‘Oh this is SO CUTE!’ I said as I rattled a pink and purple coloured box at Mr Smaggle.
‘Mackenzie will LOVE this!’
‘This’ was a blow up plastic pool toy game thing shaped like a unicorn and you have to try to toss the rings over the unicorn’s horn. It was only $20 and it was a perfect stocking stuffer for my eight-year-old niece. I’d obviously get her a ‘proper’ present too but this would be a fun little extra thing I could give her as well.
I was just about to walk to the counter and buy it when I stopped myself. It’s been years since I’ve bought a thought-that-counts gift for someone. You know those gifts you buy because you feel like you should? Fancy little notepads, novelty pens, Christmas themed espresso mugs for every single person you work with. I’ve been actively avoiding participating in these kinds of Christmas gift giving activities for years but when it comes to my niece, I give myself a massive free pass because you know what? It’s fun. Shopping for her is a delight. There’s so much wonderful stuff. Disney themed craft boxes where you can DIY your own character costumes. Harry Potter wands that light up and comes with books of spells. There’s also whatever popular collectable thing all the cool kids have. I can’t tell you what they are because they change too often for me to remember but it’s whatever the modern version of Polly Pocket is. I then realised I don’t own a single thing I owned when I was eight years old. I can’t remember half the stuff I owned when I was eight years old. I looked at the pool toy unicorn in my hand and realised that it was total trash. Before it had even been given to my niece it was already rubbish. She wasn’t going to treasure it until she was an adult, packing it away in her box of special things and dragging it with her every time she moved. She wasn’t going to carefully unwrap it and hand it to her own niece in 20 years time to be passed on as a family heirloom. At best she’d play with it for one day until it inevitably got a hole (if it wasn’t sold with one already) and it would end up in the bin. I put it back on the shelf and decided to take her to the zoo for her Christmas present instead.
If you’re struggling to come with ideas for gifts that won’t end up cluttering up another person’s house or worse, end up in landfill, here are a few ideas that might just get you out of trouble.
1. Movie tickets
You can get fancy Gold Class tickets or just a few of the regular ones. It seems like a boring gift but most people really love it. My mum used to give my cousins a movie ticket and box of Maltesers every Christmas and it was just the perfect gift no matter what age they are. I like to support indie theatres so if your loved one has a Palace near them you can get vouchers at the Palace Shop.
Hot tip: Make sure you know what your gift recipient enjoys before you buy them food. For example, a standard box of Ferrero Rochers is wasted on Mr Smaggle because he’s a sugar-free Coeliac but if you got him a wheel of brie? You’d just about be his favourite person. This info isn’t hard to find – just Facebook message someone who knows them really well and they’ll tell you. For example, Mr Smaggle knows that if someone asks what food to buy me as a gift, the answer is always wine. Obviously.
Again this isn’t appropriate for everyone but if your gift recipient is a wine drinker, get them wine. It’s an extraordinarily useful gift. So many people hate it because it’s a ‘boring’ gift but every time someone gives me a bottle of wine as I gift I want to pash them. For real. It’s a consumable product that I really enjoy and it comes in recyclable glass packing. It’s literally the perfect gift in every way. I like wine even more if the person who gave it to me will sit down and drink it with me. Nothing will make me happier than that.
4. Concert or theatre tickets
If you’re after a special gift, go with tickets to something cool. Even if you don’t get the actual ticket at the time of gift giving, a card with an IOU is a perfect placeholder. Have a hunt around online and see what you can find. Did you know that the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra do screenings of hit movies and play the score to them live? How cool is that? You should also follow their favourite people on Facebook and see if they’re doing talks or running seminars. Event tickets always make great gifts.
5. Memberships or subscriptions
If you know someone who subscribes to a magazine or an online website, pay the annual fee that year.
If you know your loved one has always wanted to learn to do a particular thing, look up that thing in their local area and book them a class. It’s the type of activity a lot of people won’t book for themselves so it’s a really interesting and unique gift. Little Lane Workshops in Sydney is a great place to start and there are even sausage making workshops here in Melbourne. You’d be surprised what cool stuff is happening in your city, so have a bit of a Google and see what’s on offer near you. If you can’t find anything local, have a look online. There are so many online classes – singing, guitar, crochet – you’re bound to find something cool.
7. Spa treatments
If you know someone who gets regular manicures or eyebrow grooming sessions, pop into their local salon to grab a gift voucher and that way their next treatment is on you. Hot tip: don’t get a beauty voucher unless you’re sure your recipient already gets that treatment. Lots of people don’t like being touched by strangers so massage vouchers and spa days will be wasted on them.
Again, not everyone loves plants but they’re a pretty inoffensive gift that most people will appreciate. I like flowers but I prefer plants because they last much longer and often they cost about the same amount as a bunch of flowers that will die within a week.
9. A home cooked dinner
Friends of mine gave a wedding gift of a home cooked meal and they delivered it to the couple in a basket with wine and instructions to leave the dirty dishes in the basket out the front when they were done. Isn’t that a fantastic idea? It’s environmentally friendly, totally unique and a really thoughtful gift. You can also do it on a budget if you’re a bit strapped for cash.
10. Gift vouchers
Again, people think this is boring but unless you’re totally sure you’re acing your gift, it’s often better to let someone choose it for themselves. Also, ask around to see what type of voucher the person would like. My dad is a sucker for a JB HiFi voucher because for some strange reason he still buys physical CDs despite the fact he only uses them to put the music on his computer. Don’t get me started. Whereas I’d struggle to find something to buy at JB HiFi. Other people (who shall remain nameless) may prefer a voucher for Bendigo Woollen Mills or Blackhearts and Sparrows (me, it’s me, I want vouchers for those places!).
I saw an ad for Airtasker pop up the other day and I thought it made for an excellent gift idea. You can hire someone to mow the lawn, hang up paintings, or even prepare a garden bed for a vegetable patch. It’s an excellent idea if you want to give a practical gift but you don’t know how to fix up a vintage Volkswagon.
12. A chicken or a goat
If you’re a middle-class person living in Australia and most of your friends are in the same boat, you’ll find that very few of you actually need anything. Which is lovely – aren’t we all lucky? If you’re struggling to buy something for someone who has everything, consider getting them a chicken or a goat for a family in a developing country. It’s such an amazing, impactful and totally guilt-free way to spend $10. I used to buy these for work Secret Santas. I don’t think they made me many friends but it was better than spending $20 on crap I wasn’t sure if the recipient would even like. I once got a bargain bin DVD of M.A.S.H for a Secret Santa because everyone knows I hate M.A.S.H. Yeah it was funny for 5 seconds but then I ended up with a present I genuinely hated that I donated to charity literally on the way home. I would have much preferred for a family to have a chicken instead.
13. Second-hand things
Many years ago I bought a really beautiful, insanely expensive make-up mirror that I’ve hardly used. It’s no longer my style but I absolutely adore it and it cost me a fortune. I’m going to send it to my bestie’s house to live because she’s been admiring it for years and I’d love to see it in her gorgeous home. It’s an excellent gift, even though I’ve had it for years and she’ll love it. I’m a big fan of re-gifting so do this as often as you can.
14. Something you made
Whenever I offer to make someone a crocheted blanket I always make sure they want it. ‘Do you really, really want it? Because they’re very expensive and time-consuming so you have to love it.’ Most people say yes and then I make sure it’s in a colour/style they’ll like. Handmade goods are lovely just make sure they’re actually wanted and are in the style of the person you’re giving them too. Most people love homemade chutneys and sauces. My nanny used to make pickles but when my grandfather passed away she moved out of the house that had the massive choko tree out the back so she doesn’t make them anymore. Do you have any idea how many members of my family would kill for a jar of her pickles? My mum has a mate that makes BBQ sauce once a year and their friendship all fight over the biggest bottles. Why not be the person that makes the crack sauce everyone loves?
15. A lunch date
If I don’t get to celebrate a close friend’s birthday with them, I’ll often shout them lunch at a cafe next time I see them. It’s about what I would normally spend on a present so it’s a lovely, practical and environmentally friendly present option.
16. iTunes or Audible vouchers
Audiobooks are expensive but also wonderful so if you know someone who is addicted to audiobooks, this would be an amazing present.
17. Massage vouchers
I don’t know too many people who don’t love massage vouchers. I’m never totally stoked when I get given one but then I go and have the massage and it’s always great. It’s a solid gift idea. But make sure the person is okay with being touched.
Bonus tip: Be super honest and vocal about what you want for presents. Not to specific people, just in general. Share this post and list the things you want in your status. Or share this post and say you don’t want anything. Give people permission to not buy you presents. You’d be surprised at how many people would be totally grateful for that.
Oh and if you want to buy me a present, a bottle of cab sav or a Clover Amour crochet hook in any size will do quite nicely thank you.