Top Five Last-Minute Shopping Gift Gaffes to Avoid


Holiday Gift Giving

The holiday season is well underway, with celebrations and gift exchanges having already begun for many. Holiday parties will continue through the new year, however, which means little time remains for last-minute holiday shopping, and even less time to do that shopping online (if you need a timely delivery, that is). So, before you resort to stuffing cards with twenty-dollar bills or placing your orders for concert tickets in 2023, make sure the items you have in mind aren’t on this list of the top five last-minute gifts you should probably avoid.


5. Exercise equipment, gym memberships or anything at all related to dieting and weight loss. 

On the surface, exercise equipment like yoga mats, dumbbells, and whatever those giant bouncy balls are actually called, seem like great gift ideas. After all, who isn’t thinking about their health after two months of big meals and tasty treats? Indeed, gym memberships are expensive and dieting apps often exclaim how great an idea it is for you to purchase a subscription for a friend this holiday season but are these truly a good gift? First, consider your own dumbbells, shoved haphazardly to the back of your closet, collecting dust as they waste away next to Aunt Martha’s forgotten winter coat, circa 2016. Why should the fate of exercise equipment you buy for others be any different? Second, throwing a reminder that New Year’s weight loss goals are right around the corner is more likely to evoke shame during the big holiday dinner (and especially dessert) than the warm and fuzzy feelings of cheer. Unless you know for a fact that the recipient of this gift is interested in a specific item under this umbrella, then it probably is not worth the risk of sapping their holiday spirit. This is not, by any means, permission to gift them a fruit cake instead. 

4. Everyday household items, but especially those used for cleaning. 

Everyday household items, from cleaning supplies to air fresheners, seem like a thoughtful gift since these items are used frequently and consume quite a considerable chunk of any given grocery budget. Besides, who wouldn’t feel more prepared to face the coming year while brandishing a fresh, new toilet brush? While intent certainly matters, optics too should play a role when it comes to savvy last-minute holiday shopping. Consider that instead of savings, your recipient sees in your basket of cleaning goodies a hidden message that they should do a better job of keeping their house clean and smelling fresh. Whoops.

3. Scented candles.

Yes, you read that correctly: Scented. Candles. This might be a somewhat controversial item to dismiss, as nothing seems more intuitive than a beautiful, pine scented, three-wick candle in a glass votive, but beware. Not everyone finds the same smells appealing. Have you never wondered why grandma has an unused candle on every mantle, shelf, bookcase and toilet tank collecting more dust with each passing year? We argue this might indeed be less décor choice and more unorthodox storage solution for items of the scented wax variety. Furthermore, best to keep walking when you notice those beautiful displays of lotions, soaps and perfumes tucked into the thoroughfares of all your favorite department stores, and for all of the same reasons. 

2. Souvenirs.

Have you ever been on vacation and entered a hot tourist spot surrounded by a plethora of keychains, magnets and other tchotchkes bearing the name of your destination and considered purchasing one for someone other than yourself? You are not alone, but you definitely should not buy a keepsake to commemorate a trip to the Bahamas for someone who was not there with you at the time. Otherwise, rather than showing the recipient that you were thinking of them while you were away, your souvenir might be received as something more akin to salt in the wound. If you think the answer to this dilemma is plane tickets, please proceed to our number one gift-giving no-fly zone: 

1. Tickets. 

Be it a vacation or a concert a few cities over, anything that includes both a timeline and additional travel planning and expenses is not a gift most people are prepared to receive. Perhaps we’ve been conditioned by Hallmark movies and car commercials to believe that grand gestures are the best way to show our appreciation and love for the people we hold dear to us but, once the initial shock and awe subsides, the reality of all the peripherals suddenly crystalizes. The last thing anyone giving such a gift wants is for the recipient to receive an unexpected Form 1099-K from the IRS because they had to resell the Taylor Swift concert tickets you gifted them on StubHub. All because they couldn’t make the time or afford the additional expenses associated with your gift. Talk about a heartbreaker. 


Of course, more heartbreaking than creating a list that crushes all your good intentions would be failing to offer alternatives. It should perhaps be noted that the season of giving is about more than ensuring everyone on your list has something to open. It's about celebrating the valuable relationships between family, friends, colleagues and even clients by finding meaningful ways to express your love and gratitude. Sometimes, that can be done with a gift that reflects the personality or interests of the individual, but it can also be done with something as simple as a card and a few heartfelt words. Instead of handing out gift cards to your friends and colleagues, why not invite them to lunch, out for a coffee or to a movie so you can spend some quality time together? After all, not every gift has to come neatly wrapped in shiny paper and topped with a bow. 

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