It may be that you have people on your gift list this year who are in need of more practical things than one-cup coffee makers and French perfume and silver bracelets. It can feel weird to buy someone something they don’t really need when there are so many things they DO need—and yet, a case of toilet paper doesn’t have that Holiday Spirit. It’s likely that those same people come with an additional issue: you know they won’t have much money to spend on gifts this year, so you don’t want to make them feel awkward by buying them something much more expensive than what they can afford to give.
In this situation we are looking for gifts that FEEL FUN while still being practical; and we are also looking for gifts that, contrary to the usual goal, seem LESS expensive than they are.
1. Nice groceries. A case of toilet paper doesn’t work under the tree, but sturdy yummy crackers like flavored Triscuits, and big blocks of cheese, and good cuts of meat, and crates of those little oranges, are both nutritious and fancy. Necessary unnecessaries such as coffee and tea and flavored coffee creamers can increase the treat factor. And as any grocery-shopper knows, you can spend huge bucks without looking like you spent much.
2. The gift of warmth. Lots of things fall in this category: quilts, electric blankets, throw blankets, sweaters, down slippers, pajamas, shawls, hats and gloves and scarves. They’re practical and can save on heating bills, but they also feel like real holiday gifts in a way “Here, have a check for 1/5th of this month’s heating bill!” does not. And you can buy something high quality (wool, down, well-made), so that the gift will last longer, warm the recipient better, and also won’t look as expensive as it was.
3. Coffee maker. Did I not JUST finish saying that a coffee maker was NOT what people need in hard times? And it’s true that this might not be the year for the Keurig, considering how expensive the replacement cups are. But a sensible machine that brews into a travel mug (there’s this one for a one-coffee-drinker household or this one for two coffee drinkers) can save both time and money for someone who loves coffee and doesn’t want to stop at a drive-through, and you can give it with bags and bags of coffee and a bunch of flavored creamers. Practical but still fun.
4. Go straight for the gift card. It doesn’t meet the requirement of costing more than it looks like it costs: the recipient will know exactly what you spent. But sometimes people in dire financial straits need to make their own buying decisions, and a Visa gift card can be the way to go: fun, yet very very VERY practical. And if you give it along with some “little things” (the expensive warm gloves that look ordinary, the cheese and crackers), you can still have things to wrap and things that are more expensive than they seem.