Holiday Gift Ideas—When You Don’t Know What to Give

December 16, 2018 Updated: December 16, 2018

Some people on your gift list are harder to shop for than others.

The kids have a list of wishes a mile long. Dad always appreciates a new shirt and tie. Mom has been dying to see the new show coming to town. Aunt Sally just loved adding to her ceramic rooster collection. When it comes to finding the perfect holiday gifts for a crew like this it’s easy peasy.

Then there are those other people on the list—the teenager who is too cool for seemingly everything, the minimalist, the retired executive who has everything, the elderly relative who just downsized her home, a professional colleague, your child’s teacher, or perhaps your very picky spouse. What do you choose for the most challenging people on your gift list?

Here are a few ideas to take your holiday gift list across the finish line.

Consumable Gifts

We’ve all got to eat, right? Whether a bottle of wine, a collection of fine chocolates or tea, or a basket of food items you know your particular loved one will enjoy—food is always a great gift for anyone.

“I am big on giving people consumable gifts,” said Will Craig, managing director at LeaseFetcher, “Whether it be food, drink, or an experience, I always know that the gift is going to be put to good use, serving a real purpose. Consumable gifts also demonstrate that you’ve thought about the person’s likes and dislikes, and the resulting gift is tailored specifically to them.”


A houseplant can brighten up any space and be enjoyed for a long time to come. “A potted plant is the perfect gift for someone who has it all or who is hard to buy for,” said  Caitlin Fisher, a content manager for at “With just a few considerations—do they need something extremely low maintenance or can they handle something with more in-depth care needs, and do they have pets that require a pet friendly houseplant?—you can select a great gift that adds beauty to home or office decor, helps clean the air, and can even boost mood and productivity,” she said.

A Class

There’s always more to learn. Think of the interests of your loved one and see if there is a class they could take. Whether it be drawing, sewing, mechanics, floral design, or cooking, show them you support their interests by gifting a class—either online or in person.

There’s something out there for everyone. For example, Michelle Mele of Austin, Texas, teaches wine appreciation. “I am a professional in the wine industry and am passionate about making wine fun and approachable for the everyday consumer,” she said. “I go to your home or business in the greater Austin area and conduct all inclusive at home wine education classes.”


Even in our digital world (or perhaps, especially) handwritten notes are called for from time to time. Personalized stationery is a lovely upgrade to just grabbing a blank piece of paper. Companies like Fiore Press can create personal and beautiful customized stationery for anyone on your list.

Photo Gifts

For close relations, utilize treasured photos to create the perfect gift. Photo calendars, a book of the past years memories or that of a shared vacation, or a photo product like a mug, ornament, or even T-shirt might be just the thing to put a smile on the face of a hard-to-shop for gift recipient.

Gift Cards

Of course, when in doubt, a gift card is always appreciated. It may feel impersonal, but we all love getting them, don’t we? You can get creative by pairing a gift card with a companion gift. For example, a gift to the local coffee shop would go nicely with a portable coffee mug.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza