The holiday season, along with the gift-giving frenzy, is almost upon us. While some people make a priority out of being thoughtful and buying the perfect gift well ahead of time, others put it off and prefer to take care of things last-minute. Regardless of where you fit in this typology, there are bad gifts and there are good gifts, objectively speaking.

A recent StorageCafe study looked at which gifts Americans appreciate the most, based on a survey with over 9K responses. The research also revealed which gifts recipients generally deem bad. So, as you play Santa Claus over the following month, it’s important to avoid these gift ideas and replace them with better alternatives. However, don’t forget that we’re not only talking Christmas gifts here – these tips will come in handy for your nephew’s birthday party, your anniversary and maybe even the next time you celebrate Valentine’s Day.

1. DIY all the way but avoid socks and sweaters

Most of us have ugly Christmas sweaters somewhere in our homes. Whether we know exactly where we stashed them or if we forgot about them until this very moment, they’re not coming out of their hiding places until spring cleaning. Why? Well, because X-mas socks and sweaters have been a Christmas staple for so long that they quickly turned into a tedious and underwhelming cliché.

If you do want to take the DIY route for this gift-giving season, consider other options that are less frequently given as gifts and could surprise your friends. Depending on your skills and the time you have on your hands, think about hand-knitted mittens, handmade necklaces or bracelets, custom wine cork stoppers, little Christmas ornaments or even a coffee mug if you’re into pottery.

2. You’re not fooling anyone: gift cards are lazy

While cash might be a somewhat appreciated gift — especially in some states, as research shows — giving someone money is not very thoughtful and can denote a lack of imagination and creativity, not to mention attention. Gift cards are a form of cash that looks better but limits the receiver to one store or place. However, you just need to take one more step to make that gift card really count.

Experiences are the second-most sought-after gift. Why not opt for gift cards providing experiences? More and more places provide gift cards for the experiences or activities they offer. Even if you cannot get one for the preferred activity, you can always make one yourself. After all, it’s not very difficult to make a reservation for your friend to go parasailing, book a massage or an entire spa day for your parents or get your colleagues to go kayaking or river rafting.

3. The only thing scented candles smell like is a lack of creativity

Scented candles might just be the ultimate no-idea-what-this-person-likes gift. Additionally, there is a limit to how many scented candles you can have in a room. If you’re out of ideas, don’t take this easy way out. You can easily replace candles with other decorative items for the home. You should opt for something that the person can actually display in their living room if they feel like it and if they happen to like the item.

If you don’t really know the person well and you’re not sure what type of decorative stuff would fit with the style of their home, there are still better options than scented candles. You can go with bathroom gifts that most people use but do not necessarily buy as gifts – bath bombs, toiletry sets, towel sets, grooming kits and skincare products are just a few ideas that are a bit more outside-the-box.

4. Replace sweets with sweet memories

Nobody enjoys unwrapping a box only to see and taste dollar-store candy or mediocre cake. While sweets might not be a bad shortcut generally, there are still a few better alternatives. Turning sweets into memories or experiences is, yet again, one way to go. For instance, you can book a table for that person (with a friend of theirs or with you, depending on how close your relationship is) at that fancy new restaurant everybody wants to go to.

If you’re looking for something small that you can bring to a Christmas house party, gifting the host a nice bottle of wine is a good alternative to candy. The same goes for a beautiful table set or table decorations that can be used for dinner parties. The recipient will appreciate these gifts and share them with other people. Gourmet foods or other sorts of delicacies are good gifts that the recipient can share with guests, and that will always pleasantly surprise foodies.


5. Make small accessories personal

Key-rings, key chains, calendars and phone cases are a few of those Christmas gifts that will bring out a forced smile and nothing else. However, individualizing these items can change that fake and awkward “thanks” to a genuine smile. Nowadays, you can personalize most items in any way you want. Get a cute key chain for your friend, but personalize it by writing a humorous pun on it. Likewise, you can buy a T-shirt with an inside joke for that person, or a phone case with a funny quote on it – anything that means something to them and to you.

Try to really make it personal. Any small item with an inside joke written on it will always be more enjoyable for someone than a dull key-ring with a miniature Eiffel Tower. If you’re not that close to the person who will receive your gift, you can still go for a famous quote, something motivational or universally funny. Ask a mutual friend about a show they like and get some themed accessories. Any sort of personal touch is sure to turn a bad gift into (at least) a decent one.


What do I do with a bad gift that I received?

Holidays are not only about giving gifts but also about getting them. So, if you find yourself on the receiving end of something that you cannot really enjoy, for the time being, storing gifted items in self storage can be a good option. The same StorageCafe study shows that almost 9% of gift recipients plan to put their gifts in self storage for further use.

There are many gifts that you cannot use or enjoy right away, so until the time comes, you can put these items in your self storage unit. This is the case for seasonal gear and stuff that you can only use at certain times or in certain contexts. At the same time, storing your gifts in self storage allows you to decide what you are going to do with them later on, in case you don’t want to use them. Donating and selling are a couple of options, but you can leave that thought for later and enjoy the holiday spirit for now.

Matei Idu

Matei is a creative writer for StorageCafe and has an academic background in urban development, governance and linguistics. Making use of these disparate sources of expertise, Matei has now turned towards the real estate industry, after covering the latest trends and projects in urban planning, regeneration and green city initiatives all over Europe.

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