It’s a bit of a stereotype to say that men aren’t good at expressing their feelings. Still, stereotype or not, it’s definitely true of some. And if the guy you’re dating happens to be one of them, it can create a bit of a problem when it comes to holiday shopping. How do you choose the right gift for your boyfriend if he won’t tell you what he wants?
Actually, he probably has told you what he wants – just not directly. You spend a lot of time with him, so you’ve had plenty of chances to learn about his interests, hobbies, and tastes. All you have to do is translate that information into a concrete gift idea at a price you can afford.
If you’re not quite sure how to do that, these ideas can help get you started. They’re all gifts that real men told magazines, pollsters, or pals on Reddit they were or would be pleased to receive. And they’re spread across the price spectrum, so there’s one that fits into your holiday budget.
Gifts Under $20
When men talk about what they want for the holidays, it’s not all fancy electronic gadgets and pricey sports tickets – though those make the list too. Many of their most wished-for gifts are things it’s easy to afford, even on a budget of $20 or less.
1. A Heartfelt Message
A 2018 Reddit thread asked men what they’d most like to receive as a Christmas gift from their significant others. Believe it or not, one answer that came up repeatedly was a simple, heartfelt message of affection and appreciation.
Several men on the thread shared stories of how much this type of gift had meant to them and people they knew. One man who’d been putting in a lot of overtime at work, leaving him little time or energy for his wife, got a “beautiful note” from her saying how much his hard work meant to her – accompanied by a long backrub. Another told how his mom, who had always been difficult to get along with, reduced his big, macho dad to tears with a LoveBook containing cartoon pictures and sweet messages. And one new parent said he didn’t want his wife to spend money on him since they were already spending so much on the baby. He just wanted a card with a handwritten expression of her love.
This is a gift that’s easy to give on a tight budget. Pick up a blank card from the store with a nice picture on the front, then fill the space inside with your thoughts and feelings about your boyfriend. Tell him about all the little things that make you happy and how much you appreciate him. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. As long as it’s a sincere expression of your feelings, it will make him happy.
2. A Handmade Gift
Of all the comments on the Reddit thread, the suggestion that got the most likes was a gift of “something handmade.” The poster described a gift he’d received from his ex-girlfriend, an artist, featuring his name surrounded by drawings representing his hobbies. The time and thought she put into it made it a much better gift than all the expensive presents she’d given him throughout their relationship.
Of course, not everyone is a talented artist. However, there are other types of skills you can use to create a handmade gift, such as:
- Knitting. If you’re a knitter, make your boyfriend something to ward off the winter chill. There are lots of free patterns to choose from at All Free Knitting, from a simple one-color scarf to an elaborate old-fashioned jacket.
- Sewing. You can put your sewing skills to work on a variety of gifts, from small potholders and pencil cases to entire quilts. All Free Sewing has patterns for gifts like golf club covers, barbecue aprons, wallets, and bow ties – which, as we know, are cool.
- Woodworking. The Woodworkers’ Guild of America offers plans for several different gifts you can build out of wood. Suggestions include both practical gifts, like a bottle opener, and purely decorative ones, like a small keepsake box.
- Photography. Start with a great photo of him or of something special to him, such as a pet or a place where he loves to spend time. Frame it, or take the extra step of turning it into a photo craft gift, like a jigsaw puzzle or decorative magnet.
- Crafting. You can make a creative gift using just about any craft skill, from embroidery to origami. There are lots of suggestions for handcrafted gifts on crafting sites like Everything Etsy.
- Cooking. Not every man is into crafts, but who doesn’t like to eat? Pamper him by cooking his favorite meal or making him a special treat, like homemade chocolates.
The most important thing about any handmade gift is that it’s something you made specifically for him. Don’t just pick a project from a gift idea list at random. Choose a pattern and theme that will fit his particular tastes. For instance, if he’s a history buff, make him a gift in the style of his favorite historical period. Or if he’s a sports fan, design a gift based on his favorite sport.
3. A Great Read
Another way to show your guy you get him is to give him a book that reflects his interests. Choose one that’s appropriate for the specific type of guy you’re dating:
- The Sci-Fi Nerd. Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation Stories” earns recommendations from Esquire magazine and Barack Obama. Both agree it’s the kind of work that makes you think deeply about the world and what it means to be human.
- The Deep Thinker. If your boyfriend likes to think about big social issues, he’ll appreciate “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell, author of five New York Times bestsellers and host of the hit podcast “Revisionist History.” Gladwell examines the ways we interact with strangers, the ways those interactions can go wrong – and even turn deadly – and how to fix these problems.
- The Sports Lover. Basketball fans will enjoy “The Mamba Mentality” by NBA star Kobe Bryant. It’s a detailed look at how he played the game with such success for 20 years, from sizing up his opponents to playing through injuries.
- The Ready-for-Anything Guy. If your boyfriend is the kind of guy who likes to be prepared for any emergency, Brett Cohen’s “Stuff Every Man Should Know” is the book for him. This pocket-sized guide concisely covers all the skills a man is likely to need in the modern world, from tying a necktie to building a campfire.
- The Commuter. If your guy spends a lot of time behind the wheel, maybe what he really needs is a book he can listen to rather than read. With a one-month subscription to Audible, he can enjoy any audiobook of his choice from Audible’s collection, plus two free Audible Originals from a limited monthly selection.
4. The Perfect Wallet
Some men, like my husband, hang on to a wallet for years, even if it’s literally falling apart, simply because they’re used to it. I finally got my husband to part with his battered old workhorse of a wallet by finding him one he actually liked better.
You can do the same by surprising your man with not just a new wallet, but his perfect wallet – one that fills needs he didn’t even know he had. For instance, the minimalist wallet from Travelambo is not only ultra-slim and sturdy but also has radio-frequency identification-blocking technology to prevent thieves from using electronic scanners to lift sensitive info off his contactless cards right through his pocket.
To choose the ideal wallet for your guy, think about the way he uses it. For instance, if he wants something slim enough to fit comfortably in his back pocket, a minimalist wallet is the best choice. But if he likes to stuff his wallet with lots of cards and scribbled notes, he probably needs a heftier bifold or trifold wallet. Also, consider what extra features he might find handy, such as an attached key ring, a window for his driver’s license, or waterproof construction.
5. A Day Off
One commenter in the Reddit thread said, as much as he loves being in a relationship, sometimes, he just wants some alone time to hang out in slouchy clothes, play video games, and eat pizza for breakfast.
If you sometimes get the feeling your guy would like the same thing, why not go ahead and give it to him? Give him a calendar with a circled date and tell him you’ll be spending that day out of town or hanging out with your friends. Give him your blessing to spend the day in pajamas eating junk food and not having to be on his best behavior for anyone. It’s a gift no one but you can give him, and it costs nothing at all.
6. A Night In
While some men want a day off, others express the desire for a cozy night in. One Redditor posted that his dream date with his girlfriend would involve staying home and watching “Polar Express” while cuddled up together under a blanket munching popcorn and sipping hot chocolate. Other commenters chimed in to say that sounded like “the best Christmas ever.”
This is the kind of dream you can easily make come true on a small budget. All you have to do is tweak the details to fit your man’s particular tastes, substituting in his favorite holiday movie, snack food, and drink. Or skip the film and make it an evening out of getting dinner through DoorDash from your favorite restaurant, playing board games or listening to music, perhaps in front of a roaring fire. Whatever cozy at-home activity is his favorite, treat him to an evening of that.
7. You in Sexy Undies
Another popular post on the Reddit thread came from a man who said his Christmas wish was to see his girlfriend in “some fancy lingerie.” He said he loves lingerie, but he wouldn’t trust himself to buy it for her because he would have no idea of her size. The overworked poster who received the thoughtful note from his former wife also noted that she followed up on it by changing into his favorite lingerie for a massage and… other activities.
So, if your gentleman friend has never given you sexy underwear, don’t assume it’s because he has no interest in seeing you in it. Maybe he feels shy about purchasing it for you. And he may have good reason to be hesitant. Several people who commented on the thread noted that they don’t like receiving unmentionables as a gift because they usually don’t fit or feel uncomfortable.
If you already own some sexy undies, this is a gift you can give your boyfriend at no cost whatsoever. If you don’t, it’s easy to pick up an inexpensive chemise if you’re female or, if you’re male, some silky boxers for the purpose. Don’t buy something pricey for your first romp. Start with the cheap stuff until you’ve figured out what you both like.
Gifts From $21 – $50
A $21 to $50 budget opens up more options for gift-giving. For this amount, you can get your boyfriend a present that’s practical, fun, or both at once. From cocktail time to commuting time, your midrange gift can make his life a little better all year.
8. A Homebrewing Kit
One thing a lot of guys enjoy is beer. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 54% of men say beer is their favorite alcoholic drink – more than twice as high as the percentage for either wine or liquor. (Women, in case you’re curious, are much more likely to favor wine.)
Now, just handing him a six-pack of beer – even if it’s his favorite beer – isn’t a very exciting gift. But giving him a homebrewing kit that allows him to make his own beer is a different story. A brewing kit is more than just a drink. It’s a new toy to tinker with. And it sends the subtle ego-stroking message that you have confidence in his abilities to create something great.
The all-inclusive kits at Craft a Brew contain all the ingredients and equipment he needs to brew his first batch of beer. The only things he has to supply himself are the water, a pot, and a stove to heat it.
Craft a Brew has kits for many different kinds of beer, from IPA to chocolate milk stout. There’s even a gluten-free beer kit for folks on a gluten-free diet. And for those who prefer cider to beer, the company also offers a hard cider brewing kit.
9. Cocktail Accessories
If your gentleman friend happens to prefer liquor to beer, there are ways to accommodate that taste on a modest budget. Sadly, a budget of $20 to $50 probably isn’t enough to buy him a bottle of fine liquor. However, it can get him various types of accessories to go with his drink of choice:
- Mixers. Even if you can’t get your boyfriend a truly great liquor, you can get him some truly great mixers to go with it. For instance, Woodford Reserve’s bourbon bitters in four different flavors are excellent in Old-Fashioneds and other whiskey cocktails. Other options include a bloody mary starter kit and Boscoli olive juice for dirty martinis.
- Whiskey Stones. The problem with any drink served on the rocks is that the ice dilutes the liquor as it melts. The solution is using whiskey stones – blocks of solid stone chilled in the freezer and tossed into any drink. They keep it cold without watering down the drink, and they look super-classy.
- A Mixology Kit. If all he knows how to do with his favorite liquor is pour it into a glass, he needs a good mixology kit. It comes with a set of recipe cards for popular cocktails and all the tools to make them, including a cocktail shaker, jigger, strainer, mixing spoon, bottle opener, and tongs.
10. A Great Shave
Outside a full spa treatment, a close shave is the best thing a man can do for his skin. It’s a soothing, satisfying experience that leaves him feeling confident about himself and how he looks. Plus, it helps exfoliate his skin.
Give him this experience with the Holiday Winston gift set from Harry’s. It comes with a sturdy, ergonomic razor handle, three German-engineered five-blade cartridges, a choice of foaming shave gel or shaving cream, a travel cover to protect the blades, and a razor stand.
If he already has a razor he likes, upgrade his morning shave with some nice extras instead. The starter kit from The Art of Shaving includes pre-shave oil, shaving cream, after-shave balm, and a shaving brush, all in a canvas carrying case. It’s available in three fragrances: lavender, sandalwood, or unscented.
11. A Beard Trimmer
Even if your boyfriend wears a full beard, he still needs to keep it trimmed to look his best. Cordless beard trimmers are undeniably convenient, but as my bearded husband has discovered, they all have one problem: Within a year or two, the built-in batteries invariably wear out and can no longer hold a charge. At that point, the entire device becomes useless.
After several years of buying him one new cordless trimmer after another, I got fed up and gave him a corded Wahl Professional Peanut. Designed for professional barbers, this model comes with four combs for cutting to different lengths, a blade guard, a cleaning brush, and lubricating oil. Its 7-foot cord means he can use it pretty much anywhere he could use the cordless ones. And after four years of heavy use, my husband’s is still going strong.
12. Something Practical
One poster on Reddit said what he seriously wanted for Christmas was a new set of windshield wipers. He’d needed new ones for about three months at that point, but he’d just never found the time to buy them.
This kind of procrastination isn’t unusual. There’s always something better to do with your time or your money. If every time you’re at your boyfriend’s place, you notice he still hasn’t gotten around to buying something he very obviously needs, get it for him. Maybe he’s weighing his bedroom window shade down with a brick because it rolls up with a snap whenever he lets it go, or he’s carrying his books in a bag patched with duct tape. I once dated a guy who’d been using a set of kitchen measuring cups with a broken-off handle for years. When I spent a few dollars on a new set for him – and took away the old ones to dispose of – he was sincerely delighted.
Chances are your boyfriend has been living with his broken or worn-out stuff for so long he’s almost stopped noticing it. However, if you take the initiative and replace it, he’ll undoubtedly notice the difference it makes in his quality of life.
Gifts From $51 – $100
With a budget of $50 to $100, you can afford to splurge and treat your man to something extraordinary. In this price range, your gift items include not just objects, but also fun and exciting experiences – a type of gift that happiness economists say brings more lasting pleasure than a physical present. Or you can split the difference with physical gifts that are a great experience in themselves every time he uses them.
13. A Great Experience
Is there something your fella has always wanted to do but never had the opportunity? As long as it’s nothing too outrageous, there’s a good chance you can make that dream come true on a $100 budget. For example, for that amount you can buy him:
- An Adventure. Search Cloud 9 Living to find locations in your area for adventure activities like skydiving, bungee jumping, and ziplining. Your $100 budget could buy him two indoor skydiving flights in a location near Los Angeles or a chance to ride shotgun in a race car in Delaware.
- A Class. At MasterClass, people at the top of their fields teach their skills through one-on-one online lessons. Subscribers can learn acting from Helen Mirrin, tennis from Serena Williams, cooking from Wolfgang Puck, or electronic music production from Deadmau5. You can buy him any individual class on the site as an e-gift, and the site sends the notification to his inbox. Or you can have the notification sent to yourself instead so you can print it out and wrap it.
- Sports Tickets. When Field Agent asked over 1,000 men what they wanted most for Christmas, one of the top 10 answers was “sports tickets.” A 2019 article from Business Insider shows what kind of seat you can purchase on a $100 budget for different events, including an MLB game at Fenway Park, an NFL game at Rokit Field, and a boxing match at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. If you need help finding tickets, check out StubHub. They have one of the largest selections online.
- A Spa Treatment. Spa services aren’t just for the ladies. Men can also benefit from a relaxing treatment, like a deep-tissue massage or sauna. With one of the discount offers available through Groupon, you might even be able to afford to go together.
14. A Quality Bottle of Liquor
If your boyfriend has expensive tastes in liquor, get him a bottle of the really good stuff. On your $100 budget, you can treat him to a bottle of The Glenlivet single-malt scotch, Rémy Martin cognac, or Patrón Silver tequila.
The biggest downside of this gift is that one bottle may not last him all that long. If you want a gift to make his cocktail hours more enjoyable on a long-term basis, consider the Oak Bottle infuser. This bottle creates an oak-aged flavor in hours or days rather than years, turning inexpensive liquor into the peer of the pricey stuff.
In a blind taste test, a modestly priced Scotch aged in the Oak Bottle tasted much better to volunteers than an aged Scotch twice its price. With wine, the effects were even more dramatic. A cheap merlot tasted better than a merlot eight times its price.
The Oak Bottle comes in three sizes, each of which lasts for 50 to 60 uses. So with this one gift, you’re not just giving him a bottle of quality liquor – you’re giving him the equivalent of 50 or 60 bottles.
15. The Perfect Travel Bag
Three different gift guides for men – from Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Ask Men – agree that the Novel duffle bag from Herschel Supply Company is the perfect travel bag or gym bag for every guy. Made from sturdy yet lightweight polyester fabric in a choice of five colors, it’s a suitable size for a weekend trip or a gym visit.
This bag’s big perk is its versatility. Your beau can carry it by its two shorter handles, sling it over his shoulder like a messenger bag, or flip it over to wear it like a backpack. It has one interior wall pocket and an exterior shoe pocket so his dirty shoes won’t mess up his clothes.
16. A Classic Gaming System
One commenter on Reddit said he was planning to ask for a retro gaming system that could play the video games of his youth, such as Amiga or Nintendo SNES or NES. If your guy also misses those old-school games, purchase one of these classic systems for him:
- Nintendo NES Classic Mini Console. This brick-size system is a mini version of the original NES released in 1985. He can plug it into his TV and enjoy such classic games as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Mario Bros.
- Playstation Classic Console. Not quite as old-school as the NES, this console harks back to 1994. It comes loaded with well-remembered games like Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil.
- Sega Genesis Mini. This mini version of the Sega Genesis system came out in 1989. It comes with two wired controllers, various cords and cables, and 42 Sega games, from Sonic the Hedgehog to Street Fighter 2.
17. Cozy Loungewear
In the Field Agent survey of what men want for the holidays, clothing didn’t even make the top 10. A lot of guys just aren’t that into clothes. If you’ve got a boyfriend like this, there’s no point in trying to change him by giving him nice clothing. He’ll wear it for your sake, but given his druthers, he’d spend his entire life in sweats.
So instead, show him you love him just as he is by getting him some great sweats. Brushed fleece sweatpants from J.Crew combine classic styling with incredibly soft and warm fleece fabric. For a slightly dressier look at a lower price, choose the Rival fleece pants from Under Armor. Their straight-leg styling doesn’t scream “sweats,” but reviewers say they’re still very soft and comfortable.
To wear on top, get him the Champion reverse-weave hoodie from Urban Outfitters. Esquire describes it as “warm, heavy, and classically cool.” Reviewers on the site agree, giving it a 96% positive rating.
Or for something that’s built to last, treat him to the 30 Year Sweatshirt. Made by British designer Tom Cridland, this eco-friendly clothing choice comes with a 30-year guarantee. If it suffers any damage during that time, your guy can send it back to the manufacturer, and they’ll repair it and return it free of charge.
18. A Pair of Allbirds
Once you’ve clothed your man from head to toe in his cozy sweats, he’ll need something to put on his feet. And according to one source after another, that something should be a pair of Allbirds. Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Ask Men all recommend these shoes as astonishingly comfortable and practical.
Allbirds come in several styles. The best-known is the Runner, an old-school running shoe with uppers made from either cozy merino wool or lightweight, tree-based fabric. Both types come in a variety of colors. Some colors of wool Runners are also available as Mizzles, which are treated with a water-resistant finish for rainy days.
In addition to the basic Runner, Allbirds offers a high-top sneaker called the Tree Topper, the slip-on-style Loungers, a slip-on with laces called Tree Skippers, and a high-top with a raised heel for runners called Runner-Ups. There are only a few U.S. stores that sell Allbirds, but all pairs sold online come with a 30-day, no-questions-asked warranty. So even if he wears his shoes for a week before deciding they’re not quite right for him, he can still return them or exchange them for a different size or style.
19. A Multi-Tool
Even guys who aren’t particularly handy need the right tools for any job. A multi-tool, as its name implies, combines many different tools in a convenient pocket-size package. With one of these in his pocket, your man is prepared for anything.
Probably the best-known multi-tool is the iconic Leatherman. This palm-size tool combines 18 functions in one, including two types of pliers, two screwdrivers, a mini-saw, a wire stripper, replaceable wire cutters, a file, plain and serrated knives, spring-action scissors, can and bottle openers, and a ruler. Leatherman also makes variants with fewer tools or different types of tools.
Another popular option is the classic Swiss Army knife from Victorinox. One version, the rescue tool, has 15 functions. It has a seat belt cutter, a window breaker, a disk saw for shatterproof glass, an extra-strong screwdriver, and a locking serrated blade he can use one-handed – all in a package just 4.37 inches long. Victorinox offers many other Swiss Army knives as well, from a mini keychain model with only three tools to a hefty 27-function SwissTool.
20. A Weekend Trip With You
One of the most popular comments on the Reddit thread was a wish for a “weekend holiday with her.” It received tons of responses – some tongue-in-cheek, others genuinely enthusiastic. People in long-distance relationships, spouses working too much overtime, and parents of young children all talked about how much they’d love a chance to get away for some private time with their partners. Several posters described special day or weekend trips they had taken with their significant others, including one who said she had never seen her boyfriend cry until he opened the backpack containing the plane tickets.
Planning a romantic weekend getaway on a $100 budget is tough, but it isn’t impossible. With careful choices, you can save on all the costs of a vacation trip, including:
- Transportation. Choose a location within driving distance to avoid the cost of airfare. Do a quick search of “vacation destinations near me” to find a romantic spot in your area. You can also search for specific features that interest you, such as “beaches” or “wine tasting.” If you have points or miles you’ve earned through a travel rewards credit card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can use those to eliminate the transportation costs completely.
- Lodging. Four-star hotels and romantic bed-and-breakfasts eat up a lot of your vacation budget. Look into cheaper alternatives like Airbnb, HomeExchange, campgrounds – which you can book through Reserve America – or dorm rentals through University Rooms.
- Food. To save on food while traveling, prepare as many meals as you can yourselves. If you can find lodgings that include a kitchen, you can cook a simple meal at home and dine by candlelight. You can also pack a picnic lunch to eat while you’re on the road instead of stopping at a restaurant for lunch.
It’s even possible to make a staycation romantic. Take the money you would have spent on transportation and lodging and put it toward small luxuries like fresh flowers, high-thread-count sheets, and plush towels to make your home feel like a posh hotel. Plan day trips to local attractions like museums or hiking trails you can enjoy on a budget. Then clear your schedules, turn off your phones, and devote the weekend to each other.
In the end, what makes a weekend getaway romantic isn’t where you go or even what you do there. It’s the time spent together one on one without the distractions of work and family. It’s a special holiday gift only you can give.
These ideas are just a jumping-off point to get you started. If nothing on the list seems quite right, tailor one of the ideas to fit your guy’s tastes.
For instance, if your gentleman friend isn’t a fan of whiskey, get him a really good bottle of wine or a pound of top-notch coffee instead. If he doesn’t need a duffle for the gym, find him a travel bag. And if he’s not the type to wear sweats day in and day out, treat him to a cozy sweater instead – and count yourself lucky.
What’s important about any gift you give your boyfriend is that you chose it just for him. A gift that reflects his specific interests – his career, hobbies, and passions – shows that you understand him and want to make him happy. The gift itself matters less than the amount of thought and affection you put into it.
Guys, what’s the best gift you’ve ever received from a significant other? Let us know in the comments.