Lifestyle

Holiday shopping for dummies: The ultimate cheat sheet for perfect gifts

Holiday shopping is so awful, it’s no wonder so many of us suck at it.

It’s not just the crowds and the cold-weather germs and the screaming toddlers in all the stores. It’s the endless consternation and analysis paralysis that comes with all holiday gift-giving, whether brick-and-mortar or click-based. With all that pressure, how can anyone blame you for sending out a cheese grater and a pair of socks to your 9-year-old niece?

Lucky for you, we’ve got your back. Here’s the easy, painless way out: online stores that offer a limited, hand-picked selection of the best gifts for everyone on your list. No Amazonian breadth of options to confuse you; no SkyMall-esque tackiness; no toddlers; no pressure.

Pick a site or two, settle in with your credit card, and you’ll be done with all your holiday shopping in an hour. Our list isn’t in any particular order, so just pick the sites that appeal to you most.


Wantful

Wantful is the best. It completely takes away all the pressure of choosing the perfect gift by letting your recipients choose the specific item themselves.

The Wantful product is a pretty, beautifully printed booklet containing 12 gift choices. You enter a price range and answer a couple simple questions about your loved one’s personality and interests; Wantful generates a list of great products for him or her. You choose the 12 you like best, and your work is done. It’s more personal (and better-looking) than a gift card, and it’s almost guaranteed to leave your loved ones smiling.


Etsy

Etsy ain’t just for humorous taxidermy and upcycled motor parts, folks. The handmade-and-vintage-focused online retailer is a village of micro-boutiques, and some will surface truly delightful, one-of-a-kind finds. You’ll find the expected assortment of rustic, retro, artsy tchotchkes, but you can also find beautifully designed iPad mini cases, hip laptop bags, and other thoroughly modern stuff.

The site’s holiday section is especially great if you’re looking for ornaments or kids’ toys to send as gifts.


Fab

We love us some Fab.com around here, and the e-tailer’s holiday shops leave nothing to be desired. Here, you’ll find discounted, unique gifts sorted by type of recipient — a shop for moms, a shop for pet lovers, etc.

Most important, the focus is on design with a capital D. Each collection is meticulously curated by robot elves with impeccable taste. We’ve been doing shopping on Fab for a while now, and we’ve yet to find anything but the most modern, elegant, and delightful items in its inventory. But shop fast; popular finds sell out fast.


Facebook Gifts

Facebook Gifts is pretty new and pretty dang convenient. The social network launched Gifts just a few weeks ago, and it’s been adding products and partners ever since. Here’s what we love about Gifts: 1) You can choose unique and elegant items tailored to your friends’ and family members’ tastes; 2) you don’t have to know their addresses or screw around with shipping details. Facebook takes care of the dirty work for you.

Just go to the profile page of the intended gift recipient, and above the box where you’d normally enter a message, click the Gift button. You’ll get a few gift recommendations off the bat, and in our experience, they’re usually spot-on.


ThinkGeek

If you have a nerd, scientist, graduate student, or die-hard Trekkie on your list, look no further than ThinkGeek. There’s a special menu (on the left-side column) for gifts sorted by price and gender, or you can look farther down the menu to explore gifts by interest.

You got a Mincraft fan on your list? They’ve got Minecraft foam swords. Lego freak? Check out their grown-up-enough Lego-shaped storage cubes. Star Wars guy? He’d get a kick out of the Han Solo Carbonite ice cube tray. It’s so nerdy, it’s delightfully embarrassing — or embarrassingly delightful, depending on your perspective.


Threadless

No one doesn’t wear T-shirts, right? But the Threadless holiday shop is ever so much more than just T shirts. You can find backpacks, stationery, gadget accessories, kitchen towels, and even pet gear in popular Threadless designs.

Of course, you’ll also find Threadless’ famous stash of funny, interesting, gorgeous, thought-provoking, and terribly cute T shirts to suit an infinite range of sizes and personal styles.


Svpply

Svpply is something different. It’s not a marketplace per se; rather, it’s a gorgeous gallery of collections, again curated by high-taste-profile robot elves, with items from a variety of online stores, for a variety of recipient types. Think of it as a Pinterest just for great products, but run by design Nazis rather than bored women in their mid-30s.

You can shop by type of person, type of object, or by keyword, or — cooler still, especially if you’re pressed for time — you can check out Svpply’s recommended local stores, sorted by city and even by neighborhood and selected based on the quality of products you’ll find inside.


Best Made Co.

Best Made Co. doesn’t have something for everyone on your list. What it does have is the sturdiest, simplest, and, well, best-made items for the butch and/or outdoorsy types in your life — your camping/hiking enthusiast parents, your back-to-nature sister-in-law, your would-be lumberjack best friend, or any other Ron Swanson you might know.

Best Made Co. is perhaps most famous for its iconic axes, but you can also find more practical items in its online store. The quality of workmanship is superb; each tumbler, map, and rucksack seems destined to last for roughly 900 years of adventure. And the brand’s simple, iconic logos and typefaces are a surefire hit with designers; check out the Best Made line of journals, pencils, and journal cases, or even its rustic Best Made Soap.


Gilt Gifts

If your intended gift recipient is more into conspicuous consumption, hey, we ain’t here to judge. Just head on over to Gilt Gifts, the home of all things super-luxe, for a look at the site’s holiday gift shop. You’ll find discounted items sorted by type and by price, each hand-picked from top-shelf brands in every shade, texture, and flavor of indulgence. There’s an entire section just for cashmere. Think about that.

Also, if you get stymied, you can check out the Gilt Live ticker to see what other savvy shoppers are picking out.


Donors Choose & Heifer International

For that super-rich retiree on your list who really does have everything (love you, Dad!), sometimes the best gift you can give is a heartwarming donation to a cause he or she really cares about.

Personal story time: My husband and I just got married, and since we’re both in our 30s and already have every imaginable household decor item and kitchen utensil imaginable, we asked our guests to make a donation and tell us about it as their gift to us. Reading those cards was amazing — our grandparents made a donation to an Alzheimer’s research foundation; a couple we love gave money to a first-responder organization for abused children. Knowing that our wedding itself had a positive impact on our community was the best collection of gifts we ever could have gotten.

Donors Choose and Heifer International are two safe choices. The former lets you choose an amount, then your recipient gets to pick a real classroom in need and donate toward a special project or item the kids need. Who doesn’t love supporting kids and education? Heifer is all about creating sustainable animal husbandry in the developing world. E.g., you buy a flock of chicks for a family, and the family then passes on some of the chicks to another family in need, creating a positive chain reaction in the community.

We’ve got a whole ‘nother list of great charities for holiday gift-giving, so check that out if you’d like more options.

Top image courtesy of Miriam Doerr, Shutterstock. All other images from the e-commerce websites mentioned in the article.

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