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40 Simple Gift Ideas to Spark a Smile

I have a confession to make… I still have not started my Christmas shopping. Having said that, I’m guessing that many of your out there are just like me, waiting for the last week before Christmas. :) As a gentle reminder to myself, I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas for the holiday season. These ideas are not limited to just Christmas, but for all occasions. I hope you may benefit from this list as well.

The list is broken down into several categories:

  • Unique Gifts
  • Gifts that Touch the Soul
  • Books that Change Lives
  • Alternative Wrapping Ideas


Unique Gifts:

1. Seed Gift Wrap that BlossomsOkay, this is really cool. Imagine a wrapping paper that you will plant instead of throwing away. These are biodegradable paper embedded with wildflower seeds. Once you’re done using the paper, just plant and water for beautiful blossoms. There’s no waste.

2. Nepalese Recycled Silk Sari YarnVibrantly colored and unique yarn guaranteed to be a unique gift. Purchase helps provide an income to otherwise disadvantaged women while simultaneously using otherwise-discarded fabric waste.

3. USB Heating BlanketIs your boss too cheap to pay for a little heat in the office? Show your boss a little respect by buying an electric blanket that plugs into your computer. :) In all seriousness, if your computer is next to a drafty window or a cold area, this seems handy to throw over your legs or use the button clasp to make a cloak for your shoulders.

4. Solar Powered Night Light – I love these eco friendly items. They recharge during the day by soaking energy from natural lights and you can use them at night time as a cool atmospheric room light.

5. Tibetan Singing Bowls – Singing bowl gives clear, beautiful sound, perfect for beginning and ending meditation periods. Here’s a blue design with pretty packaging. I personally own this one.

6. Recycled Paper Coasters – Beautifully made unique coasters reuse earth’s resource.

7. Portable Solar Charger – Great for traveling. Charge your phone, ipod and other electronics.

8. Bamboo Cotton Bath RobesI’ve never met anyone who doesn’t enjoy a nice light-weight, soft-feel bath robe.

9. Solar LED House Numbers – I think these are just plain cool. Attractive house numbers which are solar powered. I love the modern look of these designs. Also very practical for the home.

10. MiniCardsMoo makes these really cool and attractive name cards. Get a box for your gift receiver. Be creative with the images you choose for them, or use existing designs. Moo also offers gift certificates. These are especially great if you have a teenager or twenty-something on your gift list. They’ll think you’re cool. And be proud to give these out to their friends.

11. Neck & Shoulder Relaxation Tool – I am sitting most of the times for my job, and my neck and shoulders can easily become tense after several hours. Here’s a nice little tool to help us relax. You can see a more attractive picture of the product here.




12. Handmade Paper Journal with Cinnamon stick closure – this also helps to support local artists from disadvantaged countries.

13. Avocado Scooper – This made me laugh out loud. It’s very clever and unique.

14. Compact Portable Speakers – Great for when you’re traveling. For under $5 you can’t go wrong. I own these and love them. They work with portable devices like the ipod, cd players, laptops.

15. Multi-Language Talking Translator – Ideal for international travelers, the Talking Translator will help you learn the pronunciation of foreign words. Search among 12 different languages.


Gifts that Touch the Soul:

16. Homemade Gift Basket – What do they like? Put some of their favorite things together, or put together a group of small things that you think your friend will like. I’ve made this for a friend once, I included things like: chocolates, a mug, a shirt, homemade CDs, books, etc. You can get a straw basket from IKEA, home decorative stores or from your local Chinatown. Get some party stuffers for the bottom of the basket. Or stuff it with newspapers and cover the top with colored tissue paper. Wrap the entire basket with clear wrapping and close the top with a colored ribbon. Your gift receiver will love this personalized gift.

17. Love Coupons – Make a little coupon book containing favors you would do for the receiver. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you can print them out from a word processor, cut it in rectangles of the same size and staple them together. Or if you want to go all out, get nice paper and a nice ink pen, write in each page of your coupon book. I’ll let you be creative with what you’ll put in the coupons. Here are some ideas: airport pickup, make dinners (can be specific with meals), massages, take dog for walks, babysitting, pamper day, etc. Put the coupon in a little box or gift bag. Recycled jewelry boxes are great for these.

19. Maid Service – Buy your friend or family a one-time maid service to clean up their place. Especially if your friend really needs the help. Alternatively, you can offer to help as a gift to them. You can find maid services from Craigslist and your local photo books.

20. Meditation Gift Basket – make your own basket containing incense, guided meditation CD or DVD (or both), meditative music, candles.

21. Photo box – a photo box containing photos of memories you’ve shared together. If you’ve shared specific memories with this person and have artifacts from that memory, it’s a nice touch to personalize the gift by putting these in the box. ie. If the box contains memories from a trip, maybe ticket stubs from that trip or small jewelries found on the trip. Here’s a hand-made photo box from Bangladesh for under $4.

22. Salsa lessons – Typical group lessons are about $10 and individual lessons are $60 for a couple. I recommend a group lesson. Dancing is a fun way to connect with another person.

23. Yoga classes – get a gift certificate at the local yoga center, or check out YMCA, you can get day passes for people for $10.

24. Photo Frame – get a nice looking photo frame and put a meaningful picture in the frame. Of you and the receiver, a group of you, you alone, etc. For example, my mother cannot get enough pictures of me. I think I’ll understand it once I become a mother. :)

25. Massage – People love deep tissue massages. Consider getting them a one-time session to a local massage therapist. It’ll be a treat that they’ll be sure to appreciate. If you are concerned about cost, many cities have massage schools where their clinics offer sessions for half of market cost. Or offer to do the massage yourself.

26. Cordless Skype Phones – use the low prices skype service without a computer. These phones will also allow you to connect and make local calls if you have a land line. I own the Philips VOIP841 and absolutely love it. It feels as authentic as a landline, and we bring this little guy with us when we travel to other countries for extended periods of times so friends and family can be in touch.





27. Flickr Pro Account – does your receiver take lots of photos? Get them the popular flickr pro account for large online storage and photo sharing for $24 a year.

28. Moleskin Lined Notebooks – I love these for writing ideas and journals. You might also like the 2008 weekly planners (also in small size).

29. Aerobic Heart Rate Monitor – I got this for jogging so I could keep my heart at its maximum heart rate level when I’m exercising. Part of aerobic exercise routine (which differs from anaerobic exercises).

30. Personal Timer – Great little tool to increase productivity effectiveness by giving tasks a limited amount of time to work on them. I love this little timer.

31. Digital Photo Frame

32. Charitable DonationsKiva offers gift certificates. Support loans that change lives. Or sponsor a small child inside Tibet for food and education.


Books that Change Lives:

33. The Power Of Now – This book shifted my thinking and changed my life. Highest recommendation. I personally guaranteed this book.

34. The Magic of Thinking Big – Excellent book suited for anyone on your list.

35. The 4-Hour Workweek – I’m recommending this not just because I have a secret crush on Tim Ferriss. This is truly a phenomenal book that will give you alternative ways to look at work and designing your life.

36. Guaranteed Solutions – Spiritual growth and understanding of our emotions.

37. Think and Grow Rich – Written in 1937, after 25 years of research on hundreds of successful people, he boiled down the core principles and shares them in this value-dense book.


Alternative Wrapping Ideas:

  • Banana Fiber Paper – Unique wrapping paper made from chunks of banana bark.
  • Waxed Hemp Twine – Instead of buying plastic ribbons for your wrappings, consider Hemp Twines. They give off that organic look, plus, it’s environmentally friendly. Comes in multiple colors.
  • Alternative Wrappings – try reusing magazines as an alternative to wrapping paper. This is a creative and environmentally friendly alternative.

Got a unique and thoughtful gift idea? We’d love to hear them. Please share with us in the comments.

Note added on 12/05/07: additional suggestions from readers which I loved:

  • GlobalGiving – offers biodegradable gift cards from the marketplace for online charitable giving. Support projects that change peoples’ lives – like education for a Zimbabwean orphan, pedal-powered electricity for a Nepalese village, or fuel-efficient stoves for Sudanese refugees. Way cool!
  • Reserve a spot in heaven – I laughed at this one. Yes, it’s a joke gift, silly but will make people smile. :) see washington post article.
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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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85 thoughts on 40 Simple Gift Ideas to Spark a Smile

  1. hey Tina, i’m back again to your blog for further readings. I just love this post on gift ideas. Now i have ideas of what to get for my loved ones. I bought ABBA’s concert tickets live in Malaysia for my parents last Christmas. They enjoyed the concert very much. I’m happy that this is another memorable gift of the year for them and for myself too.

  2. GirlyinNeed

    What a wonderful idea! This was great help! Try to add more idead though!

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  6. Jenn

    Please, please, please, never give love coupons!!!!!!!!

    They do not come across as thoughtful; they come across as cheap. Trust me, there are a lot of ways to give a great gift if you’re budget-conscious–this is not one.

  7. As a fellow last minute Christmas shopper, I am so easily swayed by the material holiday spirit of the latest gadgets, clothes, and toys that I often overlook the more thoughtful (and useful) gifts like salsa lessons or massages. It’s refreshing to see a list of ideas based on broad themes as opposed to strict budget limitations. I absolutely love the eco-friendly options, too. Going along with the charitable donations idea, another alternative gift that touches the soul could be opting out of gift giving altogether to shop for a local family that has fallen on hard times. Having done this a handful of times, it is always a necessary reminder of the important things in life and a great way to spend quality time with your loved ones. Great list! Have you used any of these ideas?

  8. I love these thoughtful ideas! I’ve done the homemade birthday gift basket idea myself and I can attest that this is one of the best gifts ever! Everyone loves it because it’s a whole basket designed just for them. I love Helen’s idea too of doing Christmas for a family in need. That’s a beautiful experience.

    Another idea for gifts that touch the soul could be personalized pennies. You can get them stamped with any word you want on a penny minted pretty much any year you want. It’s thoughtful and fun too. :)

    Really a great list. Will be sharing this on FB!

  9. Very cool list! Thanks for the suggestion! : ) I’m in a new relationship and It has helped me out so much!

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