Have you ever gone to the mighty internets in hopes of finding gift-giving ideas that will lead you to that one thing that'll make your person squee themselves? One thing I LOVE about the Offbeat Empire is the gift guides — for geeky folks, for the outdoorsy types, for the black-hearted bad-asses, for bookish nerds, for the host/hostess, for people you really like but hardly know… the Empire seems to find the toys for all of us, and lots of ways to wrap them up, too.
How do you make your own list for your hard-to-shop-for favorite niche-dwellers? Here are some tips for finding super-fun gifts for everyone on your list.
1. Inventory their Big Likes
Jot down a list of the things they talk about often, share with you, enjoy doing all on their own, etc. Being specific will help you find something specific. That means don't just write down "games" — because, can we all be nerds here for a minute? THERE ARE SO MANY GAMES. Card Games? Obscure card games? Cards Against Humanity games? Board games? Obscure board games? Expansions to nerdalicious obscure board games? Video games? What platform? Facebook time-spenders or super-deep-plots and self-guided tours of RPG lands? Shooters? Cooperative play? LEGO building? I think yeah… you see where this is going.
Don't just go nuts with the Big Likes though – the specificity is key. "She loves Star Wars" is true, but maybe "She loves Han Solo, especially that scene where he gets rescued in Jabba's Palace" will find you this awesome ice/candy silicone tray of Han in carbonite, rather than a randomly grabbed figure from the aisle 'o Star Wars. It's totally the thought that counts – but give it a longer thought and you'll find that even MOAR awesome niche item.
2. Inventory their Big Dos
What are their hobbies and down-times about? Some of the Empire's awesome lists are built around this. Are they outdoorsy adventurous types? Are they yarning it up? Are they writers? Artists? Auto enthusiasts? Burners? Homeschoolers? Bikers? Bicyclists? Do they costume up for the 1600's or the 1900's-that-might-have-been? Are they superheroes or superchefs? Couch potatoes or Couch-to-5K'ers? Film aficionados or YouTube surfers?
Sometimes a gift card to a "toy store" is such a major win. If their Big Do isn't one you share, it can be intimidating to find "the right thing" from their universe of awesome. Gift cards let you give them the gift of splurging on a favorite hobby. Being bi-craftual (I stitch both ways, personally), a gift card for fabric or yarn is mega-fun times for me to splurge on the crafty bits I'd never usually let myself spend the budget on, meanwhile a gift certificate to the sword store is never a bad plan for my partner — he can spend hours ogling the blades.
Want to find a little something that encourages their interests without going the gift card route? AWESOME. My best advice is to think with utility and practicality in mind. While some bikers may love anything with Harley scrawled on it, they may also be loyal to a little brand or shop that built their baby. Going for the more practical items, like a set of spark plugs (almost always the culprit when the bike won't start) or a travel first aid kit for their annual ride (with a sweet note tucked inside) or a set of fantastic bandanas make thoughtful gestures into great gifts.
3. Give to groups
This doesn't just mean you can donate to charities — which is an awesome gesture, too! Sometimes stepping back to give a gift to a whole family, your whole team, or your apartment's whole leasing office is a better way to go than to stress out over individual gifts.
Gift a "movie night" with a movie (or movie rental gift card) and some popcorn (you can even DIY the microwavable popcorn). Send a S'mores night, with all the fixin's and some music. Bring a card game for long bus rides. Send mix CDs (people still make those, right?) for road trips. Bring in disposable or biodegradable plates for your officemates to cut down on the dishes that pile up in December. Practical items and fun experiences make fantastic group gifts.
4. Give food and drink
This can be favorite foods or holiday-themed, or randomly awesome. One go-to for me: a "kit" with all the fancy hot cocoas, spoons to stir them with, and a plate of homemade (or totally store-bought, no judgment!) cookies.
Cookied out? Happens. Send mini honey jars for the tea-drinkers, flavored creamers for the coffee drinkers, gluten-free chocolate covered pretzels, and salty instead of sweet treats. Send hot sauce, local bbq rubs, the miracle mix from the farmer's market that turns cream cheese into magic. Have a mug of mead or a crazy-labeled wine and dress it up a bit.
5. Give nostalgia
Is there a local "delicacy" that folks who now live far away might miss? You know, that regional item that is so ubiquitous where you live, but has to be special ordered over there, where they are now? Maybe it's the convenience store chain brand of beef jerky you ate SO much of in high school, or the way they cooked the western fries, or the donuts that are only made in the early morning hours in this one little corner bakery.
Is there a shared experience you can remind them of? A book of My Little Pony stickers, or Ghostbusters, I mean Stay Puft marshmallows? Do you miss slap bracelets? Do you need moar Lisa Frank stickers to decorate your life?
I live where they invented Cherry Mash and Mead paper. Notebooks and cherry candy are the gift of nostalgia, going out to the folks who now live states away. Sent with a letter that says thanks for all those awesome memories and times and here's to many more when we're old and gray, nostalgia is a super-fun gift.
6. Give yourself
Do you have a bit of yourself to share? DO IT! Don't stress out over whether it's perfect or "enough" — if it's YOU for PEOPLE YOU LOVE it's both. Are you an enthusiastic baker? Grab some giftable bake-in-the-paper liners and go to town! Do you yarn? Practical, handmade snuggly things are made of win! May I humbly suggest crocheted dishcloths and a rub away bar for the foodies on your list? Do you love to perform? Send a recordable storybook — or record yourself singing along to Karaoke soundtracks, or rocking your instrumental solo — and give out your limited edition CD, with autograph, of course. In short, do YOU, just keep in mind your recipients. If grandma rocks her iPod, load her up with your personalized tracks, but if she's more old-school, maybe burn a CD. Don't sent the celiac a pile of cinnamon rolls, but totally consider gluten-free recipes. Is your grizzly mountain man cousin curating an award-winning beard? Maybe skip the scarf in favor of a bitchin' Jayne's hat.
Well, that should get you started, off the beaten (store) aisle, and into ways to find just the right gift for all the people in your life. If you like it, put a bow on it, and give with glee! Whether it's for the holidays, a birthday celebration, or just because you're thinking of them, giving something thoughtful is always in season.