It’s been a year since you promised your starving wallet and bloodshot eyes that you’d be proactive and prevent future holiday breakdowns by planning ahead and avoiding the nonstop shopping frenzy. If the idea of a calm, comfortable holiday season still sets your little heart atwitter, now’s the time to start compiling a list of good Christmas gift ideas to show loved ones your year-round devotion. Here are 21 ideas to get you started:
1. Give your best pal a ticket to attend an afternoon holiday movie marathon and pig-out. Bring a cookie or cupcake decorating kit and ingredients for whipping up a batch of chubby red velvet Santas.
2. No book lover’s collection is complete without a special edition of a holiday classic, such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit.
3. Tell your pajama-loving friend (you know, the one who eats Hot Pockets for dinner every night) that she can attend her own in-home cooking demonstration wearing bunny slippers if she’d like.
4. Show your crafty niece how to put her tactile skills to work making handmade clothespin dolls. Pack a stocking with old-fashioned clothespins, a few spools of embroidery thread, a preteen-friendly glue gun, and a fine-point Sharpie.
5. A countertop composter, which can be anything from an “official” in-home bin to a large airtight jar, is a useful gift for the city-dwelling environmentalist whose New Year’s resolution is to start a small garden.
6. Bring the holiday host and hostess a basket of fresh ingredients for making Bloody Marys or Mojitos and you might be invited to attend a cocktail hour at their Aspen chalet.
7. Vow to spend more Sunday afternoons watching classic movies with your parents if they promise to use a yearlong Netflix membership to explore new film genres.
8. Your spouse was probably too busy, um, studying to think about picking up a distinguished-looking coffee mug from his or her college bookstore. On Christmas morning, present your beloved with a cup of coffee and take a few moments to remember a favorite holiday home from school.
9. Give your dentally obsessed coworker a miniature Christmas tree decorated with fancy toothpaste samples, natural dental floss, and an adorable suction-cup toothbrush cover.
10. Modern sushi dish sets do double duty as tasting platters. Pick up a few different patterns and keep them on-hand as emergency gifts.
11. A dainty pickle ornament is always a hit, especially if your second cousin’s children are anxious for a game to play while the grownups talk turkey.
12. Permanently boost your boss’s mood with an insulated mug and removable coffee press. Pair with a bag of rich, bold beans and replace the morning grumpies with some extra pep.
13. It’s too soon for a puppy, but your animal-obsessed kids can practice pet ownership with a little piggy or moo-cow from the Adopt-a-Farm-Animal Project.
14. Your loyal babysitter will be thrilled with a decorative tin filled with S’mores ingredients, especially if you suggest she teach the kids in front of the fireplace while you change the baby’s diaper.
15. Fill a sturdy hamper with luxurious take-care items that the college students in your book club can’t afford. It’s amazing how decadent organic conditioners and shaving creams can feel after a night of cramming at the library.
16. Before you decorate the tree, spend a snowy afternoon with the kids personalizing a box of plain ornaments with a pack of paint markers, a shaker of multicolored glitter, and a roll of cheerful ribbon for replacing those drab metal hangers.
17. In case the new driver in your family groans over a monogrammed canvas bag filled with jumper cables, a digital tire gauge, and a First-Aid kit, add a coveted new CD for good measure.
18. Get your hands on a gorgeous photo of your aunt and uncle’s favorite vacation spot. Commission a local artist to create an original painting based on the scene.
19. ‘Tis the season for helping your child’s teacher get ready for the long stretch before Spring Break. A versatile work tote is a universal must-have for anyone whose sanity depends on organization.
20. If your brother or sister has always wanted to just get on a plane and go, a nautical map of his or her favorite would-be destination would look lovely near the front door.
21. Help your parents overcome those forgetful senior moments with chalkboard or whiteboard decals they can use to remember recipes, family events, and easy-to-miss deadlines. They might even remember how much they enjoy writing little love notes to one another.
Once you’ve got a sizable list in front of you, taking the time to enjoy a mug or two of hot chocolate won’t feel like a luxury, but a reward for honoring your promise to yourself. Now that you’ve got the blueprints for a season of thoughtful giving and wide-open afternoons, you’re on your way to becoming the rare holiday-lover you once aspired to be. In fact, you might even want to get a few friends, whip up a batch of homemade eggnog, and host a small present-wrapping party, just for fun.