As someone who is not particularly good at cooking, cleaning, or festive decor, I rely heavily on my above-par knack for gift selection and presentation to maintain favor throughout the holiday season, as I’ve found the most effective way to instill bonds with friends, family, and associates is with material possessions. That said, as a life-long, card-holding procrastinator, my obligation to give awesome presents and wait until the last minute to buy them often leads to a few stressful wrapping-while-driving experiences I’d prefer not to dive into. To make matters worse, there’s always that sub-list of hard-to-shop-for people that can really pile up as the countdown to the big day lessens — some chestnuts are easier to crack than others.
There are people like my father, who maintain, year after year, the clearly erroneous claim that my presence is enough of a gift for the holidays. Given my Christmas tradition of wandering aimlessly around my parents’ house wearing my fifth-grade graduation t-shirt, probably hungover and eating an entire sleeve of plain Saltines, this obviously isn’t true. In fact, his blatant indecisiveness almost always leads me into the arms of a teenage retail associate in the tie section at Nordstrom on or around December 21st, where I proceed to sob and mumble incoherently about the unique struggle of having parents. Needless to say, I’ll be penning a strongly worded email to Dave this year that outlines my grievances and includes a few compensation suggestions to ensure I feel valued as his personal shopper and aesthetic director.
Perhaps you didn’t negotiate a no-Secret Santa Clause (get it?) into your employment contract at time of hire — in which case, it may be time to look into a new lawyer — and now need to get a gift for a near-stranger on the fly. Maybe your once drinking buddy is now engaged, and the only thing you know married people like is dishwashers (which, of course, you can’t afford right now). Like anything annoying, holiday shopping also comes with a series of stringent deadlines, which only adds pressure to the already impossible task of deciding what people you know need.
I hope this guide serves you well for all of those in-between, not-sure, pushing-it-off gifts you’ve been meaning to get to. I certainly had fun compiling it!
Oh, and big thanks one of my five loyal blog readers, Leandra, for this post idea! If you, too, have a thing for strawberry blondes, I really can’t recommend her Instagram enough.
Perfect for: your hipster coworker with a knack for homemade almond milk and making you feel subtly inferior.
Literally Me, hardcover version $15 from Amazon Prime
Perfect for: your favorite female.
I’ve been keeping up with J.Crew-creative-turned-satirical-sketch-artist, Julie Houts, for a while now, and let me tell you, she’s good. So good, in fact, there’s now a real-life book to commemorate her illustrated thoughts on things like control-top tights and three-day hangovers! If you’re interested, you can find her on the ‘gram, @jooleeloren.
Perfect for: anyone with an olfactory system.
Oregano, mint, bay leaf, I’ma let you finish, but…
Perfect for: someone whose name you always forget.
Perfect for: your younger, trendier relative who laps you in both personal Instagram engagement and metabolic rate.
Wrap dresses are a win for winter because they provide comfort, coverage, and are adjustable by nature — trust me, the post-holiday requires all the help we can get.
Perfect for: a way to reward your feed’s least-annoying newlyweds.
Lindsey Swink — fellow Fredneck, former college roommate, caligrapher-at-large — is known for bringing weddings, events, invitations and just about anything else closer to Instagram glory with her beautiful lettering. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to find out she is expanding her craft into the world of monogrammed and personalized ornaments — for less than $15! And if you happen to be into strangely calming videos of hand letting, make sure to keep up with her @bareinkco.
Map Print of College Town (Or Somewhere Else), $20-$50 from Etsy
Perfect for: those of us in the midst of a mid-twenties crisis.
I think we’re all getting to the point where selective memory has worked its full magic when it comes to our college years, leaving us with wistful memories of Four Lokos of yore. What better way to commemorate this strange time than with a map of your recipient’s college town? Etsy shops like Turn of the Centuries, Encore Design Studio and Coastal Print Design (pictured) are all great places to shop for these, and extra points if you include a Framebridge gift card to go with it.
Perfect for: the newly pregnant needing somewhere to stash their pre-natals!
If you have a friend who’s equally susceptible to aspirational supplement marketing as I am, this is going to make things a lot simpler (and cuter!) for them, too.
Perfect for: your favorite insomniac.
Use on your pillow or the soles of your feet. But maybe not both?
Perfect for: Mom, Grandma, or Cool Aunt Sue!
I’m full-sail #TeamPufferVest, and I absolutely adore this one. Plus, vest sizing is a lot easier to guess than, say, jeans sizing, and it warrants a big poofy present underneath the tree!
Perfect for: your resident avo toast aficionado feeling festive about their now obliterated chances of homeownership.
A Gift Card to a Great Restaurant
Perfect for: those of us who prefer a literal interpretation of “give and you shall receive.”
Did you know a lot of your favorite restaurants give out freebies in return for gift card purchases? For example, you’ll get $10 to spend for every $50 gift card purchase at Outback Steakhouse. Cal Tort, Benihana and Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac are each running similar promotions, as well. On an unrelated note, has anyone explored the Bloomin’ Onion as a potential cure for seasonal depression?
Perfect for: your one friend who knows how to (successfully) operate an oven.
Can you imagine what we could have accomplished with all the time collective humanity has spent searching dark cabinets for pot lids? At least Kony in 2012. AT LEAST.
Perfect for: your impossible-to-shop-for extended relative or aspiring chef. I actually have one of these and they work great for both bedstands and kitchens!
Perfect for: anyone with delicate surfaces, open containers, and dignity.
Faux Fur Throw, on sale for $103 from Pottery Barn
Perfect for: someone who just moved into their first apartment.
My sister gifted me a faux-fur throw last year, and I can’t really remember a time I spent more than twenty minutes away from its warm embrace since. Even better, it’s masculine enough to make it a really good interior item for both men and women, which, like, never happens.
Perfect for: your friend that actually spends more than ten seconds picking out wine at Whole Foods.
An easy way to keep vino fresh (and cold!) after a solo wine night or quick dinner.
Perfect for: your friend who is planning a #WinterGetaway.
Perfect for: the most boring person you know.
Because even boring people probably don’t enjoy having to touch the remnants of dinner that didn’t make the plate during clean-up. Problem: solved.
Bonus Round! Girl Power Holiday Greeting Cards, $12 from Arsh Raziuddin
Perfect for: a sassy way to top off gifts for anyone except your Tucker Carlson-worshipping Uncle Steve. Actually, on second thought, count him in for these, too.