will bring them fun family time together each time they play it. My family’s favorite board game is Blockus! (I’m 28 and my brother is 26 and we still love to play it with my parents!)

    • Susan says...

      Great ideas – thank you!

  73. Julie says...

    I think all of your comment sections are must-reads, but this one is saving my LIFE. Some people are so hard to shop for. Thanks as always.

  74. As a former teacher, I couldn’t agree more that a thoughtful card was always my favorite thing to receive. Especially as kids enter middle school and have multiple teachers, buying gifts can be expensive! But when a parent took the time to write a thoughtful message in a card, I cherished each of them. I still have all of them today (even after a cross-country move)!

  75. Becca Lynn says...

    I’m a teacher and I save every handwritten note from my (high school) students and their parents. They make me believe I should keep doing what I do <3 Wine and starbucks gift cards are gold, also :)

  76. Lindsey says...

    Six members of my family are teachers. They spend SO MUCH of their own money on classroom supplies (and they don’t make a lot), so giving them Target, Amazon or Walmart gift cards is a great idea. One of my sister’s students gave her a case of Diet Dr Pepper because they know she loves it, and that was a big hit too :)

  77. Meghan says...

    The best gift I ever got was a handmade card from a grade 9 student several years ago. Earlier in the year I was asked by some girls if I knew who a particular boy liked. This boy had admitted having a crush, but remained tight-lipped over the identity. I looked up at this boy, surrounded by girls who were all hoping they were the object of his affection, and was struck by the expression on his face.
    I strive to use gender-neutral language as much as possible, so I said something along the lines of, “If Petey wants to tell be about who he likes, then I’m happy to hear it. All I know is that whoever he likes is a very lucky person.”
    A couple of days later I got a Christmas card from Petey. Inside the card was a piece of paper that had been folder dozens of times until it was so teeny tiny I almost missed it. After unfolding it I saw in the centre, written in teeny tiny writing, were the words, “I like a boy. Thanks for listening.”
    I later found out that I was the second person he told, even before his twin brother. I keep the note and card at home to remind myself that even the smallest acts can make the biggest difference (sorry for the super cheesy theme, but it’s a sentimental time of year!).

    • MA says...

      This is just the best story. Thanks for being a great teacher!

    • S. says...

      OK well, i’m crying. You sound like a wonderful teacher and it seems like you were as lucky to know him as he was to know you.

    • Laura says...

      omg tears!

    • This just made me tear up!! You never know how affecting it can be to keep open space for people. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Valeria says...

      Lucky him to have you as his teacher. Thanks for sharing this sweet memory.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what an incredible teacher and person you are, meghan! loved this so much.

    • Mel F says...

      Major tears. This is everything- I hope my kids have the opportunity to have a teacher as thoughtful and considerate and accepting as you.

    • Jess says...

      Oh my gosh, this is the sweetest. Wow. Well done… and I hope my children have teachers like you once they start school x

    • Did someone cut onions while writing this? So touching and so effective :)

    • Justine A Clark says...

      Yup – tears. You are a wonderful human being. Thanks for creating a safe space for that boy.

    • Tovah Close says...

      The best teachers are great listeners. You “heard” him and I bet he’ll never forget it!

    • Allison says...

      I got goosebumps on this one. Thank you for being so kind and thoughtful in your interactions with your students. I have a toddler and my husband and I pray that he encounters teachers like you who will love him for his uniqueness.

    • Emily says...

      Tears! That’s so amazing and inspiring. Great job. Thanks for all you do.

    • Aya says...

      What a sweet story. Thank you for sharing. It sure shows that a small gesture, being mindful and compassionate even in a small way, can be (and is!) huge.

    • isavoyage says...

      Thank you, you make the world a better place!

    • Katherine says...

      This made me weep, I love it so much. I’m a teacher too and my number one priority is not academics, it’s the emotional well-being of my students (my kids, as I call them). I want them to feel safe, loved, listened to, and you’ve created a space for that in your classroom, too. Thank you for being supportive of and a champion for your students.

  78. Bobbie Mastronardi says...

    Last year I told my brother, an elementary school principal and former teacher, that I was going to give my kids’ teachers cash. Tacky! was his reply. He said go with a gift card. I guess it depends on what part of the country you are in (Midwest here) or what type of school it is.

  79. Katie Larissa says...

    Wife of a teacher, and one year all the parents of his orchestra went in together and gave us a big gift card to a super snazzy restaurant we did NOT have the budget for, and it was so thoughtful and amazing. We dressed up, we each got an appetizer AND dessert along with an entree, (so so rare on a teacher’s salary!) and enjoyed the evening thoroughly. I don’t know which parent organized it, but it was the BEST GIFT EVER.

    • Frankie says...

      This is an amazing idea. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nikki B says...

      This year I got a gift card from a parent to uber eats. HONESTLY CAN THAT PARENT BE MORE AMAZING?! I never order delivery but on a bad teaching day, delivery of a hot meal makes it all better.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      uber eats sounds like such a great gift!

    • t says...

      UGH last year I was the one to organize the class big gift certificate. I worked hard and contacted the families multiple times and barely got any contributions. I of course put ALL names on the card but had to pay for 50% of the ENTIRE class gift myself. Not doing that again.

  80. Christie says...

    All of this reminds me of the article by George Monbiot (http://www.monbiot.com/2012/12/10/the-gift-of-death/), who wrote:
    “There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder; a “hilarious” inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or – and somehow I find this significant – a Scratch Off World wall map. They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations. ”
    He suggested instead:
    “Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care.”

    • Barbara says...

      Well said!

    • Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I talk about this all the time. Our home is full of junk, and we are always trying to purge (and make eco-conscious purchases), yet we get a constant influx of plastic and toys and impractical gifts. We try to tell our parents to buy us nothing, or if they must get a gift card or ask what we would like, but the influx of “something to open” and “surprises” continues. I will be passive-aggressively sharing Monbiot’s article on Facebook ;)

    • Mama M says...

      Yes, yes, yes. I hadn’t read that Monbiot before, but holy hell that’s a great piece. If someone is “impossible-to-shop-for”, perhaps shopping is not the thing to be done on their behalf…

      I’m really not that upset about this particular list–I get that people feel like they need to buy things, and this is a lifestyle blog, and quite frankly the items above are MUCH more useful than most other gift idea lists I’ve seen (and the gifts that give back are at least a step in the right direction). But I think the sentiment still stands: we are buying things nobody needs to elicit a momentary positive reaction because it’s the societal expectation. It’s just so hard to abstain without seeming like a grinch or like a self-righteous snob.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this part: “Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care.”

    • Claire says...

      thanks for this excellent reminder, it’s very timely and helpful to me to not just give stuff for the sake of giving something. So much better to create something from the heart – “Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke”. ah- so good!

    • Thank you for sharing this! I don’t think there’s anything I hate more than unwanted and wasteful gifts, and I’m especially against it this holiday season. I’m trying to avoid buying knick knacks for my nieces and nephews, and am preferring small books or tools that are not junk. I’m most excited for a flower press for my niece, which I think will give her much enjoyment!

      Honestly, I have always felt this way, but in a lot of cultures it doesn’t matter what the present is, just that you gave one. I’m perpetually frustrated by gifts from older relatives, who buy a lot of small decorative items that I give away.

    • Kelly says...

      Amen. For Christmas, my siblings and I pool the money we would have spent on each other and donate it to a local charity. Now, I just need to work on getting my husband’s family to do this!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that, kelly!!

    • Lauren E. says...

      My friends and I get together during the holidays for an event we call Holicraze: basically, all the November/December holidays celebrated in one day! We start with the Thanksgiving meal, dance around with glow sticks for Diwali, say the Hannukah prayers, gift Secret Santas, and then ring in the New Year at midnight. It’s. The. Best. But one year after looking around at all the cheap crap we gave each other for Secret Santa (and a friend’s girlfriend demanding “no more of this JUNK left in my house!” at the end of the night) we decided instead of the $20 Secret Santa we’d pool our money and donate it to charity. Makes so much more sense.

  81. Tara says...

    My mom taught first grade for years and she was definitely on the “things for the classroom” bandwagon. I like to give pretty post-it notes because teachers are constantly using them!

    Our bus driver really stumps me though because I know nothing about him except what time he picks my son up and drops him off. Going with a couple of scratch-off lottery tickets this year.

  82. In search of: Fun, VERY low-cost stocking stuffers, ages 11-18. GO!

    • Christina says...

      Nail polishes and lip glosses, just search the Target beauty aisles for items from ELF etc. Sheet masks or fun bath bombs are nearby, too. Anything funny like huge bouncy balls (I think one was on the Dad gift post?), a slinky, Star Wars pez dispensers, a hacky-sack, deck of cards. I always find gems in the Target aisle near the cash register, where they have a bunch of ‘junk’ for $5 or less. It’s all very cute!

    • Vicki says...

      Pop-Tarts, cans of Pringles, old-school sodas in bottles are all cheap and take up a lot of space! (My kids got Smores Pop-Tarts. Does it get any junkier? Lol)

    • Amanda G says...

      I saw some “instant snow” at Target for $5 a can, which could be fun! Or maybe some unique flavored hot cocoa (i.e. red velvet, candy cane, etc.). Fun chapstick, like the little round EOS ones. A $5 gift card to Barnes and Noble. Fun socks – Target has some really cute ones for $1-3 a pair with animals, food, etc on them.

    • Mara says...

      Target is king in the stocking stuffer category. I’d also suggest astronaut ice cream, yummy and unusual!

    • Jessica says...

      If any of these 11-18 year olds are girls then you cannot go wrong with ELF or NYX cosmetics products and very cheap bath bombs (of the knock-off LUSH variety) all available at Target. Oh, and anything marbled. Or in millenial pink.

    • Katherine says...

      Not stocking stuffer, but big can of popcorn. My boys LOVE that and they are inexpensive at Trader Joes, Walmart, etc. Similar – those cans of different kinds of sugar cookies – typically less than $5.00 a can.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      these tips are fantastic!

    • katherine says...

      I’ve got 3 suggestions for you!

      Tony Moly lip balms or hand creams! They are about $8-10, and come in fun packaging shaped like fruit or panda bears: https://www.amazon.com/TONYMOLY-Mini-Cherry-Lip-Balm/dp/B06VSL38YY/ref=dp_ccx_cts_image_luxe_1

      Old Navy has fun (and super, super soft) chenille socks with prints of red plaid and bears for $5: http://oldnavy.gapcanada.ca/browse/product.do?cid=1040996&pcid=1000106&vid=1&pid=775247083

      And finally, I think really fun stocking stuffers are “silly candy” like pop rocks or ring pops. For the teenagers, it could be cheeky and silly–depending on the vibe of your family, of course! my mom did stuff like this for me all the time–to give them “cocktail” gummy bears (with no actual alcohol in them) from Squish or similar (like these, “negroni gummies” for $6: https://www.squishcandies.com/en_ca/products/3077-Negroni)

    • Thanks everyone! I just did some shopping and here’s what I came home with: sparkly hair pins, fancy individual packs of hot cocoa, chocolate bars, a scalp scratcher, a multi-colored pen, white out (for the girl who ALWAYS makes mistakes), a fidget spinner, dog bones and toys (for them to give to their pets), duck tape (for the 11-year-old who loves to make things), movie tickets (not cheap, but oh well), lotion for working hands (for the 18-year-old carpenter), etc. And purchased earlier: silly skeleton socks (for the EMT), beanie hats for all 4 kids, a jump rope, etc. Once I parcel it all out, I’ll go buy a bunch of candy to stuff in the gaps. xo!

    • Meghann says...

      I always use clementines as filler! Cheap, take up lots of space, healthy, and I think even traditional?

  83. Jenni says...

    I’m a teacher, and I dont need any school supplies for myself (like pens, although if you ever buy pens for teachers, we all swear by flair pens!) but school supplies that are helpful are glue sticks (ALWAYS!), pencils and great books for our classroom library. Of course, ideally there’s a gift card or money in those handmade cards from my wonderful students, it’s always nice when parents recognize you have a life outside of school!

  84. Brooke says...

    A gift for your boss? My mom always taught me not to ‘gift up.’ she said that as a manager, it made her uncomfortable to think her team was spending money on her. I’ve lived by that motto. Am I wrong?

    • Jamie says...

      I’ve always heard and ascribed to not gifting up in the office. I give to my assistant and small gifts to our support staff–but never to my boss other than a card!

    • Mara says...

      I think it depends on how close you are. I work in a laid-back office and my boss frequently tells me about his dates and hook-ups and it’s all ok…sooo yeah, I gave him a nice and simple ornament. But at my former employer, which was super buttoned-up, the most I would do was make a platter of cookies on the last day and wish the collective group a happy holidays!

  85. Mara says...

    Thanks for this post! My nieces range in age from 6 to 13, and even the youngest has her own iPhone AND iPad! So it’s been very difficult to think of what to give girls who have everything they could possibly want. Maybe I can go the simple route with the Jelly Beans ;-)

    • Vicki says...

      Take them to a movie, or ice skating!

    • Valeria says...

      I was writing the same! If they have everything, give them something to do. Tickets for a movie, a match, a theatre. Or, to go with something cheaper and possibly more fun, consider a diy vouchers booklet with activities you think they would appreciate doing with you. From “baking day” to “horror stories exchange night” it’s all allowed.

    • Aya says...

      My aunt used to gift us a day together or a sleep over, just one-on-one. I expected it every year as my holiday gift and looked forward to it. At 33, I still remember details of how meticulously she’d paint my nails or driving in a heavy rainstorm with her, just the two of us.

  86. I am stumped on want to get for my father-in-law! He’s a carpenter but doesn’t have too many interests outside of family and work. The only thing I know for sure he likes is chocolate but I can only give him so much chocolate!

    • Christina says...

      My dad is the same way! This year, I gave him headphones and a 3-month subscription to Audible so he can listen to books while he’s working in the shop. I included a note with a couple of recommended books from what I’ve read recently, to help get him started. Or a subscription to National Geographic? Or a fresh pair of wool socks (the best.feeling.ever. I recommend Bombas! or SmartWool!)

    • Ali G says...

      Is there a Woodcraft store near you/him? It’s a great store for all sorts of tools, equipment, etc. for wood working (think AC Moore, but higher end and all things wood). They also have machines there you can rent and use on-site that you may not have in your house, like a jigsaw or something. Last, they do great classes where you can learn new things.

    • Mara says...

      That’s a tough one! Some ideas: a magnetic tool wrist band (on Amazon), a nice new tool belt, the book called “The Carpenter.” And check out the Chocolate Vault — they sell chocolate construction tools!!

    • Laura says...

      My first thought for a carpenter is a leatherman multitool, unless he already owns one. But that might be more than you’re looking to spend. My boyfriend is a carpenter (among other things) and he loves his leatherman (which he got for a gift once). I also thought of a magazine subscription.

    • Laurel says...

      I have given the following to my dad and my FIL who are similarly down-to-earth, hard workers:
      this pepper mill (rated best by Sweet Home) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000RAC7T0/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
      A thermopop thermometer (great if they barbecue or cook any meat, also fun to just take temps of whatever) http://www.thermoworks.com/ThermoPop
      A subscription to The Week magazine (if they read and/or are interested in news, listen to NPR)

    • Thank you all so much! Those are great suggestions!

    • katherine says...

      My dad is similar!

      Uh, I always give him books about one of the following things:

      Boxing (once, “This Bloody Mary is the Last Thing I Own”)
      Baseball (one year I gave him “The Art of Fielding,” another year I gave him “Moneyball”)
      A vague category I think of as “Rugged Pursuits” (see: “Moby Dick,” “The North Water,” Ernest Hemingway stuff. One year I gave him a book about a hermit who lived in the woods alone and he was like “This guy, he’s alright”)

      Last year I gave him “dad’s night in,” which was a book, some fancy beef jerky, and a small bottle of whisky. I wrapped and labelled each thing separately–he got a kick out of it.

  87. KM says...

    As a mother of two girls who attend school, I give their teachers good ole cash – a crisp $50 bill. Everyone can use more cash, and a very versatile form of currency. After all, I don’t know if a teacher loves to treat herself to a Target run, or is behind on her cell phone bill. One of our teachers last year told me she bought herself new boots.

    I’m also the room parent for my daughter’s kindergarten class, and based on funds pooled, both the teacher and aide will receive a $100 bill and some of their favorite candies.

  88. Not the most creative gift, but my daughter’s kindergarten class is collecting cash for her teacher. It’s easy, and who doesn’t love cash? I’ll have my daughter make her a card too.

    In regards to the Lanolips…every nursing mom knows lanolin makes the best lip balm! I can see not wanting to buy nipple cream for your dog walker, but if you wanted to buy the same thing for yourself the lanolin in the breastfeeding aisle is way cheaper ;)

    • Sarah says...

      Exactly what I’ve been using on my dry lips and hands! The leftovers from the free tubes the hospital gave me.

  89. Cazmina says...

    Oxfam is another good charity one – you can buy things like a goat for a family, or access to clean water, or even a pile of poo! (Manure for crops)

    For teenagers I think a fun one is a gift pass for an escape room – where you have to find clues and solve riddles to escape the room within a time limit. They’re everywhere these days and really fun! You could buy a gift pass for them to go with their friends.

    • Laura C. says...

      I am not a teenager and I have asked my sister for a pass for the escape room!!! I cannot wait!!!

  90. Margaret says...

    Chiming in about teaching: I’m a middle school teacher who spends out of pocket for school supplies like tissues, pencils, paper, and Clorox wipes. Donations are thoughtful! I also love books for our classroom library or gift certificates to get some. And yeah—please no mugs, no toiletries, and no homemade food. I love getting notes from students though!

  91. m.cam says...

    As I add up the total spending for presents this year, I’m taking a clue from these gift guides (and the book ‘The Art of Money’) and put some heart into the descriptions. Instead of “Brother – Headphones – $65” the spreadsheet reads “Brother – Walnut headphones to listen to his favorite tunes at work – $65.” It brings a little joy to tracking my spending and will be a good reminder for next year’s gift-giving.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, M.!

  92. Nicole says...

    As a teacher, I agree on the advice given here. My favorite is honestly Dunkin Donuts gift cards because most of us desperately need our coffee when we’re waking up in the pre-dawn hours. And I second the no-mugs rule; I love them and I’ve gotten a lot of nice ones, but I’m running out of room to store them!

  93. Laura says...

    If you’re looking for a gift for babies/new parents that also gives back, I can’t say enough good things about Haiti Babi (https://haitibabi.org/). A friend started this company, which employs women in Haiti to knit gorgeous baby blankets, hats, and toys. All of my friends treasure their beautiful blankets, and I love knowing my money is going to support these women and their families.

    • Susan says...

      Love this! Thanks so much for sharing!

  94. Gretchen says...

    As a teacher, an always appreciated gift is a hardcover book for the classroom library. I don’t need any “me” gifts, but I do spend a lot of my own time and money buying books, so it is always amazing when someone helps out. Looking at booklists from websites such as http://www.readbrightly.com is a great way to find new, high-quality books for all age groups that teachers would love to have.

  95. JB says...

    My mission is to get my family and in-laws off the Christmas gifts. We all buy ourselves what we want anyways, and Christmas shopping is super stressful (to me! I know some people love it). I love these donation ideas. Also, most cities have programs where you can adopt a family in need and buy their Christmas presents for them. I really like this because you get a list (no guessing!) and it usually has need items (like toiletries, winter jackets, etc.) and some wants. Not to be a Scrooge, because I pretty much want everything on your gift guides for myself!

    • Amanda G says...

      JB, I agree wholeheartedly! It is always such a stressful scramble to buy my family gifts. This year, with myself and my sister both getting married in 2018, we all agreed to tone it down a bit and not spend too much. BUT next year I am going to suggest we forego presents altogether and adopt a family to give them the Christmas of our dreams :) I think *almost* everyone will be on board!

    • Amanda G says...

      Oops and of course I meant *their* dreams, not ours!!

    • Sharon says...

      I would LOVE to know how you successfully do this! I share your sentiment, but when my husband and I tried this last year with his family, they had a fit over it. They literally kept mentioning, oh right they don’t “do gifts”, and seemed to be incredibly hurt by it. We stuck with it for a little over a year, trying to take people out for dinner or an activity (spending time together) in leu of a gift, but it was a constant source of family tension. We decided to go back to the gift giving this year, and my MIL actually said “oh thank God you guys are doing gifts again.” I’m trying to remind myself that this must be there “love language”, and looking for thoughtful gifts (instead of setting a specific $$ amount for each). But the whole concept of buying and exchanging gifts with ALL adults in a family is still a weird one for me. I thank my lucky stars my husband is good with no gifts. I get him something if it pops into my head as the “perfect thing”, but normally, just wrap up some dog treats, watch some football with him (spending time together is his love language ;-)), turn on the Christmas music and call it a day!

  96. Kyla says...

    Teacher here and hey, I don’t mind lotion! When I get a special Kiehl’s or L’occitane set – it sure isn’t in my normal budget! When parents think of me I HONESTLY love anything. I don’t want them to do it out of obligation.
    That being said, my sister always gives Swell waterbottles and I think that’s great. “Fancy” and practical!

    • Vero says...

      Love Kiehls so much and it always feels like too much of a splurge to buy for myself. Their ultimate hand cream is the best I have found so far. S’well water bottles as a gift… what a great idea!

  97. kathy says...

    my daughter goes to afterschool program. any thoughts on what to give those teachers?

    • Please gift these underpaid workers with a thank you note and CASH. As per previous comments, cash is king. We don’t really know these folks and we should give them the courtesy of spending the money as they see fit. For some it might be food on the table and others a well-deserved treat. I do this for all my community helpers too…postman, garbage man, recycling guy, clean green guy, and so on. The unsung heroes of our everyday lives.

    • Jessica says...

      I was an after school program worker as a college student, and I loved getting a gift card to a place like Target. You can get anything: cosmetics, groceries, house items, a new shirt. They can use it for a practical purchase, if needed, but can also feel like they’re treating themselves to something they might not always have extra money for. And I was always happy with any amount–it didn’t need to be much. It was just nice to know that parents thought of me too, and not just their kids’ primary teachers during the day.

  98. sara says...

    Thanks for all these small and thoughtful ideas. As I teacher for special education I always love little cards and notes from the kids. Funny thoughts from those little ones always make my day. I just got a self-made “diary of a wimpy kid” with the title : The stinky salami. Great read;-)

  99. Another teacher- yes to all of those. Please no more lotions or candles.

    Something that may also be considered really helpful, depending on where your student goes to school, is asking about any classroom supplies that are running low. It could be a “gift” to the classroom rather than the teacher; especially since many teachers end up buying supplies out of their own pockets (Kleenex always runs low).

  100. I really appreciate these ideas because I’m totally stumped this year. I’ll be sure to browse the archives for more ideas! Thank you! :)

  101. Mac says...

    Thank you for a great list! All the “consumable” ideas are especially good. Many of the people I’m shopping for do not need any more stuff. Something thoughtful and that can be used up is perfect.
    I was at a holiday party this month where everyone brought an under $20 gift for a gift exchange game. The three things everyone ended up fighting over were nail polish, a candle, and 2 tickets to six flags! (Free, technically, they were given by the park when an event was rained out.)

  102. Betsy says...

    Scratch off lottery tickets are affordable & good for any age

    • Anna says...

      Most people would just rather have the cash.

    • Taryn says...

      I only ever do scratch offs at Christmas from the ones I get in my stocking or at family parties. Our aunts and uncles still give the “kids” a couple instead of gifts. Yes, maybe some would rather have cash but for $5, it’s a bit of fun and a few minutes to dream about what you’d do if you won big. Who doesn’t want that at the holidays?

    • Stacey says...

      I love getting lottery tickets! I’ve literally never bought one for myself, but it’s so fun when I get one from someone else.

    • Marti says...

      My family has done scratch-offs in our stockings since before I can remember. One time, as a five year old, I won $100! When my family asked what I planned to spend the cash on, I proudly proclaimed “MORE BARBIES!” My older cousins could not have been more annoyed… Ah, family memories!

    • Emily says...

      I love getting lottery tickets! They’re such a little thrill and I would never buy one for myself!

    • Rachel says...

      Some people don’t support the lottery for religious reasons as it is a form of gambling. For example, as a Quaker, I do not ever play the lottery, even the number draw my workplace has each Christmas.

  103. Cooper says...

    I made a batch of simple great-smelling eucalyptus wreaths that I’m excited to hand out to those hard-to-buy for relatives at the annual family Christmas party this weekend! (And using a $2 wooden embroidery hoop and $2.99 bunches of eucalyptus from Trader Joe’s, it was super affordable.)

    Also, every year we get our cats a holiday cat scratchers from Target, and this year’s multi-level “ski chalet” couldn’t be cuter!

    https://www.target.com/p/cat-ski-chalet-pet-scratch-center-wondershop-153/-/A-52574406#lnk=sametab

    • Amy P says...

      I’d totally love to get a handmade eucalyptus wreath! I doubt anyone’s going to give me one though, so thanks for the DIY tip – I think I’ll be treating myself ;)

  104. I always get my teenage cousin a book or two that I loved at the same age and this year added in frog prince lip gloss which is green but turns pink when you put it on. It’s what I would want to receive as a 16 year old (and to be honest now as a 26 year old). I like to get my 8 year old cousin cool sciencey kits. This year: intro to engineering.

    And as a teacher the best present was coffee shop gift cards! No thanks to the cheap waxy chocolates, ugly mugs and scented lotions. Handwritten notes and gift cards are the best. One year I didn’t pay for coffee for months since my students pretty much all gave me gift cards to the closest coffee shop!

    • Sarah says...

      AGREE!

  105. Cynthia says...

    I’m a teacher-no mugs and no Christmas tree ornaments. I just cleaned out my surplus mugs. Gift cards are a great idea!

  106. S. says...

    You guys are always so helpful, so I figured I’d ask your opinion on my situation:

    I’ve been dating a wonderful guy for a few months. Christmas doesn’t have the same meaning in his family (minimal) vs mine (all ten of us get gifts for each other, it’s a big deal – and my favourite holiday). So, I got him a present but I’m not expecting one — and I’m fine with it :p. Because we won’t see each other during the holidays, I’m thinking of leaving the package at his flat with a note that says something like “Don’t open till Christmas” AND I want to convey the whole “don’t worry im not expecting a gift back i just like giving presents ok byeeee”. Any idea on how to phrase it? I’m stumped!

    Side note: I got him a map of the night sky that glows in the dark and it’s very awesome and I can’t wait for him to get it, hehe.

    • Jo says...

      Hey S,

      I would write a note on his present saying, “I saw this and thought you would love it” … you don’t even have to mention Christmas. If you leave it at his flat and let him decide when to open it, he can take it as a Christmas gift, or not. You could wrap it in paper that could be Christmassy or not, sparkly for example, but not covered with Santas!

      However, this may be controversial, but I think that he should get you a little Christmas present or at least an expression of the season, i.e. take you for a New Year’s brunch. The reason is that you DO think Christmas is important and you love it. I definitely don’t think you should say anything about not expecting a gift back. If you don’t get a gift, behave with grace and if you do get a gift, behave with grace!

      I had a boyfriend once who couldn’t stand Christmas (not for any religious reasons, but simply a personal preference) and it did hurt me that he refused to celebrate in any small way. Making his point was more important to him than compromising even slightly because it was something I enjoyed. I’m not saying that this is your situation, but you love this time of year and it will be important to you in the future. Start as you mean to go on! And all the best x

    • Lauren says...

      I would just leave him the gift! You don’t need to explain that you don’t expect a gift in exchange. It feels like apologizing unnecessarily, if that makes sense.

      p.s. it sounds like a lovely gift.

    • Ashley says...

      Jo, that’s really sweet advice! I love what you say, “start as you mean to go on” … relevant for so many aspects of new love.

    • Mara says...

      I agree with Jo! A simple “I saw this and thought of you” note, no other explanation. If you don’t necessarily want to be that brief, you could add, “Can’t wait to gaze at the real thing with you!” or something similar. :-)

    • S. says...

      Thanks a lot for the replies, and the advice, as always. Point duly noted; I completely get the “unnecessary apology”. I always get fussy around Christmas and boyfriends (and friends!) because my birthday is December 15th and I feel like it’s a lot of gifts in a short time and I always feel “embarrassed” and look at me apologizing again, ha. You guys are awesome! I knew you could count of this community :)

    • Kelly says...

      Hi S.,
      It’s the same for me, too! My birthday is Dec 20, so it can make new relationships around this time of the year a little stressful. I got my boyfriend a bottle of his favorite scotch (dating about six months but really casual at first). If I get a gift in return, lovely! If not, totally fine, too. He’s not a super gifty person (that I can gather) but more likely to do something like suggest and pay for a nice dinner. I agree with what everyone else said: “I saw this and thought you would like it. Merry Christmas.” I’ll probably say the same thing!

    • S. says...

      Haa Kelly that’s indeed a really similar situation!! Thanks a lot for your advice and kind words :) (and best of luck for navigating this tricky season!)

    • Maria says...

      S., you sound a lot like my friend Silvia, whose birthday is also Dec 15th haha! I’m more of your guy’s mindset in terms of downplaying Christmas in general, and especially Christmas presents, and married into a family who has a more festive approach to it. Be patient, and don’t pressure him into it – he may grow into it, or he may not. To be honest, I do enjoy putting up a Christmas tree and drinking mulled wine, but there’s not much about Christmas eve and day that I care for. My husband is the other way around. Now I do my Christmas tree thing whilst he watches tv or something, and he does most of the Christmas shopping for his side of the family and lets me be on actual Christmas eve and day. He does help me pick out a Christmas tree, and I tell him if I have any ideas of Christmas presents. So my advice to you is: do your thing, let your guy do his, don’t get in each other’s way.

  107. Jess says...

    We’re hosting a Christmas eve eve dinner for family and I wasn’t sure what to get my tween/teen nieces and nephews to entertain them. Just got Exploding Kittens for them to play. Love this guide :)

  108. Alexa says...

    I’m a teacher! Sometimes kids love to pick out a gift for their teacher, hence why I often receive lotions, chocolates, mugs, and emoji socks. One sweet parent I know gave 2 gifts – a little token from the child and one from the parent (gift card or bottle of wine). It was extra work but it also meant I didn’t have a linen closet full of bath and body works by the end of the year.

  109. Jourdan says...

    I live for your gift guides every year! The scrolling photo format is super easy to navigate and probably why I reference and buy most things off your list compared to others every year! Happy Holidays!

  110. Elizabeth says...

    I work in an office and always give my female co-worker friends a few new nail polish colors. It’s the perfect amount to spend and who hasn’t had to paint their nails at the office??

  111. Kaitlin says...

    Ugh, those malt balls are the best! The best! They make them in a mint-chocolate flavour that is so perfect this time of year and always.

  112. Lana says...

    I’m always stumped on what to give my tween nieces. Last year I got them lip balm, lotions, bath bombs and some Bean Boozled jelly beans, which were the biggest hit. The entire family ate them and gagged together. :) This year I got them Game of Phones (this is getting great reviews for people looking for tween gifts!!) but I’d love another suggestion for a gross/funny candy. I’ve googled my heart out but can’t seem to land on anything good.

    • Cooper says...

      We had good luck with Pop Rocks (available at Michael’s craft stores, weirdly enough) and Pez Dispensers for our nieces and nephews. Not as fun as Bean Boozled jelly beans, though! This year we went with Tattly tattoos, which I’m sure they’d also love!

    • KC says...

      Could be wrong, but I think what you’re describing may be more “immediate, interactive fun involving everyone” rather than necessarily a candy? And if so, then things like ping-pong ball crossbows, or those little frogs you fling, or something else interactive and immediate (face painting? a batch of play-doh with a written challenge to create the best portrait of another family member and a prize/trophy for the most successful attempt? Christmas crackers that you pull and get the little paper hats out of?), might fit the bill. (or the game you already have in hand might!)

      Or, food but not candy options might be an ear of popcorn to pop in the microwave, or tasting experiences (like a set of chocolate bars (either fancy like single-origin, or the obscure old-fashioned candy bars that lots of people haven’t ever tried) that can be broken into enough squares for one per person, plus a sheet of paper to take notes on, like a wine-tasting flight but not having to be over-21).

      That said, even the best gift-givers don’t hit it out of the park every year, so that is also okay – sometimes we give something that is great later but not an immediate “wow” or not immediately interactive, and sometimes everyone’s just a bit tired, and sometimes things just don’t click with a person at all, and eh, it’s the thought that counts.

    • Robin says...

      KC I love all these immediate, interactive suggestions! I vote for the candy tasting ;)

  113. Laura says...

    I was having a tough time with my boyfriend’s parents who don’t have a ton of hobbies/ interests, until we decided on a movie night kit. We got them some of the classics on DVD and put them in a basket with wine, popcorn and chocolates.

  114. Molly says...

    Cozy, soft, comforting things are my go-to gifts for anyone who is stumping me: a nice pair of pajamas, a robe, slippers, a cozy throw, comfy and cute socks, a soft eye mask…there are so many options at different price points, and EVERYONE appreciates some cozy in their life! These things also often fall into the category of “things I would love to have but wouldn’t always buy myself.”

    Your gift guides are wonderful!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great tip, molly!

  115. Teacher here — please no more scented lotion or mugs!!! :)

    Great round up!

  116. Chelsi says...

    Another mom and I were helping at school this morning, talking about what to give our kids’ teachers. My daughter’s teacher walked by and the other mom just asked her what she’d like. She answered – wine!! Perfect.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha yes!

    • Margaret says...

      It’s so true (I’m a teacher too)!

  117. Rachel says...

    You featured Beautiful Day’s granola! The founder is the husband of a beautiful friend. I couldn’t be prouder of them…and of you for featuring them. Thank you.

    • Rachel says...

      Can you tell he’s a U2 fan? ;)

  118. Amanda G says...

    Yay for supporting a Denver-based charitable program! I had actually never heard of Mile High WorkShop before but now I am so glad I have :) What an amazing organization!

    Also, I’m so glad there are other people out there who spoil their dogs for the holidays. My mother-in-law takes it to the next level – the pups even have their own stockings! Most of the dog owners in the family contribute small treats or toys to all the other dogs (and there’s eight of them, running the gamut from Dachshunds to Mastiffs. It makes for interesting family occasions haha!) but my MIL once again goes over the top. Last year I went with her to buy over $100 (!!!) in elk antlers (a favorite chew among the family dogs). I think the real thing is that we don’t have any small kiddos in the family, so seeing the child-like joy from the pups as they discover their new Christmas treats is as close as we can get :)