Last Minute Gift Ideas (You Can Buy from Your Phone)


I just went in to Target to pick up some diapers and it was a mess with Christmas shoppers. Our Target isn’t even that great—it’s a small store that exists primarily as a catch all place for students. I can’t say that I can think of anything I would get from Target as a gift, and after that excursion, I don’t have any interest in leaving the house until after the holiday is over.

That being said, I know a lot of people are out of time to have presents shipped, and end up leaving the house trying to find something to give. I’m here to give you a few gift-picking tips and a few ideas for gifts that don’t involve leaving your house.

Because let’s be real, I’m an INFJ married to an INFJ and ain’t nobody got time (or emotional energy) for that.


First, let’s talk about stuff you can realistically get at the last minute:

  • Gift cards
  • Subscriptions
  • Online courses
  • Food or drinks

Gift Cards

I know what you’re thinking—“I don’t want to get a gift card, that’s so impersonal.” But that’s not true.

With the right research you can make a gift card very personal. Plus, if you’re giving a gift card to a young person in high school to their thirties, chances are they are broke and they can’t afford to buy themselves what they want. 

I’m going to teach you a trick. Use their social media to do research—Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest—these are great gift giving tools where your recipient is likely broadcasting what they like and what they want.

  • Are they training for their first 5K or are they a long distance runner? Get them a gift card for a local running supply shop.
  • Do they frequent a specific coffee shop? Get them a gift card for that.
  • Are they trying to get into yoga? Look up a studio near them and purchase them a pass.
  • Is there a high rated restaurant where they live? Get them a gift card for it.
  • Do they want to do more traveling? Try getting them a gift card for an airline, train, or booking company or gift them some of your frequent flyer miles if you have them.
  • Are they a student, super busy, or don’t spend much time at home? Consider getting them a gift card for a food delivery service.
  • Are they interested in learning a new skill? Get them an e-course.
  • Did they just move into a new space? Get them a gift card for a place they can purchase furniture.
  • Did they get a new job or promotion? Consider getting them a gift card for professional wear.
  • Do they just post photos of coffee and books? (Okay, I think you can figure this one out for yourself.)

One important note on gift cards—make sure if you are giving someone a gift card that they can actually use it. For example, if you live in California, and they live in Wisconsin, don’t give them a gift card for In and Out, because it will be difficult for them to use without flying across the country. If you want to get them movie theater gift cards, find out what brand of movie theater is in their town. Don’t gift them a Costco membership if the nearest Costco is two hours away. You get what I’m saying.

An Alternative to Gift Cards

If you are really against giving someone a gift card, which I know is a thing Baby Boomers really don’t like doing, consider this idea—a couple years ago, when Ries and I first got married, his mom wanted to buy me some clothes. I had just graduated from college and my clothes were primarily a motley collection from Goodwill. (I really admire people who can put together outfits from second hand and vintage stores, but I have always lacked the fashion skills necessary for that kind of thing.)

It was a really nice sentiment, but we had wildly different styles—for example, we once walked into a Lily Pulitzer store and she said she felt like someone had crawled into her mind, while I felt like I was going to vomit from all the bright colors and busy designs. She really had no idea what to buy me, so one day we went to the mall and went shopping together. The clothes I got that day are some of my favorites ever, and I think of her every time I wear them.

I think this is a great alternative, and it’s a touch more personal. That being said, if you want to take someone to pick out their own gift, you have to make sure you aren’t critical of what they select. You’ll either end up with hurt feelings for both parties or purchasing something you might like, but the recipient doesn’t really want. If the recipient selects something you don’t feel comfortable purchasing, just tell them so, and look for an alternative to suggest.

Another tip is to tell them what you want to purchase them, so they know how many items to look for. “I want to get you a navy suit you can wear to work and interviews,” or “I want to buy you two games you would like,” or “I would like to buy you a new pair of running shoes.”



Another option to consider is purchasing a one year subscription of something you think the recipient would like—an Audible, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Xbox Live, Amazon Prime, etc. For some of the services I suggested above, there are family plans that cost less than purchasing individual subscriptions, and sometimes you get the added benefit of sharing libraries.

There are also subscription boxes that deliver different collection of items that can range from men’s razors, to beauty products, to rare coffees, to meal ingredients through companies like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. (If you’re curious, I just reviewed a nontoxic beauty box from Oui Fresh here.)

Online Courses

Online courses are another one of my favorite ideas for gifts. There are so many resources out there these days that you can find classes on baking French pastries, blogging, learning to code, do graphic design, use Adobe products, calligraphy, set goals, how to use a digital camera, etc.

In person courses are always great too—paying for a one on one session with a yoga instructor or personal trainer, a cooking lesson, music lessons, voice lessons, tutors or coaches for my interests or hobbies would all be things I would be elated to receive as a gift. For people trying to up their career game, etiquette, public speaking lessons, or assertiveness training might also be beneficial.

Any gift that promotes self development or self betterment should be well received—they just have to be selected and delivered with care. The gift should be catered to the recipients interests, because not everyone wants to learn calligraphy or ballroom dancing. Additionally you don’t want to say something insensitive like, “I got you sessions with a personal trainer because I noticed you have put on weight this year.” A better approach would be, “I saw you follow a couple weight lifters on Instagram, so I thought this would be a great way to help you get started. I know gyms can be intimidating.” 

Food or Drinks

Food or drink are probably the more generic options, but I have seen them done well! And as a plus, you can pick these gifts up on your way to Christmas celebrations.

Last year as part of a gift exchange at work, one coworker gave another all of the ingredients for a Moscow mule including the copper cups. If you know a loved one likes a certain drink, buy them the ingredients. I always think that packages like that are neat where the gift is several items that go together. But a bottle of wine rarely goes wrong, (unless you’re gifting it to a recovering alcoholic.) Plus if you’re broke like us, it’s a real treat when we do get it.

Another gift that is generally well received—unless your recipient is vegan or lactose intolerant—is ice cream. Companies like Jeni’s and Coolhaus ship pints of ice cream to residential addresses, so check both of those companies out if you want to gift a sweet treat. (We just featured Coolhaus in one of our “What I Love Wednesday” posts.)

Additionally, if you are good in the kitchen, and you’re gifting a young adult something, I think most people would love to learn more about making food. If there’s a dish you make that the recipient really loves, a great gift would be to gift that person a cooking date, where you teach them how to make the meal.

Clueless? Give a Houseplant. 

I think that’s about all I can think of for the time being, but I do have one last note.

Don’t give people candles or lotion for Christmas. I’m sure you mean well but they have become the icons of “I don’t know what to get you for Christmas.”

If you really can’t think of something, give them a houseplant. I don’t think anyone will ever be upset if they receive a houseplant. If they have pets, just do a quick Google search for nontoxic plants. We don’t want any pets getting harmed.

A few other gift ideas for when you have no clue: tea, coffee, sweets, any kind of spa treatment or gift card for a nice barbershop, (Because let’s be real, no one takes care of themselves the way they should.) reusable travel mugs or water bottles, a car wash subscription, a gift card for the movie theater, or a gift card for a nice restaurant where they live.


I hope this article helps last minute shoppers out there. I believe in you! It’s almost over guys.