Picking out gifts for people can be difficult since there are so many aspects to consider.
Will they like it? Will they use it? Can you afford what they want? Is it wasteful? All of these questions are important.
I’ve put together 16 meaningful gift ideas along with some key gift-giving tips to help you navigate this (oftentimes) stressful activity.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you.
Important Gift-Giving Tips
Unfortunately, our society has a major obsession with materialism, trends, and “outdoing” one another. In this environment, it’s tough to avoid the infatuation with consumerism we constantly see all around us.
The point of giving a gift is to exhibit thoughtfulness and love, not extravagance.
Here are some helpful gift-giving tips to remember the next time you’re stressed out about it.
- If you are only buying a gift because you feel obligated, don’t. I know that isn’t as easy as it sounds. However, most people would rather receive a card or simply nothing than a cheap/easy gift that they won’t use. Save your money.
- The next time you see someone you recently gave a gift to, don’t talk about it. Don’t ask if they’ve used it, liked it, hung it up, etc. unless the receiver brings it up first. It puts the receiver in an awkward situation and pressures them to validate your gift choice, even if they actually didn’t like it.
- If you wouldn’t want someone to pick the item out for you, don’t gift it to someone else. For example, house decor, clothes, or bigger ticket items. The only exception to this is if you’ve heard the person mention a specific item they really want. Try to avoid gifts that are based on personal style.
- Gift cards are a gift giver’s best friend. Take a small financial burden off of the receiver by giving them a gas or grocery gift card. Or if you know they need something that you don’t feel comfortable picking out for them (refer to rule #3), buy a gift card to a store they can pick out that item for themselves.
What Makes Gift Ideas Meaningful?
Of course, different gifts are meaningful to different people for a variety of reasons. To me, a meaningful gift falls under at least one of three categories.
1. It is something the receiver truly needs and has specifically asked for. 2. It involves a known interest or hobby of the receiver. 3. It relates to your personal relationship with the receiver.
Unfortunately, technology is all I hear about when it comes to holiday gift-giving. The newest speaker you can talk to, the trendiest piece of touchable screen to carry around, or the biggest/most definite piece of screen to stare at.
I do not consider any of these items to be particularly meaningful. Most people do not need any more technology (no matter what people tell themselves). Read that again and think about it until you agree with me.
Trendy or high-tech does not equal meaningful. Despite being bombarded with marketing everywhere that holidays are about spending, it’s important to remember that this is simply not true. Spending time with family and loved ones is what matters.
If you do decide to splurge on people you care about by purchasing a gift for them, I have a challenge for you.
Only buy gifts that are meaningful. Spark their curiosity or creativity. Remind them how much you love them. Inspire exploration of the beautiful world we live in.
Here are 16 meaningful gift ideas for this holiday season, or any other time of year!
16 Meaningful Gift Ideas
1. A Book
To me, a book is my favorite and one of the most meaningful gifts to receive. It means someone thought highly enough about you to know you would enjoy learning about a specific topic. Or they know you love books. Either way, books are a great gift.
I recommend shopping on Thrift Books. They sell both new and used books at excellent discounted prices. On the other hand, if your receiver has a kindle or enjoys listening to books instead, I recommend eBooks.com and audiobooks.com.
2. Donate In Someone Else’s Name
A donation to an important cause is one of the most, if not the most, meaningful gift ideas I can think of. Maybe the receiver has an organization they’re particularly passionate about.
Whatever it is, a donation is always a great idea (as long as the cause aligns with the receiver’s values).
3. A Useful DIY Kit
Grow and Make LLC sells unique DIY kits that make amazing gifts for those creative and fun people in your life. Not only do these kits offer a functional end product, but the user also gets to learn new and useful skills in the process.
Some options include the Tea Herb Garden Growing Kit, Goats Milk Soap Making Kit, Cheese Making Kit, or the fun and spicy Hot Sauce Making Kit. How fun do those sound?!
Grow and Make’s goal is to inspire us to learn the core skills of do-it-yourself, take that confidence and run with it. Their mission is to excite people to use their hands and create. Sounds like the perfect place to buy a gift this holiday season!
4. Personalized Illustrated Card
Get rid of those generic holiday cards that everyone sends out. Instead, personalize yours with an incredibly cute illustration of you and your family.
This is the best way to show long-distance (and close-distance!) family and friends that you are thinking of them without buying everyone a gift. If it’s past the new year, there are also non-holiday themed illustrations available as well as other cute stickers and prints. Find them here on AmsArtShop’s Etsy page.
5. Subscription to an Interesting App
Technology can’t be avoided… even I’ve realized this. So, if you’re dead-set on gifting something tech-y, try a meaningful app subscription.
There are so many apps out there that encourage learning or trying new skills. Search for a topic your receiver loves as a hobby, find a relevant app you think they’d enjoy and buy them a year-long subscription to it.
Some cool examples include: hiking trail maps, a picture-plant identifier, a language app, a classical sheet music app… the possibilities are endless. It all depends on the interests of the person you’re gifting the subscription to.
Keep in mind when browsing that many app stores say an app is free, but a paid upgrade is required to use it fully. Don’t just automatically pass over the free apps, as they might be exactly what you’re looking for!
6. A Travel Credit/Gift Card
When buying for someone who loves to travel, consider a travel gift card! People who love traveling always find a way, so your gift will surely not go to waste.
Some travel websites do not offer gift cards, however here are a few that do: CheapOair, Hotels.com, Southwest Airlines, or Restaurant.com.
Succulents are one trend I actually support. These adorable house plants are incredibly easy to take care of. Many of them don’t even need much sun.
They come in creatively designed pots and can be bought in stores and online. I suggest visiting your local flower shop or nursery first. If that doesn’t work out, try Lowe’s or Home Depot.
8. Reusable Coffee K-Cups
For coffee lovers only! These k-cups are 100% reusable, making them an eco-friendly alternative to traditional k-cups. If you know someone that religiously uses a Keurig, this is an excellent gift.
It’s a product you know they’ll use and like, and it reduces unneeded one-use plastic waste by being recyclable. Tea pods and bulk variety packs are also available.
9. US National Park Map (and other travel maps)
I know several people who travel the US to visit national parks. They love the outdoors, camping, and hiking, and some of them have a goal to visit every park in the country. A map of the US National Parks to scratch off each park when they’ve visited it is such a cool gift idea. I realize it’s a pretty small group of people that would appreciate this, however.
The WorldVibeStudio Etsy page has hundreds of maps of all kinds. Big, small, canvas, wood, posters, scratch-offs, pin-on. There are maps of the world, breweries, baseball stadiums, state parks, the US, mountains, Europe, surfing, and much more. What a great way to motivate travel and exploration of the exciting world around us.
10. Personalized Canvas
Show your best friend what their friendship means to you with a personalized canvas they can keep forever. You can print a picture, create photographic ABC art, or make a custom word art canvas.
When my family gets pictures taken every several years, we get the best photo printed on a canvas to give to all of my grandparents. It could also be fun to get an embarrassing photo of you and your best friend or significant other printed as a tribute to the great times you’ve had. I think this is one of the most meaningful gift ideas on this list!
Create your personalized canvases here at Great Big Canvas.
11. Reusable Produce Bags
We all go grocery shopping, so we could all use these reusable produce bags. These are great for someone who eats a lot of vegetables or is environmentally conscious. I use the Planet-E reusable produce bags every time I go grocery shopping.
12. Personalized Book Ends
These amazing personalized bookends are not just for book lovers. Make a statement on your book or decorative shelf with these specially crafted metal book ends. Customize up to 8 characters, 4 on each piece.
Get someone’s first or last name, a nickname, or something way too cutesy like “love” and “home.” I know this somewhat breaks my gift-giving tip of no home decor, but I’m a sucker for book-related items. These can easily be put on display in a non-public room of the house if so desired by the receiver.
Find your personalized book ends here. If you’re not into the letters, there are a ton of other incredible designs on the Knob Creek Metal Arts Etsy page.
13. Online Course
Online courses are awesome – you can learn just about anything you want from qualified experts. For anyone with a passion for learning, this is the perfect gift.
There are classes for learning a new instrument, any kind of history under the sun, graphic design, computer coding, cooking, photography, literature, science… you name it, there’s an online class for it.
An online class could be a cheaper alternative to in-person lessons for someone who just got a guitar. Or help out that friend that can’t quite afford a class that would help them get ahead in their workplace.
In my research, I’ve found Great Courses to have the best variety of courses, especially as a gift. If you’re skeptical of how “worth it” paying to take a course would be, they have a free 14-day trial. Try it out to see for yourself, or offer the gift receiver to take a test ride and figure out which course they would be most interested in.
For more online course options, check out The 10 Best Platforms for Online Courses.
14. Spice Kit
Some spices are rare, expensive, or just plain hard to find. A kit with a variety of spices from around the world is a really cool idea for anyone that loves to cook. Experimenting in the kitchen can only be taken so far with the same flavors over and over again.
Gift this spice kit with 12 small quantities of spices from all corners of the globe. For a nice personal touch, pick a favorite recipe or two using one of the spices to give with the kit. Find the World Traveler Spice Kit on Etsy.
15. Scarf Knitting Kit
Contrary to popular belief, knitting is not just an old lady activity. It’s relaxing, mindless, and you can make something useful while watching TV or reading. I’ve tried knitting a few times but didn’t actually have instructions or a pattern to follow.
This scarf knitting kit is perfect for beginners and gives them a goal and reward (a lovely warm scarf!) when they finish.
You might be thinking, how is this on a list for meaningful gift ideas? Well, knitting is a useful skill to know and a kit like this encourages the receiver to learn while also producing a useful item. It might not be meaningful to everyone, but of course, not every gift here will be. Find the Learn To Knit Kit: The Scarf, along with other knitting products and kits, here on Knit Picks.
Journals are a nice gift to give to basically anyone. I’ve received many journals as gifts over the years. I may not use them right away, but I do always end up transitioning through them all.
Journals encourage writing, dreaming, planning, and creativity. Even so, if all else fails, everyone needs paper at some point in their lives. Find a classy softbound notebook journal and other planner or notebook needs here at Erin Condren.
Tuesday 3rd of December 2019
Great ideas, you've made me rethink my technology gift ideas. Maybe some warm socks and a gift card instead? Good post.
Tuesday 3rd of December 2019
Thank you! Sounds like the perfect gift combo to me :)