Yesterday after work I was determined to finish my Christmas shopping and spent two hours frantically dashing from store to store searching for gifts. It’s incredibly frustrating when I have in my mind what I want, but I just can’t find it! This year it was gifts for my mom and brother that I struggled to locate. I’d say I’ve done 50% of my Christmas shopping online this year; the vast majority on Amazon because the prices are good, the shipping is fast, and they leave my parcels in our lobby while I’m at work. But, some things I prefer to look at in person to check the quality, texture, colours, and sizing. I’m pleased to report that after an exasperating two hours last night I was successful, and I’m finished my shopping apart from chocolates, socks for Lucy, and pet gifts.
I’ve seen loads of gift guides pop up in recent weeks on blogs and on YouTube, and they cover everyone from your grandma to your cat. However, I find these guides are only somewhat helpful as they often feature items outside of my budget and “trendy” pieces; I know that the gifts shown wouldn’t be appreciated by my recipients.
Lucy and I decided to compile this fairly comprehensive gift guide. Of course, this guide features items that we love, and that our families love so it focuses on sentimental gifts, practical gifts, and gifts for people who like to do things. If you’re looking for a gift guide full of luxury brands or the latest tech gadget, this probably isn’t for you.
I’ve separated our items into categories, and I hope this guide gives you some helpful ideas, no matter what your budget is, or who you’re buying for! Happy shopping and remember, it’s the thought that counts.
FAMILY- stop reading now as this has some of your gifts featured!
For the person who loves experiences
- A membership — one year I got a National Trust membership and we went to pretty much every National Trust house in Oxfordshire and surrounding counties
- Cinema tickets/vouchers
- Tickets to a show or event — especially if you can go with the recipient to create memories. This year we’re taking Lucy’s family to see the Christmas lights at Blenheim palace.
- A charitable donation — not really an experience per se, but it gives you a warm feeling knowing that your gift is helping. In previous years, I have received a donation to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. I also used to donate those children’s shoeboxes, which you could put together with someone, or donate your time together at a local charity.
- Reusable advent calendar — a physical gift yes, but you give the yearly experience of filling the drawers/pouches and facilitate a new family tradition
Handmade and straight from the heart
- Baking — put a selection of your cookies in a tin or one of those cellophane bags and decorate with a card and ribbon
- Salt dough ornaments (or ornaments in general) — they remind the recipient of you every year when they decorate, and it’s also a fun activity to 1) make them 2) pick them out
- Framed picture of you and the recipient, or grandchildren, artwork, etc.
- Handmade crafts like cross stitch or knitting
- Send a Christmas card; everyone loves to get post!
For the beauty guru
- Fragrance — I highly recommend asking the recipient what perfume they want. I’m incredibly sensitive to scents and most give me a headache, but I love receiving a perfume that I’ve had on my wish list because I never buy it for myself.
- Soap — Every year I get mom some soap from The Body Shop; it’s a tradition. Most people like to receive nice smellies as long as you’re cautious with recipients who have allergies or sensitive skin.
- A luxury lipstick — This is on my wish list. No beauty lover would be disappointed with a luxury lipstick in a wearable everyday colour and formula.
- A matte eyeshadow palette — Shimmery eye shadow is great, but play it safe and pick some basic matte shadows that they can use as transition shades.
- Handcream — My particular favourite is the shea butter one from The Body Shop (which I’ve just run out of and is on my wish list)
For the bibliophile
- Bookmark — One of Dad’s favourite gifts is a Bodleian library bookmark I picked up for him my first year at Oxford
- Books, obviously. To be slightly more helpful, I’d say you really need to know what genres the recipient likes and you also need to play detective and make sure they don’t already own it.
- I took a gamble this year and picked a book for my Dad that he might be interested in, or maybe not, but as the cashier said, “it’s a very handsome book”. Sometimes coffee table books, cook books with nice pictures, or children’s books with funny images make the best gifts simply because they look nice.
- I also picked up a copy of the Stuart McLean Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe for my family. Stuart passed away early this year and “Dave cooks the turkey” is a household favouite. This book is more of a sentimental gift.
- A magazine subscription, or even a copy of a magazine they like as a stocking filler
For the beverage lover
- Mug — people are really into those double walled mugs that also come in a travel style like the KeepCup (I got the silence please mug for my brother one year)
- Water bottle — Give the gift of free hydration!
- Tea pot
- Fancy tea or coffee
- Hot chocolate mix
- Wine/booze (a classic last-minute gift for parties). My favourite tipple is Bailey’s fyi.
- Wine bottle stopper — because nobody likes a hangover from drinking a whole bottle in one sitting
The “Oh god I’m an adult” gifts
- Housewarming gifts like coasters, glassware (vases, wine glasses), useful decorative storage and serving platters
- Sheets — Last year we asked for bamboo sheets because I’m a sweaty sleeper and they are AMAZING
- Slow cooker — Lucy got this gift a couple of years ago and we use it all the time
- Le Creuset — this dutch oven was my big gift last year and I love it!
- Vacuum — I’ve asked for a Dyson for my 30th birthday/Christmas because I’m old and practical
- Nutribullet — Lucy got me this last year and I use it for smoothies, grinding up nuts, blending sauces and soups etc. Very useful!
- A good-quality pepper grinder — I got Dad one years ago and it’s still going strong
- A diary/planner — give the gift of organisation!
- Socks — Last year I didn’t put socks on my wish list and I will forever regret that decision. Socks are great; everyone needs socks; always asks for socks!
- Portable charger — I got one for Lucy, my mom, and my brother in their stockings last year. I bought my first smartphone earlier this year and last month I also bought myself a charger. Give the gift of life, battery life that is!
- External hard drive — I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to back up your computer on a regular basis. Having done three degrees, and now still doing research in addition to weekly blogging, I absolutely need to have multiple copies of files. Plus, saving to an external hard drive rather than your C drive means you don’t slow you computer down. I have a Western Digital passport and book.
- Winter outerwear — I love scarves… I have three drawers of scarves… I may have a scarf problem. But, you can buy scarves for other people and then it’s okay, right? Also useful are gloves like those smart fingertip ones to use with your phone. A good pair of winter boots are always useful as well.
- Pajamas — again, a gift I love to get every year and most people appreciate new pjs
For the person who has everything
- A plant (poinsettia; amaryllis) — this year I am getting a new orchid
- Chocolate — I always love to get a Terry’s chocolate orange and since they’re so bloody expensive now, they’re truly a thoughtful gift
- Fun calendar — I get a calendar from Santa every year
The gift of group entertainment
- Multi-player games — one year Santa brought a Wii and that was many years of fun
- Board games
- Race car — Okay, so this is the one thing I saw on Fleur de Force’s gift guide that I thought “I need this in my life”. Since I don’t “need’ it, I got it to put in my brother’s stocking so that we can play with it Christmas day.
Our favourite childhood gifts:
- Singing little misses mermaid — I don’t actually know the name of this doll but this is what I called it and Santa was kind enough to give it to me.
- A giant box of craft supplies for me and my brother. Fantastic in the sense that it drove us crazy trying to figure out what was in this fridge-sized box.
- A handmade doll house made by my Dad, dolls made by my Grandma, and furniture bought by other family members
- Diskman (all children of the late 80s/early 90s will understand)
- The first family computer
Favourite gifts we have given:
- Ring for my mom — she gave me her childhood ring when I was 10 that had her birthstone in it and she once mentioned that she wished it still fit her. I had the stone removed and put in a ring for her and I kept the ring and put an amethyst in it; now we share the ring.
- Sweater vest — I kept asking my brother what he wanted for Christmas and threatened to get him a sweater vest if he didn’t give me ideas… I got him a sweater vest
- China bird mug — Another purchase from the Bodleian Library gift shop; Dad loves that mug
- Homemade pickled eggs — when Lucy’s Dad’s favourite pickled eggs were discontinued she made him some
- Handmade scarves
- Premier Inn gift card to Lucy’s parents’ for their holiday
As a final thought, I don’t really like getting or receiving gift cards or money because I find it impersonal. However, sometimes a nice Christmas card with a bit of cash or a gift card for a place you know they love can be really helpful, especially for those adults who are still getting their shit together buying their first homes, having a first baby, going to school, or are just broke.
Have fun shopping and wrapping — it’s the most wonderful time of the year!