Gift Guide: For Parents

Parents are difficult to shop for.  They seem to fall into three categories: wealthy enough to not want to receive anything of value from their children; not-wealthy but have everything they need and practical enough to not want anything they don’t need; and easy to shop for (I’m going to ignore the third, why do you need a guide?).

My parents fall into the first category.  My parents would be absolutely appalled if I got them a gift card to anything ever. They would also lose it. They also do not want tickets to anything.  For years, my Dad would pay for his own Christmas presents and I would just do the job of picking them out (this worked really well for us, because I would buy him way nicer stuff than I could afford, which is what he wanted).  What my parents want is to spend time with their children, or they want help with annoying household tasks that they can’t do themselves because of their age and also general carelessness at tasks that require an attention to detail.

Good gifts for people in this category:  Anything new and hip enough they haven’t heard of it; something complicated that you can teach them how to use; something from an internet company they can’t figure out how to order from (one year, I got my mom and iPhone case because my Dad didn’t like any of the ones from the store and couldn’t figure out how to get one on Amazon), light manual labor (one year the husbands got my parents a TV wall mount and installed it for them.)  Every year at Thanksgiving I ask my Dad which of his kitchen utensils he’s melted this year and I replace them on Black Friday.  I also occasionally let my Dad sharpen my kitchen knives as my gift to him. He likes to feel useful. This was also his father’s day present.  

This year we are all going on a trip together.  Other gifts in this category are experience gifts in which my parents actually pay for the experience and the children do not whine about having to go on a dinner cruise or segway tour.  Is this cheating? Yes, if you define Christmas Gift Giving as Spending Money On People. If Christmas is about spending time together as a family, then it is not cheating, and is in fact what the holidays are about.

The second category, of not-wealthy but have everything they need and practical enough to not want anything they don’t need. This is the category that most people whose children are asking for gift ideas on Twitter fall into, so this is where I’m going to focus the energy of this guide.  

For the Clutterbugs/Hoarders:

L.L. Bean Colie Bags – I don’t think they are actually called this, but these bags are great. My grandparents each had a large one for their pills, I keep my workout gear in mine (also great for carrying two board games, a salad, and a bottle of wine to a dinner party). They are great for storage and for taking large amounts of stuff with you when you go someplace.  

Brightly colored charging cables – Easy to find in the bottom of an overstuffed purse.

Gloves – I can guarantee you that they are always losing theirs.  

Key Finder – I don’t know if that particular brand is any good, but if these are a great gift idea for people who repeatedly misplace their purse.

For the Person Who Thinks They Are Tech Savvy But Aren’t:

Tech accessories – cord keepers, grid organizers, cord control things, phone mount for car

Bluetooth Car Adapter – this is something that seems fancy and high tech, but isn’t really. You just pair the devices (you have to do this for the person, probably), and then make sure they don’t know how to turn off their bluetooth.  (Haven’t used this brand, but my MIL has a similar one and actually uses it.) 

For the Person who is Actually Tech Savvy:

Chromecast – I don’t really know what this is but it seems to be the younger, slimmer cousin of the Roku

Mini Wireless Keyboard – If they have a home theater PC or use their laptop hooked up to a TV to watch TV, consider a mini-keyboard, which is the size of a remote control and means that you don’t have to get up from the couch or plug in a keyboard or mouse to be able to navigate the menus if necessary.  

For the person who is going to be dragged into the 21st Century Kicking and Screaming:

A Kindle.  Hear me out.  This person is the only person who doesn’t have one yet, and it’s because they don’t know how great they are.  Trust me, they will adapt, they will love it.  My husband’s mother loves hers even though she still has a flip phone. Kindles are for people who like to read, not for people who like technology.  

Slippers. Some people, you just can’t help, but don’t they deserve to have toasty toes?  

A new Flip Phone. Purchased off e-bay in good condition, this will make them happy because they are no doubt worrying that when their phone dies a horribly, gruesome death, they will have to get a smart phone and they don’t want one.

For the Folks who Entertain:

A firepit – you can buy these at Home Depot or Lowes. If you have a backyard, you should have a firepit.  If they have a firepit, get some nice portable chairs for sitting around the firepit in.  

A cooler cart – these are fancy looking and nice for serving drinks at summer parties.  Also give you extra room in the fridge during winter parties.  

Portable Grill – If they tailgate or enjoy going on picnics or going camping, this is a nice option.  

For the Hermits:

Magazine subscription to something they enjoy reading about but will never actually do. 


Humorous coffee mugs

A gift to Heifer International or another charity

Membership to a group that they do not have to attend meetings of but want to say they are a member of/support the mission of.


Did I miss anyone in the hard-to-shop for categories? Anyone have other gift ideas?  

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