I have some 90% fail-proof solutions for gift-giving this holiday. They're not super thoughtful necessarily, but I can guarantee that the recipient will use it/them. Just a caveat, this is for anyone over the age of 19. Under that, and you're on your own. I have no idea what the kids like these days.
Photo credit: Respective retail websites
- Really nice (doesn't necessarily have to be fancy), unscented, or mildly-scented hand creme. This has to be something that you've tried out at least once and been like, "Wow, my hands feel great, and non-greasy! Also, I can't smell anything on my hands 2 minutes later!" Nivea has a "Hand Indulgence" with a mild scent, or Kiehl's has something called "Unusually Rich-But-Not-Greasy-At-All-Hand Cream with SPF 10." Related: really nice lip stuff (this should probably be fancy, and generally is better for ladyfolk, but sometimes men care too). I love Laura Mercier's Lip Silk.
Photo credit: Ancient Industries and Flickr user notanartist
- Really nice socks. Neutral, solid colors will guarantee usage, but if you know the person has a flair for color, go wild. Nobody wants to buy socks with their own money, but they have to, and then sometimes they end up with crappy socks that only last a month, and then they cling to the three pairs of quality socks they bought one time on sale. Give them more of these. Cashmere, Smart Wool, really nice cotton socks are all appreciated. Ancient Industries sells some awesome ones, as does Blackbird, or go to your local TJ Maxx or Loehmann's or whatever and buy nice socks.
Photo credit: Lauren Elizabeth and Vosges website
- A cold-weather drinks pack. Adjust for teetotaler, underage, or lactose-intolerant friends, but a bundle that has a small bottle of brandy or whiskey, a container of nice hot chocolate, and a container of nice tea is generally appreciated by all. And if the recipient doesn't like hot drinks, I'm sure his/her guests will want one at some point and it'll be a nice thing to offer others. The main key is to make sure it's all very yummy/good quality. Trader Joe's offers seasonally a thing called "European-style sipping chocolate" or something along those lines which is VERY excellent and comes in a festive tin. Other reputable brands include: Vosges, Blanxart for hot chocolate. Harney & Sons, Seven Cups for tea.
Photo credit: Umbra website, Anthropologie website
- A really nice wall hook. I'm serious. I know that the recipient will most certainly be confused, but think about it. Where are you going to put the coats? Where are you going to put the scarves? When will you not need to hang things on the wall? If you include a nice, cozy scarf or a nice, warm hat with earflaps, it may confuse the recipient less, but I assure you, if you have any clue about the person's taste enough to get them a brass wall hook in a style they might like, that person will use it. Maybe get them 3 wall hooks in different styles, if you're unsure! Modern, classic, whimsical are good categories. Slate has an article about holiday gift guides that mocks giving hardware for the holidays, and generally I agree, but I have admitted this gift will not make most jump up and down with glee. I will say again though: everybody can use a wall hook.
Rule: Don't argue with me, Slate. Wall hooks 4EVA! Also, one thing most people don't actually want: Self-portrait holiday cards. The only people who want them: grandmas. And they only want to see their grandbabies. Otherwise, unless they're super creative, there's always the internet if people want to see photos of you. Last point: the formula here is, find a thing that you know this person needs to buy regularly, but might not want to spend money on. Buy a seriously quality version of this item. Not ridiculous and/or expensive, but quality. Heck, I would appreciate really nice toilet paper. Though I do only buy myself the best. Charmin 4EVA! (apparently everything is 4EVA today)