The Perfect Gift: Thinking outside the (shirt) box

Let’s face it. Despite the joy that really does come from giving, the stress of finding the “right gift” (at the right price!) can be more than a little overwhelming.  Below, are some fresh ideas on what to get even the most challenging person on your list.  

1. "Experience" Certificates
Good for: Family; Friends; Significant Others.
Why It's Great: I am a huge fan of giving someone an Experience rather than a Thing.  Experiences are unique and create lasting memories.  Websites like Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Deals have made it increasingly easy to buy certificates for unique experiences.  
  • For the Big Kid in Your Life: Let's face it. Men are just slightly taller little boys (that's part of their charm).  Indulge their inner race-car driver, sports star and superhero.  Try things like Nascar Racing Experiences, Helicopter or Airplane flights, Ninja training (one of my best friends got this for her husband and he had a blast!), clay target shooting, or deep sea fishing. 
  • For the Princesses: Just like the men we love, we haven't strayed too far from childhood dreams either.  Years of fairy tales and romance novels have led us to love all things indulgent.  Try Massages, Manicures, Horseback rides, Dance Lessons, or Cooking Classes.  
  • For the Parental Units: Just because they're not likely to want to get naked in front of a stranger for a massage or learn how to karate chop an assassin doesn't mean parents can't get in on the fun.  Local Artisan Cheese Stores often offer Cheese Tastings, and Spirit Shops offer Wine Tastings.  Hot Air Balloon rides, or a night or weekend away from home (at a hotel or bed and breakfast) make great experience gifts as well.  And, while a certificate for Car Detailing may not be an experience, it will definitely be much appreciated!
  • Check out,, and
2.  Magazine Subscription
Good For: Most females; anyone who likes to read
Why It's Great: Inexpensive, creative, and entertaining - it's the gift that keeps coming. At least until the subscription runs out.  And who DOESN'T love checking the mail box and finding something more than bills and grocery store fliers in there?  Just think - what BETTER way to say on a weekly, monthly or bi-monthly basis "Hey friend! Take some time to relax now and then! You deserve it!  Oh yeah, and I'm awesome." 
  • There are a lot of great websites that sell discount subscriptions to magazines, making this a great main gift, or even stocking stuffer! Check out:,,,
  • For the Guys: Xbox Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Bicycling, GQ, Esquire, Wired, Mens Fitness, Popular Mechanics, Field and Stream, ESPN
  • For the Girls: Lucky, O, Self, Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, People Style Watch, InStyle, Martha Stewart, Architectural Digest
  • For Anyone: Rolling Stone, Money, Readers Digest, Food Network Magazine, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Consumer Reports 
 3.  Event Tickets
Good For: Darned Near Anyone
Why It's Great: A little more mainstream than Ninja Classes or Horseback rides, event tickets still provide the same lasting memories. 
  • Check out,, and even Craigslist (*Beware of Scammers, however!)
  • The Friend Who Never Misses a Game: Check out baseball, soccer, football and race car events for avid fans
  • The Friend Who Keeps Life Interesting: Try tickets to a museum, rock concert, symphony or ballet.
  • The Friend Who Gets You Through the Day: Comedy club tickets
  • The Friend Who Doesn't Indulge Enough: Theater tickets
4.  DIY "Little Indulgence" Gifts
Good For: People who are tricky to buy for
Why It's Great: If you're like me, there are at least a few giant question marks on your list.  This gift allows you to be creative while remaining somewhat general.  Simply compile the things that you think the receiver might not get for themselves. 
  • The Friend Who Works Too Hard: Create an Antipasti Basket with creative edible goodies. Include special treats that don't require too much effort to throw together at the end of a long workday: Olives, water crackers, hard salami, cheeses, pepper jelly, herb-infused olive oil, fruits, chocolate and champagne.  Include paper plates, pretty napkins, a wine opener and a great book, magazine or DVD to encourage some R&R. (Try Trader Joes, Gelsons, 99 Cents Only Stores, Dollar Trees, Farmers Markets)
  •  The Friend Who Loves to Host: Put together an Entertainers Basket that will thank them for always hosting, and encourage more good times to come. Include: A mixed-drink recipe book, the ingredients to their favorite cocktail, cute coasters and paper napkins, grilling tools, retro straws or swizzle sticks, pretzels, gourmet dips, and a game or two.  (Check out A Bartender's Best Friend: A guide to cocktails; Pass The Pigs Party Game; Wine Party Game;
  • The Friend Who Just Moved to a New Apartment: Sometimes the best gifts are the most practical.  Gather up the things we use the most but take for granted: a framing hammer and nails, a flashlight and extra batteries, Superglue, magnets, extension cords, Barkeepers Friend, tape measure, level, Goo Gone, and something personal like a Welcome Mat, or Scented Candle to warm up their new home.  Arrange it all in a pretty bucket or laundry basket.  (Try Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart, Costplus World Market)
5. Gift Cards
Good For: Darned Near Anyone.
Why It's Great: It has long been thought that giving a gift card is impersonal.  I tend to disagree.  For someone like me, the gift of shopping is not only a useful gift, but also a fun one (retail therapy, here I come!).  However, in order to avoid the impression that no thought was put into the gift, make sure that some aspect of the gift is made personal. 
  • Personalize! Just adding a few lines about how much you appreciate the work that a person does or how you'd love for them to be able to take some time off and do something fun for themselves can mean the world.  Being recognized for work, personality, and time is always a lovely gift. 
  • Accessorize!! If you know where the recipient likes to shop, get them a gift card from the store and a little accessory to go with it (A travel size lotion, a pretty soap, a small candle, or a scarf for a girl.  Fishing lures, golf tees, a key chain, favorite snacks or a t-shirt for a guy). 
  • Double the fun and give someone a whole evening out.  Instead of giving a gift card for $50 to one restaurant or store, give a $25 gift card for a restaurant and a $25 gift card toward movies, bowling lanes, mini-golf courses, or a website like, where they can find their own event.

    And finally, though everyone says it, it bears repeating: it's not about the gifts.  This is a season to celebrate love, hope, faith, friends and family.  While gifts are a great way to foster excitement and express appreciation for the blessings we've received, they are only one means of communicating that notion.  A note, a conversation, time spent together... those are equally (if not more) powerful displays and will be treasured long after the ornaments, lights, toys and trinkets have all been put away for another year.
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