It's that time of year again -- the cold weather is back, the decorations are up, and you've forgotten to get a gift for someone that's definitely bought a gift for you. Well, maybe "forgot" is too kind. You knew about this all year and just didn't make buying gifts a priority, like the selfish jerk that you are (kidding, kidding, we think).
Well, the good news is that as long as there's still time to hit up a big-box store, or a pharmacy, or a gas-station shop (maybe), there's probably still time to figure something out. Just remember: Cleverness can mask your procrastination best, or even just make it funny that you clearly bought it on the way over. Also, these 11 suggestions generally only apply to friends and relatives who exchange cheap gifts with you. If it's your mom or significant other, you're probably screwed. What were you thinking?
1. That thing you borrowed and never returned, until now
A bold move for a gift, since you've basically been holding your friend's property hostage for a while, but hey -- you're reading this list, so you're probably kind of a freeloader. He might be thrilled to get back the movies, books, and/or money you've withheld for so long he doesn't remember lending them to you. Supplement with some booze and you're good to go, hopefully.
2. Something cheap that represents a deep, shared experience
There’s an episode in the first season of Breaking Bad when Walter White gives a bag of ramen noodles to his rich college buddy as a birthday present. Everyone at the party is confused, but the friend is touched, laughing and recalling all the times they made the noodles as a cheap, quick meal while they were poor and working hard. So, maybe there’s something out there you can get for under a buck that will throw your friend into a wave of happy nostalgia. Hopefully it’s not laced with nearly as much resentment as it was with salt.
Can’t get much safer than this. But don’t just buy what looks good to you –- think about the person you’re buying for and what they like. If you know what they usually drink, try to get something similar but a small step up in quality. If there’s a microbrewery nearby (assuming they like beer), getting a growler filled up is a great option since it looks more thoughtful, and you can probably coax your friend to drink it all over the next few hours since it won’t taste as good after tonight.
4. The Bargain DVD Bin
For friends who are fond of movie nights –- particularly old, bad movies –- look no further than your local big box store’s bargain bin for crappy action and horror flicks from the old days. Watching a collection of mistimed explosions, plot holes, overly long chase scenes, and hilariously fake gore should provide some good laughs for a couple hours.
5. Their Favorite Snack
Hopefully, you’re catering to low gift standards here. If you’re not, you better get the nicest chocolates you can find for mom or your significant other (or some other high-end food they love). If you know your friend is, say, a peanut M&M or zebra cake fiend, that’s an easy gift they’ll appreciate, unless of course, they’ve been trying to kick the habit for a while (they probably have, but hey, it’s the holidays –- time to relax a bit).
6. Tickets to a Thing
A foolproof, significant last-minute gift, since you can literally go online a few minutes before and buy tickets to just about anything. Several studies have shown that most people prefer experiences to physical things anyway, so if you can, forget about all the other options given in this list –- they’re trash compared to this! Sporting events can be great, and relatively cheap if the recipient doesn’t mind sitting in the nosebleeds (of course, good seats for a big game can be prohibitively expensive). Some pricier options include beer festivals, concerts, shows and, if you really want to impress the lady, the opera. If you can find the right thing quickly, it’ll seem like you thought this out months ago (probably not actually, but you’ll still be in the clear).
7. Snuggie Blanket
One of the most infamous products in recent years, we’ve all laughed at those terrible Snuggie ads that show families who couldn’t be more thrilled to be turned into a group of shapeless blankets with only heads and hands poking out. But the thing is, this product has flourished because past all the campiness, people have actually used this product –- who wants to reach their arms over their blankets to change the channel or eat popcorn? What is this, the Middle Ages? Users also quickly get over how ridiculous they look wearing it when they realize they’re not trying to impress anyone while sitting around the house in sweatpants and a 1996 Olympics T-shirt.
8. A Book
Unless you have the perfect novel or biography in mind for the recipient, it’s tough to pick out a book they’ll definitely crack open. On that note, did you know only about a quarter of books given as holiday gifts actually get read? Well, we have no proof, but it might be about that much. So, try to get something that anyone might want to read without having to delve into 50 pages of backstory, like books by well-known comedians or scientists tackling weird questions, like in What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, which came out in the fall.
9. Flowers or a Plant
A great go-to for the ladies, although we hope expectations are low if you’re not supplementing those flowers with something. A plant is a bit bolder, but could be more appreciated if you get the right one (maybe a Japanese Peace Lily for a Hot Fuzz fan). You’re under the gun, so one of those mini Bansai trees might be out of reach –- just know that a prickly cactus might send the wrong message.
10. A Magazine Subscription
It’s always a great idea to get your friends and family subcriptions to Men’s Fitness! Even grandma will love it. Seriously though, this is a last-minute gift in the same vein as buying tickets – just get online and find something that applies to the recipient and his or her interests and hobbies.