Gift Ideas

20 Thoughtful Gifts You Can Throw Together in No Time Flat

Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

At the risk of sounding like that person, I prefer giving gifts to receiving them. I think all year long about what I’m going to surprise my friends and family with come Christmastime and begin shopping for gifts in October. Even with all this anticipation and preparation, though, I sometimes find myself down to the wire wondering what to give someone. Or worse, I forgot to check my list twice and accidentally left someone off. In these scenarios, I rely on a few go-to last-minute gifts that still feel thoughtful. I’m talking about the kind of gifts you can quickly grab at Target, the grocery store, or a local small business and throw together the day of if needed. If that sounds like your kind of holiday shopping, read on for some quick and easy gift ideas that feel anything but last-minute.

1. A framed photo of the two of you

For a last-minute gift that still feels personal, you can’t go wrong with a framed photo. Select a shot of the two of you that showcases one of your favorite memories together and place it in a frame that matches their decor. Whenever they see the photo framed in their home, they’ll think of you and that fun memory you shared.

2. Ingredients to make their favorite cocktail

Give the gift of holiday cheer by putting together the ingredients for your loved one’s favorite cocktail. Fill a basket with the alcohol, mixers, and any garnishes needed, then top things off with a cocktail shaker or glasses to complete the gift.

3. A themed ornament

Do you know someone who had a baby, got engaged, or celebrated another life milestone this year? Help them celebrate with a commemorative ornament to add to their Christmas tree. Or simply pick out a special one that suits their personality. If you have a little more time, consider personalizing the ornament as well with a special date or their initials.

4. Travel sizes of their favorite products

Have a traveler on your list this year? Gift them travel-size versions of their must-have hair care, makeup, or skincare to make their next trip even better. Not only will they find it thoughtful that you know their favorite products, but they’ll also love that they don’t have to go through the trouble of buying them.

5. A handwritten recipe with the ingredients

If you’re known for making the best chocolate chip cookies or a crowd-favorite dinner, share your secret recipe as a gift this holiday season. Handwrite a recipe card with the directions and package up all the ingredients so they can re-create your specialty at home.

6. A houseplant

Houseplants are a fun and easy gift if you’ve run out of time or aren’t sure what to give someone. Select an easy-to-care-for plant like a succulent or snake plant and gift it along with a stylish pot or a plant mister.

7. A mug with a bag of local coffee

Need a simple yet thoughtful gift for a coffee lover? Give them the always-welcome gift of caffeine. Buy a cute mug and pick up a bag of locally roasted coffee beans to wrap up along with it. They’ll appreciate you and your gift as they sip their coffee every morning.

8. A bookmark and bookstore gift card

The perfect gift for a bookworm? A gift card to their favorite bookstore, of course. Wrap up the card along with a unique bookmark (or a pack of bookmarks if they read multiple books at a time). They’ll love browsing for something to spend it on, and the bookmarks will come in handy as they dive into their new finds.

9. A bottle of wine and wine glasses

If you ask me, there’s no such thing as having too many bottles of wine on hand. Especially if the recipient loves to entertain, they’ll appreciate having an extra bottle stocked thanks to you. Want to make the gift more complete? Gift it along with a pair of beautiful wine glasses.

10. A fresh flower arrangement

Need a quick gift for the host of the holiday party you’re attending? Grab a pre-made bouquet or put together your own with flowers from the grocery store. Pro tip: Trader Joe’s has a wide variety of blooms at a good price point. Arrange the flowers in a vase and add a bow to make the gift feel more complete.

11. A subscription

If you need an easy gift option but don’t want to resort to a gift card, gift them a subscription instead. Subscriptions feel a little more personal than a gift card but don’t require any in-person shopping (or gift-wrapping). Plus, there are endless options for anyone on your list: wine, meal kits, workout classes, you name it.

12. A handwritten letter

A handwritten letter is one of the most thoughtful last-minute gifts you can give a loved one during the holidays. Whether you start with a writing prompt like your favorite memory together or you simply write something from the heart, the recipient is sure to love reading your words and knowing how you feel about them.

13. A bottle of liquor and an ice mold

For the person who likes their drinks on the rocks, this gift is easy to put together but still thoughtful. Pick out a nice bottle of the recipient’s favorite whiskey (or other drink of choice) and gift it along with an ice mold or whiskey stones, which are sold at most stores (read: Target).

14. A framed photo of their pet

Much like a photo of the two of you, a photo of their furry friend is sure to be a hit with any pet owner. Find an extra cute photo on their Instagram to print out and pop it in a pretty frame that matches their aesthetic.

15. A basket of their favorite snacks

Treat your loved one to a gift basket filled with all their favorite snacks. Whether you opt for single-serving snack packs or full-size versions, they’ll enjoy having all their go-tos on hand without having to buy them for themselves.

16. Nail polish and a salon gift card

Give the gift of self-care with this easy-to-assemble present. Select an assortment of polishes (my favorite brand is Olive and June) in the recipient’s favorite colors and pick up a gift card to a salon where they can get a massage or get their nails or hair done. They’ll feel refreshed for the new year all thanks to you.

17. A charcuterie board

Charcuterie boards are the meal of the season, so why not give one as a gift? Either assemble everything ahead of time and cover it in plastic wrap or gift the ingredients separately so the recipient can build their own. Present it along with the serving board so they can create even more charcuterie boards in the future.

18. Travel guides

Have an adventurer on your list? Gift them a stack of travel guidebooks for their dream vacations. Not only will this gift help them prepare for their next trip, but it can also serve as a manifestation tool for future trips as well.

19. Your favorite book

If you’re looking for an inexpensive or more sustainable gift, consider giving a book you’ve already read and enjoyed. Write the recipient a note to go along with it explaining why you think they’ll like it, highlight your favorite lines, or mark the pages you think they’ll enjoy the most.

20. Quality time or acts of service

Lean into your recipient’s love language and give the gift of quality time or acts of service. Plan a movie night for the two of you, or offer to babysit or cook dinner for them. Since these gifts aren’t tangible, write them a card or design your own book of coupons they can cash in whenever they want.