We like giving the “perfect” gift as much as the next person, but the “perfect” gift often is likely to be:
b) dependent on the recipient’s taste, which may be finicky.
c) all of the above.
The bottom line is that it’s so easy to get it wrong.
Therefore, we often opt for the practical over the sexy when it comes to giving. Plus, the “perfect” gift that’s actually unwanted or unused is a waste of money. Sometimes the practical gift actually comes in handy, making it the item that’s remembered the longest.
We’ll never forget the story of the practical gift that saved a family — literally. A young man’s gift to his parents — a smoke detector — sat under the tree when a fire broke out in the house in the middle of the night. Fortunately, the giver had put batteries into his gift. Even though it was wrapped and under the tree, the smoke alarm did its job, and the family escaped unharmed.
We doubt our practical gifts will have so dramatic an outcome but you never know. If you’re out of gift ideas and want to go the practical route, here are 13 practical gift ideas:
1. Carbon monoxide detector – These can be purchased as a combination carbon monoxide and smoke detector, or separately. These start as low as $14, so you can get one for everyone on your list, or add one to a gift with other safety items.
2. Fire extinguisher for the kitchen – Fire Gone has received some rave reviews because it is so easy to use. Fire extinguishers are even more practical this holiday season due to the huge fire extinguisher recall this year. Many need to replace their Kidde fire extinguishers with plastic handles, and probably don’t realize it.
3. Fireproof document box – Hopefully they’ll never have a chance to test if these work, but they’re a great place to store most valuable documents and items so that they are easy to find – or grab during an emergency.
4. Electric toothbrush – A thrilling gift? No. Something they’ll use at least twice a day? Probably (at least, their dentist hopes so). When you get a basic no-frills $5 model, or a fancy option with a water flosser, it’s a gift that keep them buzzing.
5. Rechargeable batteries – Rather than throw disposable batteries away constantly, they can recharge them. It’s a gift that saves them money month after month.
6. Electric blanket – Know someone who is always cold? They’ll be thrilled to curl up under this each chilly evening. You can even get an electric blanket for the car so they don’t have to wait for it to warm up
7. First aid kit – Grab one for their car and/or for their home.
8. Emergency road kit – While this isn’t a kit that will get much use (hopefully, anyway), it will save the day if the time ever comes.
9. Rolls of quarters (this gift is a winner with college students and apartment dwellers who need to feed the washer and dryer and urban dwellers who need to feed the parking meter).
10. New pillow. If you’ve read anything about pillows, they are gross…filled with skin cells and dust mites. Basically, these need to be washed and replaced way more than most of us do it. Yes, pillow comfort is a personal thing, but over 10,000 people gave this a 5 star review on Amazon, so we think it’s a safe bet.
11. Book of stamps. Yes, there are still folks who use stamps. Think of your Aunt Tillie and other relatives who don’t pay their bills via the Internet and who still like to send old-fashioned greeting cards by snail mail.
12. Photo calendar. Select photos for each month taken during that particular month so the recipient can reminisce about what they were doing during the same month last year.
13. Coupons or gift for a service. For example, the parents of young children would be thrilled to receive certificates from you that entitles them to a few hours of baby-sitting. Be sure to include an expiration date so they’ll redeem the coupons promptly. Other options are for yard work, meal delivery, car detailing, or oil changes – whether you can perform the service or purchase a gift card for them. While a restaurant gift card may be generic, if they dine out a lot (or would like to but don’t want to spend the money), the free meal will be a hit. Plus it’s a great time to buy these, as there are tons of gift card bonus offers – so you’ll both get something.
What practical gifts would you like to give or receive?