Ten Last Minute Gifts That Don’t Suck

Running late on shopping doesn’t mean you’ve run out of great options.

Couple exchanging gifts

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You can feel it now, can’t you? The steady pulse of time ticking away as the gift-buying deadline draws near. You know that there’s always the possibility that you can still order something great, but with shipping being what shipping’s been, you think that might be a gamble. Outside of hitting the Powerball and being really good at sharing, what do you do when you need a last-minute holiday gift? It is possible to go to the wire and still find something that doesn’t, well, suck.

10. Something Unique

That sounds like a dodge, but it isn’t. “Something unique” means a gift that applies directly to you and the receiver that says something about your relationship. It could be a fresh copy of your mutual favorite book or film. It could be a framed picture of the two of you from that concert you went to together in college. It could be a marked map of all the places that you’ve traveled together. This gift lets you unleash some creativity to give a gift that only you can give.

9. Shared Experience

Axe throwing

This could create a new memory to reference in the previous gift. You know your friend or relative. You know that they’d enjoy doing an Escape Room or axe throwing or going to a particular play or concert. And you know that you’d enjoy doing it with them. It’s possible that you just give them an elaborately made card that says, “Pick the date, and we’re going skydiving,” with the information included. However you execute on the idea, it’s a great way to get an all-new experience with your friend or family member.

8. Collector’s Box/Subscription Crates

Subscription box

Maybe you have a friend or loved one that’s really into a particular circle of fandom or collecting. They play D&D in a group or collect Funko Pops or bleed Marvel. As an outsider to that world, you want to get them something for that interest, but you aren’t sure what they already have or where to start. Fortunately, a number of collector box/subscription crate-style services deliver curated sets of fandom material on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. With a little research, you can find them for devotees of anime, Harry Potter, science fiction, particular bands, and more. The boxes can come packed with figures, T-shirts, books, rare recordings, and more, depending on what you choose.

7. Park/Museum Membership

Historic Cincinnati Union Terminal building
(Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock)

State parks and museums often offer annual memberships that guarantee free admission with your card throughout the year. The state park pass is particularly great for the outdoor enthusiast in your life. However, you can level-up in some circumstances with a little research. Many institutions offer reciprocal agreements with museums or parks in other cities or states, in some cases dramatically reducing admission and opening up new opportunities for travel and day-trip destinations. For example, the storied Cincinnati Museum Center (whose design inspired the look of the Hall of Justice) has agreements with the Association of Science and Technology Centers and Time Travelers network at the regular level, and additional privileges to the (Association of Children’s Museums with a Family Premium membership.

6. Photography Session

A photo of a family

This one is particularly excellent for friends or family members with lots of kids or lots of pets. A photography session is something that many people think about getting, but don’t necessarily get around to booking. By giving this gift, you’re offering the chance to capture memories that they can enjoy for a long time.

5. Something Warm

A puppy and a kitten cuddle underneath a warm blanket.

No one is ever going to refuse a soft, warm blanket. And very few will refuse fuzzy socks. There are an infinite number of designs and expressions for both blankets and socks in the world; if you know your gift receiver well, you should be able to land on an appropriate choice.

4. Gift Card/Night Out Set

A couple dating in a pub

Gift cards can sometimes seem impersonal, unless they’re specifically targeted (teenage gamer + GameStop = no-brainer). Put aside the idea of the random coffee/restaurant gift card and get together a Night Out set for your giftee. Stack together cards for a restaurant, a movie, maybe a coffee shop or ice cream parlor, and that’s a date night. For the family, maybe bowling or activity passes and a gift card to a nearby pizza place. Elevate gift cards into an event.

3. Food/Drink Subscription

Giving a toast with wine glasses.

Subscription clubs and offers for food and drink are seemingly limitless. Monthly beer or wine? They’re out there. Monthly cheeses? Yes. Snacks, candies, chocolates? That’s a hat trick. If you know anything about your friend’s tastes, you can load up on something that’s appropriate and easily found online.

2. MasterClass

Gordon Ramsay giving a lecture.
(Sterling Munksgard / Shutterstock)

Seemingly everyone considers taking some kind of class on one of their interests at some point in their life. Whether it’s music, painting, acting, writing . . . you’ll find people that think about finding a good program and learning from experienced teachers. MasterClass puts you in front of some of the most famous people in the world while they show you how to do what they do best. Learn to cook from Gordon Ramsay. Learn about writing from Shonda Rhimes, Aaron Sorkin, Neil Gaiman, or Joyce Carol Oates. Get guitar lessons from Carlos Santana. Get basketball tips from Steph Curry. It’s all there, and it’s presently $15 a month for two memberships.

And finally . . .

1. The Saturday Evening Post, Complete with Archive

Norman Rockwell cover illustration of Santa Clause at a giant world map.
(Norman Rockwell © SEPS)

What? Not suggest the Post? Not only do you get six issues a year for $15, you get access to our complete Digital Archive. That’s 200 years of American history and culture from the pages of the Post. And you don’t even have to leave the house to send it.

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