You owe it to your friends and family to be a good gift giver. Rule number one: cool it with the gift cards ... there's always a better solution. Below is our list of ideas to spark your true gifting spirit, sponsored by our friends at the Murphy-Goode Winery (who believe in serious wine, serious fun, and doing good).
Every gift says something to the recipient. Another $25 to spend at Amazon says, "I'm lazy" and doesn't capture season's spirit. No one will be moved because you stopped by that end cap before exiting the grocery store.
Instead, give something that shows you actually care. Here are some gift card-alternatives with enough appeal to give to nearly anyone on your list.
1. Instead of a coffee shop gift card, give an Aeropress. This surprisingly simple device manages to create one of the best, most complex cups of coffee you can make at home. It uses air pressure to create an espresso-like concentrated brew, which you can drink straight, mix with additional hot water for an Americano, or add milk for a latte. And it's crazy easy to clean.
Recommended: Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker – $22.06
2. Instead of a book store gift card, give an actual book. Yep – they still have a purpose in the eReader days, and yep, books are still the best holiday gifts ever. If you know your recipient to be a screenswiper rather than a page turner, don't go for a novel; instead, give something that demands thumbing through, like a great standard-setting reference book that will be revisited for years to come, or a visually-heavy art book that's best experienced on paper.
- The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morganthaler – $18.98
- LEGO Architecture: The Visual Guide by Philip Wilkinson – $20.00
- The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich – $23.56
- The Gardener's Garden from Phaidon Press – $48.75
- DIY Type: 50+ Typographic Stencils for Decorating, Crafting, and Gifting by Dana Tanamachi – $17.79
- How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food by Mark Bittman – $21.00
3. Instead of a chain restaurant gift card, give a 12" cast iron skillet. The ManMade archives are filled with expressions of our love for cast iron cookware. You'll empower the recipient to make some amazing meals, rather than just buying them. These things work on everything from the stovetop to the oven to the grill to a campfire, and properly cared for, they'll last for generations.
If you suspect your recipient already has a 12" cast iron skillet, that's great news! They have great taste. Supplement their collection with an 8" skillet, a griddle, a Dutch oven, or one of those sweet cornbread pans.
Recommended: Lodge L10SK3 Pre-Seasoned Skillet, 12-Inch – $33.31
4. Instead of a hardware store gift card, give a Japanese pull saw. If you've got someone who loves tools, get them one they can't find at the standard big-box home improvement center. Japanese-style saws, like a ryoba or a dozuki, cut on the "pull" stroke rather than the push, as in a Western saw, and will cut anything from a 2x4" to a length of fine hardwood to a fallen tree limb.
Recommended: 210mm Harima Ryoba Saw – $53.99
5. Instead of an electronics store gift card, give an analog game. The folks on your list don't need the latest gadgets (at least not from you). So skip the handheld technology and give a good old-fashioned game. They're still fun, and they give you an excuse to hang out with friends. Murphy-Goode has some fine rules for classic games like Liar's Dice and Texas Hold 'Em. And if you're looking for some fun, proven board games that adults can enjoy, try, we recommend:
- Ticket to Ride
- Settlers of Catan
- Lost Cities
6. Instead of an iTunes gift card, give a Thumbdrive of Happiness. I gotta give credit to Linda Holmes of NPR for this one. I heard this suggestion on her "Pop Culture Happy Hour" podcast a few holiday seasons ago, and I think it's a great one. Presumably, you have a bunch of flash drives still lying around. So fill one up with great free stuff like:
- A bunch of songs you love
- A document with links to the best articles and blog posts you read this year
- Your favorite episodes from the best podcasts
- Images you love
- Video playlists that crack you up
- The best pieces from your favorite magazines
The gift here is not access but your thoughtfulness and ability to curate. We're all awash in free information and there's nothing like someone bringing us stuff we haven't seen before.
7. Instead of a clothing store gift card, give a serious pair of ragg wool gloves. Gloves are the sort of thing that tend not to be replaced unless you lose one. So give a stylish pair made of ragg wool, a weave of two strands of dyed wool with one undyed strand that, somehow, visually communicates "warmth." Style is all in the details, and these have got 'em.
Recommended: Our Warm Up with Wool Gloves post from earlier this year.
8. Instead of an Amazon gift card, give something that person would never buy themselves. An Amazon card used to be an invitation to buy a book ... or a CD (remember those?) Nowadays, an Amazon gift card is a chance to buy any blessed thing you can possibly imagine. So instead, give something the recipient wouldn't buy themselves.
Not something they can't afford, or don't want, but one of those things you know they want, but would never treat themselves to. This, of course, depends on knowing the recipient, so look back on interactions you've had and get creative. In a time where you can have nearly anything you can buy delivered to your doorstep in two days, give something that you can buy, but they never would. If that doesn't spark an idea, there are nine others on this list that might.
9. Instead of a fast food/fast casual restaurant gift card, give a really sharp lunch tote. Look, Chipotle may be tasty and convenient, but a Chipotle gift card is just not a classy idea. What's convenient and classy? Smart, nutritious homemade lunches that you can look forward to all morning. They're less expensive and healthier and, if you pick up one of these masculine waxed canvas and leather totes, a whole lot more stylish.
Recommended: Waterproofed Waxed Canvas Lunch Bags from Kaufmann Mercantile – $48.00
10. Instead of a movie theater gift card, give a movie theater gift card. Actually, this is a good one. Who doesn't want a free chance to go to the movies? So, why is there an exception to the rule to the gift card rule? Cause it's not a, "here, you buy yourself something," it's "hey, now you can really indulge your love of film." Just be sure to choose a theater that shows the kind of films they enjoy, and you're good.
What are your favorite non-gift-card gift ideas? Share with us in the comments!
This post was sponsored by Murphy Goode, but all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that make ManMade possible.