Last-minute gift ideas that don’t suck

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last minute giftsHopefully I’ve done a good job in finding awesome gifts for most everyone on your list, but just in case I have failed you, or, in the (highly unlikely — right?) event that you have been procrastinating, here are some last-minute gift ideas that you can snag or create ASAP…

Grocery store goodies

instant muffin mixNo lie, one of my favorite Christmas gifts was a gift bag full of instant Martha White muffin mix packages from my sister-in-law. It was a crazy holiday season for her and she had to do everything last minute. She apologized for shopping for me at a grocery store, but I enjoyed having easy-to-bake snacks anytime I wanted for the entire year! I actually asked for this gift from her again.

veuve cliquot

Assuming the recipient isn’t in recovery, an easy last-minute gift is that of a really great bottle of booze — from champagne to whiskey, or put together your own hand-selected box of craft beers. If I have the funds, and I know the person would appreciate it, I like to spring for a bottle of my favorite bubbly, Veuve Clicquot (*cough* and hope they’re in the sharing mood).


holiday-paperwhites-plant-giftWhat about the ol’ standard — flowers. They’re pretty, and they make people smile. And floral delivery companies can totally deliver last minute. Or grab some from your florist, your rose bush, or the grocery store.

Baked goods

Photo by: D. Sharon PruittCC BY 2.0

Now’s the time to break out that roll of frozen cookie dough that you totally have chillin’ in your freezer right now. Or perhaps whip up some muffins. Bake a cake, and write “your gift” on it in icing! Who cares that it’s last-minute — everyone loves baked goods.

Something-of-the-month club

k-cup of the monthSomething-of-the-month clubs are awesome — the gift that keeps on giving! And, with most of them, a gift announcement will automatically be sent to the recipient within one day of placing your order! Check out some of my favorite finds:

Mason jars

Screw the lid tightly onto the jar and shakeMason jars make the fucking world go ’round, I swear. You can turn a Mason jar into anything.

Gift certificates

81dUou21-eL._SL1500_Last of all, gift certificates, gift certificates, gift certificates. Amazon is my A #1 top choice. You can get freaking ANYTHING from there, and at the last-minute they offer email delivery and free one-day shipping! Seriously, stop reading now and get clicking over to their awesome choices of gift tins and themed-cards. Speaking of Amazon…

Amazon Prime

gifting_landing_hero._V358888249_Quick: Sign up for Amazon Prime. You can actually get a free trial, which means, if don’t want to pay for the monthly service, you can still take advantage of their two-day shipping on any of their Prime-eligible items. Or you can even give the gift of Amazon Prime!

Alright, guys. I hope these guides served you well this holiday season. Now it’s your turn to let us in on all your last-minute gift giving procedures!

Comments on Last-minute gift ideas that don’t suck

  1. Totally agree with a lot of these ideas – the grocery store one is something that we fall back on from time to time for a few people that are hard to buy for. We tend to buy bits and pieces for a themed hamper for something that person enjoys (a curry making or baking kit for example) that are a little bit fancier than we’d usually buy/our relatives would buy for themselves and so far they’ve all been well received! It’s amazing how fancy you can make the simplest things look with a bit of ribbon and tissue paper πŸ™‚
    We also try to make something for everyone each year, in the last few years we’ve done needle felted decorations, gingerbread houses and this year we’ve done little boxes of cookies for everyone.

  2. Amazon Prime is both my blessing and my bane. I love the free two-day shipping, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t cause me to impulse buy a LOOOOT MORE. “Eh, the shipping is free!”

    I have to second the food, though. When I was in college (and even now), I usually got a stocking full of things like Kraft macaroni and cheese, sauces, spices, etc.. Always appreciated. (As well as stuff like toilet paper, trash bags and paper towels .. stuff I hated spending money on myself.)

    Another easy, last-minute idea: homemade vanilla. You have to let it “steep” for a few weeks, but you can totally just give your giftees a note like “open this before six weeks have passed and you will rue.”

    Or something a little more friendly, whatever

    • Amazon prime is so amazing. Absolutely worth it every year.

      I tried the vanilla this year, but it’s not done steeping yet so I can’t tell you how it came out!

  3. good olive oil is my go to last minute gift. I live a few blocks from an old Italian market and just take a stroll around the market grabbing fancy bottles of Italian olive oil. Since I have absolutely no olive oil knowledge I just pick bottles that catch my eye and are in what ever price point I had set for myself.

  4. My mum put together a amazing hamper for me each Christmas of things she knew I found hard to find or couldn’t afford, like organic pesto and fancy stock powder and it made me happy for the rest of the year. Lovely present for anyone skint!

  5. My partner’s Grandmother buys one or two extra non-perishable items at the grocery store every week, and puts them aside in a bag for us for Christmas every year, and it is AWESOME.
    It’s usually tinned spaghetti, and microwave pasta and stuff, but it’s so handy. I’m dairy / gluten / meat free, and the boy -definitely- isn’t, so there’s always food for him in the house when I’m not home / don’t want to cook.
    She also puts in heaps of toiletries and cleaning products, if she gets them on special, which is great because they can be expensive!

  6. Great ideas and don’t even look like “oh crap, I just bought something for you very last minute” type gifts.

    I second the grocery store gifts, if you can theme them a bit so they look put together, they are great! I bought a mixing bowl, spatula, measuring spoons and several fancy instant pancake mixes for my best friend who LOVES pancakes. And I bought my friend who bakes some Vanilla Bean Paste from William Sonoma, which was one of those splurge items I knew she’d love, but wouldn’t buy for herself.

    The only thing to look out for with those gifts, is to make sure you buy something the person is going to enjoy and actually use. Nothing worse than receiving something you’re allergic to, or you don’t know what to do with.

  7. I feel like the people in my life think that Amazon gift cards are a cop out, but really, seriously, I have a wishlist with about 300 books on it, please just give me bookmoney!! ;-P

    • My dad just discovered that these are a last minute gift I LOVE because I can use it right for my Kindle, or download movies, and buy school books. Total win!

  8. For a white elephant gift giving party, one gift that goes over really well in my family is a pack of scratch-off lottery tickets.
    This is something I wouldn’t normally buy for myself, and it’s fun to scratch them off and see if I’ve won. Where gift amounts are really small (less than $10) you can give a big pack of $1 cards, or give a mix of $2, $3, and $5 lotto tickets.

  9. You do need a couple days, but one of my new last minute gifts is DIY coasters. I am giving 4 sets this year. I bought a box of tiles at the Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity store), but I’ve also bought at Lowes and Home Depot for just a couple. Mod Podge and clear spray paint or another sealant/protector, some glue and felt or cork, and some fun paper. That’s all! I bought vintage sewing patterns to make some for one friend, a cheap comic book to do some for others. Cardstock or old cards work a bit better since they don’t warp as badly as thinner papers. I did it in two evenings just to give some drying time bu you could do it in a day if you have a weekend day or are home. Most of the time is just letting things dry.

    Also a fan of baked goods. Target has cute little food safe tins for $2 tat are great, or you can repurpose Pringles cans or even aluminum foil or plastic wrap boxes.

    Love the idea of food hampers though!

  10. An Amazon gift card or Amazon Prime are just about the only gifts that would be so insulting to me that I would probably cry upon opening them. They are single-handedly doing all they can to destroy both local business and the publishing industry, while obviously caring about nothing but the supremacy of their business. I encourage everyone to research their treatment of their employees, competitors and vendors and see if they feel comfortable continuing to support them.

    I know this website is an affiliate (at least until they cancel your account because your home state supports sales tax fairness), and that’s actually one of the reasons I’ve all but decided to stop visiting. What used to be a website about embracing the unique and individual has increasingly become about pointing people to different merchandise commodifying and homogenizing nerd culture. Embracing Amazon and other similar business models is exactly the opposite of everything I think of when I picture an offbeat home and life.

    I know something here has probably violated the no-drama policy. I’ve tried to be as constructive and non-hostile as possible while still stating my case. I hope that means people will be allowed to read and respond.

    • This is actually a really good point. I do have several friends who feel the same as you, and would be very disappointed in an Amazon gift card or “Prime” account.
      I think my point is: be a good gifter and pay attention at least a little bit to the person you’re gifting to.

    • I agree. I got into Offbeat Home, then thought there was too much of an emphasis on consumerism but decided to keep reading. Lately (the past two months or so) I think it’s grown. Your comment has helped me make the decision to stop coming here.

    • I know something here has probably violated the no-drama policy.

      Sarah, ain’t nuthin’ high drama about it! Thanks for the feedback, which I’ll definitely be talking with the editors about.

      I personally have a soft spot for Amazon because A) they’re local to me B) freelancing for them 15 years ago was a critical foundation for my early writing career C) Jeff Bezos gave $2.5mil to support WA’s marriage equality laws… but I absolutely respect that some people may not share my views. I trust each reader to make their own purchasing decisions, and of course their own choices about what websites to read, too.

      On a meta note: it’s fascinating for me to observe the pattern of how many readers have chosen this week as the time to tell us that they will no longer be reading the site. I assume it’s a ripple effect from the reader survey, with everyone getting into feedback mode… but it’s still pretty remarkable. Also interesting patterns: each departing reader appears to be a first-time commenter, and each has a different reason for leaving.

      The good news here is this week has really empowered readers to speak up, which is awesome. It’s too bad that it’s letting us know why we’ve lost them as readers, but it’s still fascinating! Thanks for the insights, everyone.

      • I really appreciate the classy way you’re handling constructive criticism. πŸ™‚ I would continue reading anyway, but this helps confirm that decision. Thanks for the content, as well…I try to personalize gifts as much as possible, and often end up making up a thrift store package or finding something obscure locally, but I still enjoy knowing my options. Happy Holidays, and I hope everyone enjoys the winter season!

    • I don’t disagree with your concerns about Amazon–really, I don’t. But I think it’s important to recognize that not everyone is in the same place in life. For someone with limited mobility and income, for people in remote locations who don’t have access to small stores, for overworked and underpaid folks … things like Amazon credit or a free Prime subscription could be lifesavers.

      I don’t deny that there are some larger systematic issues at play here–but while we’re busy dismantling them, let’s keep in mind that it takes a lot of privilege to be able to say, “I only shop local, independent retailers.”

  11. One of the things I would LOVE for Christmas is a gift bag full of baking staples like flour, sugar, brown sugar, etc. I go through that stuff like crazy. I would so much rather have supplies for my baking than, say, a oven mitts that say “Kiss the Baker.” One of the typical gift-giving attitudes is that the gift has to be something that will last, because otherwise it’s just about buying something for someone, right? A gift that lasts says “You can think about me when you use this.” And some lasting gifts are badass awesome. But sometimes you just need more of the stuff you go through too quickly. There have to be some crafters here who agree with me.

    • I think consumables are a great gift. A lot of friends and family are either trying to pare down their belongings, are in temporary (student-type) or shared housing, or even just don’t want a lot of stuff. Food or craft items that will get used and enjoyed instead of ending up as long lasting clutter might really be appreciated!

    • For some reason, I love themed gifts. So just flour and other consumables would be “what.” But flour, sugar, a cookbook, and maybe some neat-looking measuring spoons (like those brightly colored collapsible ones i always think about buying but never splurge on?)? That would be cool! Just muffin mix? Eh… Muffin mix and nifty-looking tin liners and sprinkles? Heck yeah!

      My go-to easy last-minute gift is a DVD (or voucher for RedBox rental), a box of microwave popcorn, and soda/beer/hard lemonade for a “movie night” package. You could also toss in some candy or maybe a pair of slippers or hot cocoa mix.

      • Oh yeah, I would love getting measuring cups and cute muffin liners. I don’t think my husband knew someone could get so excited about a pastry brush. Spicing up consumables with complementary useful stuff is a great idea.

    • In a similar vein, there’s this idea that a gift has to be something “special.” Special can be nice, but I’d generally prefer a cool version of something I’ll use all the time–like, a well-made pair of comfy socks, instead of a fancy piece of jewelry that I can’t wear to work.

      • All of my favorite gifts have been really good versions of something I use every day. My most pragmatic brother bought me a hat once, one of those sweater patterned numbers, but in black and white to match everything, and with a really good fleece lining under the knit…I swear, that hat saved my life on a few cold walks to work… One of the best things I’ve bought myself was a pair of angora mix socks on clearance for $3…warm as can be, super soft, but durable, and I wear them all winter long every chance I get…my mom bought me a washer/dryer when I moved into a place that was supposed to have one but had it yanked out on moving day! I had cold, sore hands and an aching back for 3 months of landlords dragging feet, and then she surprised me by announcing that we were going shopping for them. I have never been so excited about an appliance in my life, and, let me tell you, my laundry room is to die for… πŸ™‚ I don’t get gifts terribly often, I don’t get to see my family as often as I’d like and money is always an issue for everyone, but the ones that I do get have generally been very thoughtful and personal, and matter much more than the expensive ones I’ve gotten…fancy jewelry has only been cherished because I know it meant something to the giver, but drawing me a warm bubble bath first thing after we broke down in the cold? That’s setting a high mark for others to follow. πŸ™‚

  12. As a canner, if someone gave me a couple cases of jars, I’d be delighted. I’m always out of jars. Hard to find sizes are a nice touch, but a case of pints would be killer.
    For the “nice bottle” gift, I strongly encourage people to go to their local wine or beer shop. Talk about what you’ve seen the person drink in the past, and the folks at the shop will help guide you to something lovely and interesting. And number one tip: Tell them your exact budget. Don’t say “inexpensive.” Tell them “Under 40$.” If the wine shop guy starts geeking out about a 20$ bottle and your budget is 40, take the opportunity to buy two.

    • Good liquor stores can also help you in this way. I love giving my international friends something special from their homeland, and I know just the shop that will let me special order one or two bottles of something.

  13. So for those of you with gamers in your life, Steam gift cards are also an awesome choice that I did not know you were able to get in stores until recently (late to the party I know…) I got my hubby one and I’m thinking about getting my best friend one too. Also there are gift cards for multi-month subscriptions to the premium MLG channels out there too which is kind of really awesome.

  14. Yes to grocery store gifts! One of my favorite gifts from my Aunt ever was just a bag full of all the grocies I love but cant justify buying because noone in my house eats them but me. So kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, fancy vinegars and the like. It was personal and showed how well she knew me AND it was super simple to put together.

    Now the bag of nice groceries is basically a gift staple. My sister and I each got a reusable grocery bag set filled with awesome grocery stuff as our channukah gift. Some of it was the fancy stuff mentioned above, but a lot of it was just stuff we go throughalot of, like salsa and paper towels. Between gifts and travel, December tends to trash the monthly budget, so a little extra savings is something we both found awesome

  15. Something to think about for after the holidays- how did we really gift offbeatly? For example, I called several gaming stores before finding one who had a collection of Pokemon cards and gave them my budget. I got 4 rare pokemon cards that rocked my nephew’s world- and were traded for many more cards. My 1st grader niece got removable body art and hair coloring kits. I laughed when I looked at the princess sophia wrapping paper being wrapped around the Thomas the Train books I bought my 2 year old.

  16. Those mason jar gifts are the BEST! I made some chocolate walnut cookie mix and put them into mason jars for people I forgot to get presents for (people I might run into over the holidays who got me something) and they’re so cheap and easy! You can even find templates for nice cards to tape to the outside of the jar with instructions on making ’em. has a ton of recipes for this kinda stuff, and I’m planning on filling up 20-ish jars with different types of cookies for emergency hostess/birthday presents.

  17. I just wanted to mention that though flowers are a beautiful gift, be careful what kind you give someone. My sister’s friend ordered daisies for her…and she got lilies instead. And lilies are toxic to cats. $3,400 later and her cat almost died of kidney failure. (luckily survived) So make sure the flowers you give a friend are non-toxic if they have furbabies. Just a little PSA. But yes, flowers are wonderful otherwise. πŸ™‚

  18. A great grocery gift basket: good-quality pasta sauce, fancy dried pasta, a package of crunchy breadsticks, a bottle of wine. You could add in pretty cloth napkins, appropriate seasonings, high-quality olive oil, chocolates … bam! Meal in a basket (or box).

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