19 Practical (But Heartfelt) Gifts to Give This Christmas

Emily VanSchmus
·10 mins read

As we approach the holiday season, we’re relieved to be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel—but the holiday season doesn’t come without stress. But as you shop for this year’s holiday gifts, remember that it’s been a difficult year, and a lot of people are struggling personally and financially. Know that it’s okay to press pause on the traditional gift-giving traditions this year if you need to. You can make a fun game out of drawing names from a hat so that each family member only has to buy one gift, and don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family what they could actually use this year, even if it’s not anything glamorous.

This Christmas, be sure that when you do spend money on a gift, it’s something they’ll actually use and enjoy. Plus, Christmas gifts can be a great way to help alleviate some stress or ease a financial burden. And just because you’re shopping for practical gifts doesn’t mean you’re limited to the bare necessities like socks and dish soap (although we’d be happy to find those in our stockings!). Think of gifts your recipient wants or needs, but likely won’t buy for themselves. A gift as simple as a voucher for a month of yoga classes or a certificate for meal kit delivery are thoughtful ways to help out, and won’t break your budget either. Of course, you can always make your own gifts too!

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways to give useful gifts that still feel heartfelt to help you get a head start on your holiday shopping.

Board Games

If you’re buying for a family, consider giving them your favorite board game. It’s a fun activity they can continue to do together all year long. Balderdash is a personal favorite, but they’ll appreciate any of these family-friendly board games.

Buy It: Balderdash ($14, Amazon)

Bamboo Storage Bins

You don’t have to know exactly how they’ll use the the gift in order for it to be practical! These organizational bamboo containers are pretty and functional, and can be used to solve hundreds of different organizational problems. Plus, they make an easy gift basket for a sweet snack (like a DIY s’mores kit!).

Buy It: Bamboo Food Bins Set of 4 ($50, mDesign)

Brown Sugar Bear

Any seasoned baker will tell you a terra cotta brown sugar saver is a must-have for the kitchen cabinet. If you’re buying for someone who is new to cooking—or maybe got into baking during quarantine—this under-$10 gift is a sweet gift. Plus, they’ll think of you every time they pull the sugar out to make a recipe!

Buy It: Terracotta Brown Sugar Bear ($8, Amazon)

Book Club Starter Pack

One of my favorite things to do in the winter is curl up with a good book. But new books can be expensive, and often aren’t something we’ll spend money on for ourselves. This Christmas, consider starting a book club with your recipient and gifting them the first few months of books so they don’t have to buy anything. It’s a practical gift and a fun activity to do together, all rolled into one. If you’re not sure what book to start with, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; it was one of the best books I read this year.

Buy It: Where the Crawdads Sing ($15, Target)

Gold Measuring Spoons

‘Tis the season for baking Christmas cookies! This set of gold measuring cups will help them bake in style this season. Plus, they make the perfect housewarming gift for anyone who has moved to a new space this year.

Buy It: Gold Measuring Cups ($23, Amazon)

Phone Sanitizer

Your phone is probably the dirtiest thing you own, but it’s one of the last things I think about disinfecting! Since Christmas falls smack dab in the middle of flu season (not to mention the fact that we’re still living through a pandemic), give your loved ones a little bit of peace of mind with the PhoneSoap sanitizer. It’s essentially a box you can seal your phone in, and it uses UV light to kill all the germs and bacteria on the surface. You can use it to sanitize any small item with hard surfaces: pens, toys, and even your keys need a good cleaning every once in a while.

Buy It: PhoneSoap Sanitizer ($80, Amazon)

Coffee Machine and Espresso Maker

If you’re shopping for someone who likes to hit the coffee shop every day, consider gifting them their own coffee machine. The Instant Pod Coffee & Espresso Maker makes it easy to make your own professional coffee drinks at home (which is great because the Starbucks trips can add up fast!). The machine is compatible with K-Cup pods and Nespresso capsules, so you don’t have to buy a specific brand of coffee. Pair it with the Instant Pod milk frother ($30, Walmart) for a truly gourmet experience.

Buy It: Instant Pod Coffee & Espresso Maker ($119, Walmart)

Sentimental Art Prints

If you’re shopping for someone that just moved into a new home, consider buying them sentimental art prints for their new space. Moving is expensive, and oftentimes decorations are last on the list. These engineer prints (large, lightweight paper prints) from Parabo Press are a sweet way to help welcome them home. Just ask for a few of their favorite family photos or art prints, and have them printed at 4 x 3 feet for just $30.

Buy It: Engineer Prints ($30, Parabo Press)

Anti-Bacterial Cutting Boards

If you’re buying for someone who likes to cook or entertain, a Fab Slab is a must. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. The boards come in all different shapes and sizes, and each one is made from a solid slab of wood that’s been treated with natural oils, so it smells amazing and it’s naturally moisture-wicking—which means bacteria won’t start growing in the board. I use mine all the time for making charcuterie boards, but it can be used as a traditional cutting board too.

Buy It: Fab Slabs Cutting Board ($40, Amazon)

Light Therapy Lamp

With social distancing precautions still in place, I'm anticipating going a little stir crazy inside this winter. This light therapy lamp will help chase away the winter blues by producing LED light that mimics the rays of sunshine we’ll be missing. The device has 3 different brightness levels and promises to boost your energy, improve your mood, regulate your sleep, and even enhance your focus. This makes a great gift for anyone who will be working from home all winter, since they may not get out of the house much.

Buy It: HappyLight Lumi LED Lamp ($40, Amazon)

Portable Blender

Anyone who is always on the go will appreciate this mini portable blender. It’s an easy way to make a smoothie or a protein shake while at school or work, and it’s already getting rave reviews. The blender charges via USB and can blend 10-12 times on each charge, so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to plug it in.

Buy It: BlendJet One ($40, BlendJet)

Luxury Candles

Candles are one of those things I always want but rarely buy for myself. A nice candle can be somewhat of a luxury, especially when you’re on a tight budget. If you’re really not sure what to get, or you’re shopping for someone you’re not as close with, a candle is always an appropriate gift. I like Otherland candles because they smell amazing and the packaging is gorgeous. Plus, shipping is always free.

Buy It: Manor House Weekend Candle ($36, Otherland)

Brooklinen Sheets

This year, give your friends and family something they can use every day—or every night, rather. The holiday season is stressful enough, but a nice set of sheets can help them rest and recharge each night. The classic sheets from Brooklinen are the real deal: The 270 thread-count percale sheets are designed to keep hot sleepers cool and cold sleepers warm. It’s a thoughtful gesture, since good quality bedding and sleepwear often aren’t items we splurge on for ourselves.

Buy It: Starter Sheet Set ($85, Brooklinen)

Meal Kit Voucher

One of the best things I purchased this year was a subscription to Home Chef. It’s a meal kit service that does the grocery shopping for you, so all the instructions and ingredients you need for delicious home-cooked meals are delivered to your doorstep each week. It’s a subtle way to help someone out with groceries or alleviate some stress for a busy family member since many of the meals come ready to pop in the oven.

Buy It: HomeChef Gift Card (Any amount, HomeChef)

Portable Speaker

If you’re not sure what to get this Christmas, a portable speaker is something almost everyone can find a use for. Use it to play music during an outdoor workout or bike ride, broadcast the game at your at-home tailgate, or queue up your favorite playlist while you’re doing housework. This one is waterproof, so you can use it indoors or outdoors, and you can even personalize it with a name or image, like your recipient’s favorite sports team.

Buy It: JBL Flip 5 Speaker ($89, JBL)

Yoga Studio App

Give the gift of relaxation with a subscription to the Yoga Studio App. It has tons of yoga and meditation classes available to stream, and will also put reminders on your calendar to actually schedule a time to practice or meditate. Buy a month or two for $10 a month, or buy a year-long membership for $70.

Buy It: Yoga Studio App ($10, Yoga Studio App)

Family Pasta Night

If you’re shopping for someone who could use assistance with groceries or meals, make it fun! It can be uncomfortable to ask for help in this category, but luckily there are sweet ways to help out that aren’t so blunt as a grocery store gift card (although that’s always appreciated too!). This season, give a family all the tools they need for a home-cooked meal and a fun night together in the kitchen. This gourmet pasta night kit comes with all the utensils and kitchen accessories needed for a fancy meal at home—including a pasta-theme cookbook they can use over and over. Pair the kit with your favorite dry pasta for a sweet and useful gift.

Buy It: Pasta Night Gift Set ($95, Crate & Barrel)

Day Designer Planner

This year, get them something you know they’ll use every day! A nice planner can be expensive, and it’s not something everyone will buy for themselves. Plus, they’ll think of you as they check items off their to-do list each day.

Buy It: Daily Life Planner ($54, Amazon)

Travel Essentials

While travel has been limited this year due to the pandemic, any frequent traveler will appreciate this mini luggage container for the trips they're planning next year. When it comes to luggage, Away is the top of the line: Their hard-shell bags come in sleek, modern designs and are made to last forever (seriously). Use the Mini to help organize your Away Carry On ($225, Away) or bring it on a road trip to keep all the essentials (a mask, hand sanitizer, and spare cash) organized.

Buy It: The Mini ($45, Away)