12 Last-Minute Christmas Gifts They'll Actually Love (It's Easy!)

Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words.
— Harlan Miller

That quote's got truth in it, friend.

Sometimes, we spend so much time figuring out what to give that we forget why we're giving it in the first place. Our presents become meaningless, as we rush to find something, anything to give just because.

This was definitely true for me last year.

I gave last year's Christmas presents on New Year's Eve. *shifty eyes*

That last sentence just made me feel like a terrible human being. Or at least a terribly disorganized one.

So how'd I end up leaving things so late?

Part of it was getting food poisoning last December. Being practically chained to the toilet was a memorable Christmas gift! I found it hilarious --- a story to tell when I'm out of this situation, I thought at that time --- but it sapped my energy and meant I had no desire to prep presents.

And a secret part of it?

I was tired of buying presents.

Stressing over what to get people (especially the difficult ones who never seemed to need anything) and calculating how to keep things in my budget over and over and scoring what seems like every store in the city for a unicorn of a present and braving the traffic to the shoping malls and wrapping 30-ish presents and---

Buying gifts that delighted the people I gave them to used to excite me. Last year, it just felt like a chore.

There wasn't any Christmas cheer in my gift giving. Instead, it was all about superficial obligations like following tradition ("Everyone gives gifts at Christmas!") and returning favors ("He gave me a present; I should probably give one back...").

That felt shallow. And stressful besides.

This year, I tried something simpler.

I decided to focus on the why behind my presents: thanking people for being in my life.

My gifts didn't need to be expensive but they had to show I appreciated each person.

If that sounds like a tall order, it's actually much easier than you think!

You can even do it last-minute (like, ehem, this week).

Let me share twelve quick ideas that have been a hit for me this season.

12 Simple Gifts Your People Will Enjoy

1. A Date

As they say, the best present we can give our friends and family is our presence. Sitting together at the table, talking, and taking time to listen is pretty meaningful, especially with how we often bring our phones to the table these days.

So how about giving your loved ones a gift certificate for a good restaurant, and arranging to meet for lunch or dinner? Free food with good company is always a win.

2. A Video Message

Whether your people live near or far, this will be a hit! All you need is your phone, a message to share, and an internet connection to send the video through. Just press the red Record button and you're good to go.

As long as the video isn't too shaky or the background noise too loud, you can make a decent message with just a camera phone. Or if the idea of filming yourself freaks you out, an audio recording would be pretty awesome too.

Bonus: Photos are also a great alternative! My best friend and I once prepped a Facebook album as a birthday greeting.
We wrote out our message phrase by phrase on paper, and took photos holding a phrase up in each shot (complete with exaggerated facial expressions and props). Think of something similar to a silent film and you'll get the idea.
Then it was just a matter of arranging the photos in the album so the phrases were in order. We enjoyed making it as much as our giftee enjoyed scrolling through the shots!

3. Classes

Does your loved one say things like "I always wanted to learn _____!" regularly? Enroll them in a class in your area on that topic as a Christmas gift. From baking to drawing calligraphy to getting a scuba diving certificate, there's a class or workshop they'd enjoy.

If there's nothing on that interest in your area, you can also find an online course on sites like Skillshare and Coursera.

4. A Day (Or Morning) Off

Who doesn't want a day off sometimes? Especially during the busy holiday season! Make that wish a reality for someone special this year.

Arrange to have all your recipient's chores done by someone else for the day. Take care of their kids, pets, and other demands on their time. If you want to go the whole hog, you can even arrange with his/her office to have a day off work!

5. Pampering Time

Some pampering time is always a welcome break. Present your people gift certificates from a popular massage parlor or spa. This would work well with the Day Off idea from the last tip too!

Bonus: If massages or a spa service are super expensive in your area, a basket of cute toiletries and bath items would make another good gift that's a bit lighter on the wallet. 

6. Upgrade Their Stuff

Is there something your loved one uses often that you could upgrade? It could be a generic coffeemaker or a ratty bathrobe.

Replace them with high-quality versions this Christmas, and watch them enjoy your presents throughout the year.

7. Grocery Delivery Service

Coming home after a long day to cook dinner and finding an empty pantry instead can be annoying. Help your friends and family not have to stress about food shopping by paying for a grocery or farmer's market to deliver things regularly to their door.

If your local supermarket doesn't have a similar service, an Amazon Prime membership is another option.

8. Your Best Dish

Have a special dish everyone raves over? Why not make batches of them this week to give to your loved ones?

With the holiday season in full swing, people are sometimes too tired to cook something special in between Christmas errands. Your dish could be a welcome treat!

9. Tickets and Memberships

Lots of events and attractions offer great tickets or membership packages depending on your gift budget. How about springing for some:

  • Concert tickets
  • Movie tickets
  • Sports game tickets
  • Season passes for local attractions
  • Theme park season passes
  • Broadway-type show tickets
  • Museum membership
  • Gym membership
  • National park membership

If the event or attraction you've chosen matches your giftees' interests, they'll appreciate them. Even if the attraction's a long drive or the event date's months away!

10. Jar of Positivity

Write compliments about your loved one on colorful slips of paper. You can also mix it up with encouraging quotes and thanks for things he/she's done for you this year.

Then get a jar and fill it up with all the slips you've written out. Tie a ribbon and tag to it, and you've got a simply special gift no one can buy in a store.

Your loved one can read all of them at one time or save them for when he/she needs a pat on the back. Finding your jar on the counter at the end of a tough day could bring out a smile.

11. Something Related To A Hobby

If your recipient has a hobby, buy something he/she can use while spending time on it. Some ideas (with the hobbies in parentheses) are

  • A good knife (cooking)
  • Guitar strings or other accessories for their instrument of choice (music)
  • A set of brushes (painting)
  • Seedlings (gardening)
  • Yarn (knitting)
  • Bike horn (biking)
  • Cool stencils (scrapbooking)
  • An inkpen (calligraphy)
  • Camera bag (photography)
  • Cloth-covered notebook (journalling)
  • An embossed bookmark (reading)

Notice the items on the list aren't necessarily expensive. Ask at a hobby store, and you can usually find something that fits your budget.

12. Photo Collages Or Memory Books

Did you and your favorite people just go on a fun outing? Put the photos together in a collage or album, and gift them a memory of the good time you had.

This idea also works when your giftee has just celebrated a milestone. For example, my Dad's favorite gift ever is a collage of shots and news articles about his best catch on a fishing trip. I have very basic scrapbooking skills (and have no idea about handlettering at all!) and he still loved it.

You could also make one on a computer if cutting and gluing by hand isn't your style. Programs like PicMonkey or Canva are available to use for free!


The key to gifting simply and meaningfully is changing what you think the qualifications of a good gift are.

It's not necessarily about spending more money or time (though you can do that!) but about putting in some thought so your gift suits the recipient.

Doing that shows how much you love them this Christmas, and they appreciate that in return.

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.
— Peg Bracken

Did this post give you some new gift ideas?

Tell me all about it in the comments!