Shopping for a gift for someone you don’t know very well can be tricky. Not only is it hard to get it right, but it’s so easy to get it wrong! You also run the risk of turning a gesture of kindness into an inconvenience or burden. “As professional organizers, one of the most common items we encounter in our clients’ homes are unwanted gifts that sit unused because our clients feel guilty and can’t get rid of them,” says Ann Lightfoot, author of the book and Kate Palowski “loves your home again,” says
“Of course, it’s the idea that counts,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say, “but we recommend giving gifts that will wear out or be easily re-gifted.” Their gift guide motto is “Eat, Drink, Burn, Spend,” because those Gifts of categories do not have to be stored once they are used.
Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert and founder of Palm Beach Etiquette School, offers some general and very modern advice when picking out gifts for someone you don’t know well. “If you don’t know someone well, try to get to know the person,” she said. “You can do this by asking mutual friends or family members or looking at their social media pages (if they’re on social).”
Next, with the help of Lightfoot, Pawlowski, and Whitmore, 29 gift ideas for someone you don’t know very well, plus plenty of tips for avoiding gift-giving mistakes. Need more ideas? Check out our favorite gift ideas for women, gift ideas for men, Nordstrom gifts, Amazon gifts, and utility gifts.
Plants and Household Items
“Personal items such as jewelry, fragrance, and home decor can be difficult to get right,” say Lightfoot and Pawlowski, “so we recommend avoiding these types of items.” However, classic or neutral-style picture frames are a great choice for home or office decor. example, it is easy to match well, and it is also a nice gift for someone who is not familiar with it.
from $40 Nordstrom
While staying away from scented items entirely is one way to avoid gift-giving faux pas, you can certainly opt for a high-end classic like Diptyque Baies candles. This is a gorgeous berry scented candle that makes a wonderful gift.
$68 $48 windowsill
Small plants, like this adorable Hoya Heart, make a great gift for someone you don’t know well. The Sill is a great place to buy plants for someone you don’t know well, as they have a gift finder that lets you sort them by occasion and price.
from $30 Orti
A heart shaped plant might not be the right gift for certain occasions or to certain people, but this Silver Dollar Vine plant is for just about anyone.
$22 The Home Depot
All types of plants make lovely gifts, but orchids especially feel special and elegant. They can also be very expensive! You might not think of Home Depot when shopping for quality plants, but the brand has excellent options at nearly every price point.
“Avoid anything too personal,” warns Whitmore, “such as perfume, body lotion, makeup, or clothing.” One way to get personal without messing up the gift is with a monogrammed gift. Tip: If you don’t know the person’s full name, choose a single monogram.
Whitmore recommends asking yourself these questions when picking out a gift for someone you don’t know very well. “If you’ve met this person before, what do you notice about their home or office? Do they collect anything or have any particular hobbies or interests?” A travel book is for someone who showcases travel memorabilia or photos a good choice.
Useful and Practical Gift Ideas
CNN Underscore Best Test
20 dollars USD10 amazon
A practical gift, especially one that you can personally vouch for, is a smart way to be a thoughtful giver, even if you don’t know the recipient very well. This cotton sleep mask—our pick for the best overall sleep mask—is one of those gifts people won’t know they need until they own it.
$22 $18 amazon
As electronics proliferate, so do their accessories, and our bags sometimes can’t keep up with the clutter of wires and chargers. This tech accessory box solves that problem, which is a fairly common problem at this point, making this practical gift a safe choice for just about anyone.
Another practical gift idea that will suit many people is this super smart car trash can. It has a lid to hide unsightly stuff inside and a compartment for paper towels or wipes, so when dirty hands need a quick clean, it does double duty, keeping the car clean.
$22 $18 amazon
If the person on your gift list lives in a cold climate, or is a fan of cold weather activities, a set of hand and foot warmers is a very welcome gift indeed.
“Try to avoid ubiquitous items that take up cabinet space, like mugs or water bottles,” say Lightfoot and Pawlowski. “Most people get fed up!” Instead, think about these things and come up with a useful and thoughtful Gifts like this silicone tray that keeps ice cubes perfectly shaped for water bottles.
Disinfecting wipes are here to stay—and they’re getting a new look! Cleaning products aren’t usually great gifts, but an upcycled example in this form can be something that’s really welcome, like this attractive hand sanitizer wipes dispenser set.
This richly scented hand wash and lotion combo is another example of elevating an everyday experience—in this case, washing your hands—with a luxurious version of a household item.
$24 $16 Hello
A wet pack is a very useful thing, and this version from uber-favorite fitness brand Alo is a particularly cool form. Wet bags are great for storing sweaty gym gear, carrying wet swimsuits, or disposing of soiled kids clothes, they’re great for travel, and are a great gift idea for many needs and interests.
$30 rare commodity
Gifting food and drinks to people you don’t know well is a smart option, but there are some risks to consider. “Never assume that food or alcohol are always the best gifts,” Whitmore says. “Some people have allergies or dietary restrictions and can’t drink alcohol or eat sweets or nuts.” She recommends looking for specialty teas or coffee as gifts rather than alcohol to avoid a potentially awkward moment.
$40 blue bottle coffee
The experts we spoke to all emphasized that coffee gifts are a great option for those you don’t know well. Blue Bottle Coffee products are a favorite of our employees, and the brand offers a great selection of gift items, like this cold brew coffee set.
$39 bean box
“Even if you don’t know someone well, you probably still know they like coffee,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski said. “We like to offer a small selection of coffees and a few different options in case your recipients are particularly picky about what they brew in the morning.” They recommend this tasting box, which features four coffees and a delicious chocolate bar. “Coffee and chocolate – a match made in heaven!”
$16 per pound golden belly
A “gift from your hometown or country” is a great gift for someone you don’t know well, says Whitmore. Goldbelly’s are the perfect way to easily gift some of your hometown favorites, like pistachio macaroons (the author’s hometown favorite) from Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End.
When the occasion calls for a gift, the gift of food from one or more places can start a good conversation with someone you may not know very well, like this set of 10 chocolates from around the world.
$30 harry and david
Says Lightfoot and Pawlowski, “Gift baskets with a variety of food items are usually a safe bet because even picky eaters are likely to find something they like. They’re great for families because everyone in the family will feel Be included. We have been buying holiday gift baskets from Harry & David for years and have never been disappointed!”
$32 at the dining table
When picking out a gift for someone you don’t know well, don’t overlook the wow factor that packaging can bring to an occasion. This set of 8 pink chocolate truffles comes in a beautiful pink and gold box, which is a gift in itself.
$30 Gourmet 52
Chocolate gifts come in many forms, including this cheeky “Daily Dose of Chocolate” box of 30 bite-sized chocolates. Pick from one of their four flavors (Pink Sea Salt, 100% Cocoa, Oat Milk, or Coconut Milk) or a mix-up that includes all four.
$11 $9 amazon
Whitmore has a really clever food gift idea: Pet Treats! If you know this person has a dog, cat, or other kind of beloved pet, then having something for their animal companion is sure to put a smile on their face!
from $31 eBay
Even in an increasingly digital world, paper goods can be a great gift, especially since there are so many styles to choose from. For the younger or more creative, we love this colorful Junque diary with lines, dots, and blanks because it’s a stunning take on old standards.
Of course, you can’t go wrong by old standards when picking out journals for the unfamiliar, such as this classic Moleskine notebook, which is available in 22 colors, including basic black.
$35 $28 paper source
Personalized stationery may seem like a real luxury, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. This set of five notepads comes in three different sizes and can be monogrammed with a single letter if you don’t know the recipient’s full name and monogram.
$14:00 am eBay
While most of our correspondence is done electronically these days, there are times when a handwritten note is required, or when you need a card as a gift. A small set of blank note cards makes a very useful gift and offers an almost endless choice in patterns and styles, like these dragons.
fRum $12 eBay
“In some cases,” say Lightfoot and Pawlowski, “gift cards can be a bummer. But the truth is, if you’re looking to gift someone you don’t know very well, a gift card might be the most deliberate choice.” ’” They suggest making gift cards more personal by purchasing gift cards from local businesses like restaurants, independent bookstores, or gift shops. A personalized card holder is a great way to display gift cards.