Holiday Gifting 101: How to Finish Your Christmas Shopping Without Losing Your Mind in the Process

Christmas Gifts: A Complete Guide
Shutterstock /  WeStudio

A lot of us (myself included) are dealing with extra emotions during the holidays. Whether it's stress, anxiety, or sheer panic, the gift-giving deadlines that creep up at Christmastime can bring up all sorts of feelings. Maybe it's your nieces and nephews that are stressing you out because you have no idea what kids are even into anymore! Or maybe it's your mother-in-law who who already has everything she could ever want. Or maybe your husband, when asked what he'd like for Christmas, only answers with the not-so-helpful phrase, "Whatever you'd like to get me." 

Fortunately, you're not alone. We're all in this together, and we're going to make it through another Christmas season. So let's take deep dive into Christmas gifts: what people like, where to find it, and how to stay calm until the 25th gets here.          


Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids

Parent hands over gift
Source: ShutterstockPurino

Let's start with the easiest people to shop for: kids.


The great thing about kiddos and Christmas gifts is that they'll tell you what they want up front. Even if it's your first-cousin-once-removed who you never speak to but still need to get a gift for - all you have to do is just ask. Kids love presents, and they love talking about presents. If that doesn't work, use a middle man (like mom or dad) to figure out what they'd like under their tree.

"Thanks for the socks, I guess..."

My wife and I have 9 nieces and nephews between the two of us. That's a lot of kids to shop for. Rather than vie for their affection with our wallets, we swallow our pride and simply buy them clothes every year. One outfit each at Target only costs about $10 per kid. And we make up for buying them lame gifts by being the cool aunts who want to  play with them whenever we get together.

Gift-giving cheat sheet: Christmas Gifts
Photo: Faith Towers Provencher

Here's a pro-tip if you're buying clothes for kids: make sure you know their sizes before you head to the store. Print out a few of our handy sizing cheat-sheets to keep all of your information organized before you go Christmas shopping.

Unique Gifts for Kids

If you don't want to take the predictive route for the youngest people on your shopping list, there are plenty of unique and heartfelt gifts to choose from. Check out our list of 14 sweet and unique gifts for kids, or our list of 30 quality handmade gifts for children for more inspiration.

Christmas Gifts for Mom

Christmas gifts for mom

Mothers are notoriously difficult to shop for, because when asked what she wants as her Christmas gifts, mom doesn't seem to know (or seem to care! C'mon, mom!). On top of that, there are rules to follow when it comes to buying gifts for mother figures.

What NOT to Buy

Since mom may not provide any insight into what she needs or wants, you're on your own to come up with a gift idea. So, you look back on how mom spends her time: She cooks. She cleans. She does laundry... This, however, does not mean you should get her gifts pertaining to these activities. Mom does not want a new vacuum for Christmas... especially if dad is getting a new set of golf clubs.

Avoid buying mothers presents that remind them that they are the managers of the household. Unless the gift will greatly improve her life (a new washer/dryer set, for instance), or it is something she has asked for specifically, don't gift items for doing chores with.

Mom's Hobbies

Ask mom what she does in her free time. Does she enjoy knitting or crocheting? How about a gift card to her favorite yarn store, or a pretty yarn bowl. Is she always reading a book? Gift her a few paperbacks in her favorite genre. Does she always have a cup of coffee in one hand? Check out these 13 gifts for coffee lovers. Does she like puzzles? Maybe she'd enjoy a book of brain games or a subscription to the New York Times crossword puzzles. If she likes working with her hands, check out our list of cool gifts for the wood-working mom. Maybe mom loves being in the kitchen (be mindful that you're not assuming she enjoys being in there! Moms are sweet and do things out of necessity, even if they don't enjoy it). Head over to our gift guide for the home chef for inspiration.

What Mom Needs

Shopping for what a mother-figure needs can be tricky, but if you're able to hit the nail on the head, she'll be extra grateful. Gather clues to determine what mom could really benefit from owning. Ask dad for his advice (taking a grain of salt, re: what NOT to buy). If you have a suspicion but aren't quite sure she'd be into it, bring it up in conversation as though you'd enjoy the gift for yourself or a friend, and gauge her response. Listen out for things she might be complaining about to see if you can get her a gift to help that situation.

For the Mom who Has Everything

Truly stumped on Christmas gifts for the mother-figures in your life? Check out our article 14 gifts for those who have everything, and our follow-up shopping guide 15 MORE gifts for the person who has everything.

Christmas Gifts for Dad

Christmas gifts for dad

Finding the perfect gift for dad doesn't have to stress you out. With a little observing, research, and potentially even some snooping, you can figure out what the father-figure in your life really wants under his tree.

Gifts that Create Fun

Dads often have trouble finding the time to do things that they enjoy. So, gift dad a little time to himself, or the opportunity to hang out with his friends. If he loves golfing, give him a gift card to his favorite golf course or putting range. If he enjoys learning things, try a season pass to your local science museum. Does he love making and fixing things? Check out our list of cool tools your dad doesn't even know he wants, or buy him a gift card to his favorite home improvement store so he can get exactly what he's been wanting. Does he consider himself a whiz in the kitchen? Head over to our list of 20 gifts for the amatuer chefDads appreciate gifts they can use. On the flip side, they are less likely to actually enjoy receiving physical gifts that they can't "play" with (i.e. knick knacks). s

Is Gifting Clothes Okay?

Even if you ask him, dad isn't going to tell you he wants new polo shirts or socks for Christmas. Generally speaking, however, your dad will be happy you bought him something new to wear. Figure out his size by asking mom or snooping in his closet, and buy him something new that fits his current style (don't try to force him into something he's not comfortable wearing). He probably already has enough ties, but every man appreciates a new button-down shirt, a sweater, or a sturdy pair of shoes. 

Christmas Gifts for Boyfriend or Husband

Gifts for boyfriend or husband
ShutterstockDusan Petkovic

Boyfriends and husbands fall under a similar umbrella as dads do: They appreciate gifts they can "play" with. This just means gifts that entertain, involve an activity, can enhance an experience, or can be used to accomplish something. 

Guys and Their Technology

What is is about boys and tech? Whatever it is that attracts one to the other, your boyfriend or husband's love of technology means you have the opportunity to buy him something new every year, since the tech industry is such a quickly-evolving field. If you're not sure where to start, check out our list of 20 gifts for the tech-lover in your life.

Clothing: Yea or Nay?

Like dads, it's okay to get your boyfriend or husband clothing as a Christmas gift - so long as he's not picky. If you beau is younger, you might be able to buy him clothing outside of what is normally his style. However, don't go too out-of-the-box or he won't wear it. Try and aim for that sweet spot that will make him say, "I wouldn't have picked this for myself, but I love it!"

Thoughtful Gifts for Men

Christmas Gifts: Give a gift basket
Photo by  Marlene Sauer

There are lots of gifts you can give to show your hubby you've been thinking of him. Put together a gift basket full of his favorite things, or things that will make him feel important and cared for (like our Stressed-Out-Spouse gift basket seen above). There are lots of personal, thoughtful gifts out there to choose from; head over to our list of 72 of the best gift ideas for men for more inspiration.

Gift Ideas for Women

Gifts for women | Ideas

When it comes to the gals in your life, finding a good Christmas gift depends on how well you know that person, and how specific their tastes are. 

Gifts That Make Life Better

While the notion of buying a woman a "day at the spa" is a little predictable, there's a reason it's the stereotypical go-to gift idea. Being forced to claim a little "me-time" is appreciated by a lot of women, especially those who don't make enough time for themselves. Gift her an appointment at her favorite nail salon, or an hour-long massage at a reputable spa. How about a subscription to a service like Audible so she can enjoy her favorite books during her commute? If you know the woman well enough to determine her comfort level, you could gift her a session with a house cleaning service. Or simply buy her a gift card to her favorite coffee shop, yoga studio, or Target.

Personalized Gifts

As a woman, I always appreciate a personalized gift. Large, small, cheap, or pricey, the specifics matter far less than the sentiment. Head over to our list of Galentine's Day gifts for inspiration.

Christmas Gifts for Teens

Gifts for teens

What kinds of things are Gen Xers into? Well, anything that's popular. 

Trends: What's Hot, and What Definitely is Not

Out of all the age demographics, teens and tweens are most likely to be concerned about what is trending. Whether it's the latest in technology, music, or fashion, they are more aware of it than you are. Like kids and their toy lists, it doesn't hurt to ask a teenager what he or she would like to receive as a gift. By asking, you eliminate the risk of buying something totally uncool.

Whatever you do, do NOT buy them clothes, unless they have given you detailed specifics. Teenagers are notoriously picky!

Hobbies, Sports, and Interests

Teenagers appreciate gifts that will help them further their interests. For the budding artist, gift a sturdy sketchbook and some excellent graphic pens. For the photo-obsessive teen, an instant Polaroid camera or a Digital SLR (for older, more cautious recipients). Future David Beckhams would appreciate training tools to help them up their soccer game. For mini-makeup artists or the selfie-obsessive, a vanity-style ring light would really make them glow. Whatever their hobby is, Christmas is an ideal opportunity to nourish that interest. 

To learn more about gifts for creative types, check out our article on how to assemble creative gift kits.

Gifts for Coworkers, White Elephant Parties, and Not-So-Close Friends

Gifts for coworkers and friends
ShutterstockN U S A R A

Commonly, there will be those on your Christmas list that you'd like to get a present for, but that you don't know super well. This is where the more generic gifts come into play.

Give a Gift Basket

Gift baskets can be fun, because you can personalize them based on the recipient, but they are also versatile. Curious on how to craft the perfect gift basket? Head over to our thorough guide, chocked full of ideas for everybody on your list.

Keeping It Under Budget

Even though these people on your list are easier to shop for, this is also where you could accidentally blow a large percentage of your Christmas budget. Be mindful of how much you're spending on these generic gifts, and set a budget max before you start buying. If you're looking for thoughtful but affordable gift ideas, check out these 10 great gifts for anyone on your list, all under $30.

Food, Sweet, and Delicious Treats

You can give coworkers and acquaintances food-based gifts for the holidays. Whether that's a bag of locally-roasted coffee beans or a decadent assortment of chocolate, feel free to gift perishables. Just be mindful of allergies!

How to give Christmas gifts
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Whatever you end of gifting, don't forget to be mindful of people's needs, wants, styles, and taste. On the flip side, don't stress out over it too much, either. There's always next year. 


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