Some people are just impossible to shop for.
Maybe they already have everything, or maybe they take minimalism to new heights and just don’t want any more “things.” I confess I fall into the latter camp, and it drives my family crazy come Christmas.
Regardless of the reason, hard-to-shop-for people require some extra creativity on your part. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to buy outstanding gifts for even the most challenging recipient.
Forget the usual humdrum gifts. This time around, give them something they can actually use.
Unique Gift Ideas for Someone Who Has Everything
1. A Virtual Assistant
Money is a renewable resource, but time is not. So consider giving your recipient the gift of more free time.
A virtual assistant (VA) can help take a wide range of chores off their plate: repetitive work tasks, contacting customer service departments, managing their inbox, bookkeeping, scheduling, travel planning — the list goes on.
Whatever personal work or chores your recipient was planning to do next Saturday morning while the kids were watching cartoons, you can give them that time back. They can then spend it with their family, doing their favorite hobby, or just catching up on much-needed sleep.
Best of all, once they get over the initial awkwardness of delegating their personal chores to a virtual assistant, they can start regaining time for themselves every single week by continuing to work with their VA.
2. An Experience
Most of us already have enough stuff. We don’t need another knickknack to clutter up our living rooms or another toy to play with for a day or two and then set aside.
Think beyond physical items and give an experience instead. When you prepay for an event or experience, your friend or family member gets a fun adventure to remember and possibly gains new skills and memories — all of which are much more valuable than a new iPhone speaker or pair of shoes.
Experience gifts can include:
- Theater or concert tickets
- Sporting event tickets
- A massage
- An airplane flying lesson
- A hot air balloon ride
- Whitewater rafting
- Tickets to a gallery opening at a local museum
- A wine tasting
Check out Vayable, Groupon, and LivingSocial for experience-based gifts for any budget. If you want to give tickets to an event but don’t know the exact seats or event the recipient would like, consider a gift card to StubHub so they can choose their own.
3. Gift Cards
Some people think gift cards are a cop-out, but consider this: People who have everything clearly know what they want. Why force a gift on them that they aren’t looking for?
There’s no shame in buying someone a gift card or gift certificate for their favorite store or activity. It shows you pay attention to their preferences while acknowledging they prefer to shop for themselves. Whether it’s for their favorite clothing store or a new restaurant, a gift card tells the recipient the gift is truly about them and not your need to show off your creativity.
Stop thinking about the kind of gift you’d rather give, and buy them the kind of gift they’d rather receive.
4. A Night Out
Everyone needs a night out sometimes — single people, dating people, married couples. There are only so many nights in a row you can stay in and watch Netflix.
Plan a date night or night out for your recipient, from start to finish. It could include a dinner reservation and gift card, pre- or post-dinner cocktails at a swanky bar, movie tickets from Fandango, theater or sporting event tickets, transportation, even tickets to a fundraiser gala. The important point is you do all the logistical planning for them, so all they have to do is gussy themselves up and stroll out the door.
Finally, if your recipient has young children, don’t forget to plan for babysitting with someone they already know and trust (more on that below).
5. Babysitter Service
Parents of young children need nights — and days — out more than anyone. Give them the gift of breathing room and time to just worry about themselves for once.
You can hire a sitter you know and trust or go through a service like Sittercity.com or Care.com. Just remember, many parents feel anxious about leaving their kids with anyone other than sitters they’ve used before. So you may need to do a little sleuthing to find those people and arrange their services.
Or, of course, you can offer your own service as a sitter.
Even if you don’t plan anything else for their day or night out, hiring a sitter for a block of time can give your loved on the excuse they were looking for to get out of the house for some “me time.”
6. Home Cleaning Service
The last thing most of us want to do when we’re not working is scrub our toilets and shower tiles. A home cleaning service offers one more option for helping your recipient reclaim lost time.
You can hire a local or nationwide cleaning service. Try Handy.com, or the amusingly titled You’ve Got Maids. Your recipient gets a cleaner home, a happier relationship, and their Saturday back to spend however they like. Win, win, win.
7. A Membership or Subscription
Consider it the gift that keeps on giving. You can give your loved one access to a year’s worth of entertainment through a video streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or Amazon Prime Video. If they’re a book or music lover, give them an audiobook service like Audible, or a music service like Spotify or Sirius XM.
For friends with kids, you could give a membership to a local children’s museum, kid’s gymnasium, zoo, or aquarium. Or you could opt for a membership to anything from Costco to AAA to magazine subscriptions.
A subscription box membership is another great gift. My Subscription Addiction is a great resource to find boxes for just about any interest and budget.
Not sure where to start? Choose a club or association that would mean something to your recipient, and then contact them to ask if they offer gift memberships for purchase. Every time the recipient accesses their membership benefits, they’ll think of you.
8. Meal Kit Delivery Service
Meal kit delivery services provide all the ingredients for meals with easy-to-follow recipes. They’re convenient, they’re easy, they save trips to the grocery store, and they can help dieters avoid poor food choices.
Due to their meteoric rise in popularity, you have plenty of meal kit delivery services to choose from. Some reputable options include Home Chef, Green Chef, and HelloFresh. And if your recipient tries a meal kit service for a few weeks and likes the results, it may be just the prompt they needed to continue the healthy recipe habit on their own.
If you opt to give a meal kit delivery service, play up the convenience and time-saving angles rather than the potential weight loss or health benefits. Many people want nothing more in the world than to lose weight, and you could help them do it. But no one likes feeling judged or prodded to improve their health. Tread carefully.
9. Cooking Classes
Alternatively, some people would cook more at home — and cook healthier dishes — if they felt more confident in the kitchen.
Cooking classes from someplace like Sur La Table cover a wide range of cooking skills, such as basics like meal prep and how to use kitchen utensils, intermediate lessons on how to cook quickly and efficiently with appliances like pressure cookers and air fryers, and advanced lessons such as pairing wines with food.
Besides being a fun experience gift, cooking classes can truly transform your recipient’s and their family’s lives. I confess I wish someone had given my mother a cooking class or two when I was growing up.
10. A Personalized Gift
When someone already has everything, a personal touch can mean the difference between just another gift and something truly meaningful. When you order something engraved, embroidered, or otherwise designed specifically for your recipient, you show you’ve put real thought and effort into finding the perfect gift.
Personalized gifts don’t need to be flashy or expensive. A few ideas to get your creativity flowing include:
- Photo socks
- A keychain with important dates (such as anniversaries or birthdays) listed on it
- A leather journal with an embossed name or message
- Personalized jewelry
- An engraved flask
- Engraved wine glasses
- A personalized wooden cutting board
Just make sure you put thought into the gift and that it’s something the person could genuinely use.
Check out Etsy for a seemingly endless range of personalized gift options.
11. Name a Star After Them
This gift idea nears the red zone between sweet and hokey. Yet you’d be surprised how many people find it romantic. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of being immortalized?
Be prepared to break out a star map and a telescope to point out the exact star to your recipient. Mark the occasion with a glass of champagne to up the romance factor.
12. A Bluetooth Record Player
For the audiophile or hipster on your gift list, it’s hard to go wrong with a vintage vinyl player.
Modern record players make a fun gift for people who enjoy gadgets. For an affordable option, check out this vintage Bluetooth turntable with vinyl to MP3 recording from Popsky. Or go a little higher-end with this fully automatic, die-cast aluminum turntable from Audio-Technica.
Add to the gift by including a vinyl version of your recipient’s favorite album.
13. Noise-Canceling Headphones
Last Christmas, I splurged and bought myself a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones. I don’t know how I lived without them in the loud shared office where I work.
It’s like wrapping myself in my own personal sound bubble. Sometimes I turn them on with no music playing just to enjoy the relative silence.
Those particular headphones sit firmly on the high end of the market, but you can buy noise-canceling headphones on any budget. Audiophile or not, your recipient could probably use a little more peace and quiet in their life. Give them the gift of escaping loud modern life whenever they want and carving out a little more space for themselves, even if only mentally for a few moments.
14. A Scratch Map
My wife is an international educator, as are most of our friends overseas. We all love international travel, and most of us keep scratch maps to visually track our journeys.
Like scratch-off lottery tickets, scratch maps come with all countries coated with silver or gold plating. As you visit a country, you scratch it off the map. For the travel lover on your list, it makes a fun and inexpensive gift.
I personally like a vintage-looking scratch map that looks like it fell off a museum’s shelf. Scratch maps that distinguish between states in countries like the US, Brazil, and China is a great way to be more specific. Check out this extra-large vintage scratch map from Maps International as a good example.
15. Airline Tickets
If you have a more sizable budget, consider giving the gift of airline tickets for your friend or family member’s dream trip.
Most of us don’t need more stuff, but we would love to see more of the world. Yet a study commissioned by OnePoll found more than 50% of Americans don’t even have a passport.
Help your recipient experience widen their horizons and push past their comfort zone. If they’ve never been to Europe, for example, consider these affordable European countries.
Unlike the sweater you gave them last year, it will make for a gift they’ll never forget. Just be sure you involve them in the process to make sure the dates work for them and you book a destination they actually want to visit.
16. Travel Accommodations
Flights make expensive gifts. To help out with their travel costs, consider booking them one or more nights’ accommodations.
There are plenty of affordable alternatives to hotels, many of which prove far more authentic and memorable. I don’t remember most of the corporate hotel stays in my life, but I can remember every guest house in Eastern Europe, every bed and breakfast in South America, and every Airbnb stay in South Africa.
If your recipient would rather choose their accommodations themselves, you can buy gift cards for Airbnb or a major hotel chain.
17. A National Parks Pass
Does your recipient love the outdoors? Give them unlimited access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks, forests, and other areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
An annual pass from the National Park Service is surprisingly affordable and makes particular sense for recipients who live near a park they love to visit. But it also serves as an excuse to travel the country and see more of its natural attractions.
For hikers, campers, backpackers, and nature lovers, an annual park pass makes a perfect gift.
18. A Lens Kit for Their Phone Camera
Mobile phone cameras have come a long way since the mid-2000s, rivaling the image quality of full digital cameras a decade ago. But they come with one major limitation: the lens. You can’t extend it to zoom, and you can’t swap it out for wide-angle shots.
Fortunately, you can now buy mobile phone lens kits. In seconds, you can snap on a zoom, wide-angle, or fish-eye lens to your phone’s camera. They’re tiny and light, making them perfect for travel photography when you’re traveling light.
Try this affordable 9-in-1 lens kit from MACTREM to convert almost any smartphone into a versatile digital camera.
19. A 23andMe Genetic Test
You can learn a lot from a genetic test: useful insight such as health risks and predispositions, ancestry information about your family’s roots, even amusing information such as celebrities with tenuous genetic links to you.
For the person who already has all the stuff they want, consider giving them the gift of a glimpse into their family’s past through 23andMe’s genetic testing kit.
It may spark a deep curiosity about their roots and kick off a journey of discovery.
Every week, it seems like a new study comes out with fresh data reaffirming the physical and emotional benefits of meditation. As someone who practices — or at least tries to practice — daily, I can attest it does, in fact, help you manage stress and maintain better control over your emotions and mindset.
But not everyone is ready to hop into a lotus position and start saying mantras. For many people, guided meditation helps them focus. While the app stores overflow with guided meditation apps, few can rival Headspace.
Headspace offers a wide range of guided meditation sessions at varying lengths. They also offer courses, progress tracking, anxiety exercises for panic attacks, and more.
21. A Kitchen Herb Garden
There’s nothing better than fresh herbs in your cooking. But as an apartment dweller, I can’t just nip out back to pluck some fresh basil or thyme from my garden. And even if I had a backyard, I doubt I’d have the time to keep a proper herb garden.
The solution: a miniature kitchen herb garden. If your recipient doesn’t have the proper window orientation for natural light or doesn’t have the attention span to water herbs every day, they can use a small indoor garden kit that provides timed light and watering on automation. Try this indoor garden kit from Click & Grow as a starter option.
22. Food and Drink
Nowadays, I mostly give consumables to family and friends. They don’t want more stuff, and even if they do, I don’t want to feed into the mindset of always chasing the latest trending shiny object.
So I give upscale cheeses, wine, beer, cigars, and homemade foods. Choose consumable gifts well, and you know they’ll be appreciated and won’t go to waste.
23. A Brewing Kit
Give someone a beer, and you sate them for a day. Teach them how to make their own beer, and you sate them for life.
When you brew your own beer, you get to make fun and creative styles that suit your own unique palette, whether that’s honey red ales, mouth-puckering sours, or vanilla bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts.
Buy your recipient a beginner brewing kit if they’ve never brewed before, and give them the gift of a new hobby.
24. Stocks, Shares, or Crowdfunding Investments
Everyone needs investments if they ever hope to retire. For the person who has everything, consider the gift of an appreciating or passive-income-producing asset.
That could include shares of individual stocks or ETFs, REITs, or even real estate crowdfunding investments through Fundrise. Better yet, if they don’t already have a brokerage account, sit down with them in person to help them open one with a company like Betterment or Robinhood. Together, buy their first shares for them, showing them how to do so.
An appalling 45% of Americans don’t own any stocks at all, according to a 2019 Gallup poll. And for many, it comes down to simply not knowing where to begin.
Walk the first few steps along the path to building wealth with your recipient. They may roll their eyes today, but they’ll thank you in a decade or two when they reach financial independence.
25. A Charitable Donation
After George Castanza gave out fake donations to “The Human Fund” on the hit sitcom “Seinfeld,” it seems like charitable donations as gifts lost some of their luster. But Seinfeldian shenanigans notwithstanding, donating to charity in lieu of a gift have come a long way in recent years thanks to services like GoFundMe and IndieGogo.
The trick to making a thoughtful donation lies in a single question: What would your friend donate to if they were choosing the organization? A recipient passionate about cancer research would probably love a donation to the American Cancer Society or perhaps the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You can also use crowdfunding sites to find causes that hit closer to home, like giving money for a friend’s medical treatment or gifting a veteran via the Wounded Warrior Project.
You can opt to take the charitable donation tax deduction on your own tax return by dedicating the gift in your recipient’s honor. Or you can make the gift legally in the recipient’s name so they get the tax deduction if they itemize their deductions.
Your recipient may not need anything for themselves, but there are plenty of people in this world who do. Check out JustGive.org for a list of organizations perfect for gift donations.
When someone already has everything they want and need, the real challenge doesn’t lie in selecting the perfect item, but rather in finding a way to show your love and appreciation. After all, if it’s the thought that counts, then putting extra consideration into services, experiences, and gifts that show you care is much more valuable than the priciest present. So think outside of the mall and come up with a gift that’s truly meaningful.
What do you give to friends and family members who have everything? Do you have any go-to gifts that aren’t on this list?