what $100 gift would you suggest?
October 10, 2005 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm sick of giving bad gifts. Generally I spend $50-$100 and I always get things that *I* would like or gift cards to Best Buy. Instead of that, what sub $100 gifts can you recommend... other than an iPod shuffle?
posted by tsarfan to Grab Bag (27 answers total)
posted by skryche at 4:42 PM on October 10, 2005

This is a difficult question to answer without more information. Who are you getting a gift for? What is he/she interested in?

There's no generic "good" gift, and trying to come up with one leads to the problem you have now. Think about what the gift recipient is interested in, and make the present personalized.
posted by danb at 4:42 PM on October 10, 2005

Generally good gifts are specific to the person you're giving to, but I like to give expensive food items that people normally wouldn't buy. Like really great chocolate or truffle oil. Pretty much everybody appreciates good food.
posted by flavor at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2005

It always depends on the recipient, obviously, but I have some general tips.

I don't think that gift cards are ever a good gift, unless they are for a restaurant or event that the person would want to go to.

I like to give themed gifts with multiple items. For someone who enjoys wine, a set of cool wine glasses, a wine opener and wine charms. For a cook, a few kitchen gadgets and some fun spices or sauces (hit up Surfas in Culver City for great stuff).

I like to give books that I have read to people who read alot and make sure to tell them why I liked the book.

I also have been trying to give more consumable gifts to people. Everyone has too much stuff already. Things like candles, soap and lotions seem cheesey, but people use them up and think of you when they do.

On the lotions tip, get them something more expensive than they would buy for themselves, like Kiehls or some other trendy product. Giving gifts is really about getting someone something they wouldn't buy for themself.

Finally, listen to what people talk about. Giving them a gift that they want but didng explicitly ask for is always a crowd pleaser.
posted by jonah at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2005

Without asking you to be more specific, the first thing I consider is the availability of the gift. I personally don't want to receive something I can afford and can buy anywhere, like an iPod. So when buying for others I generally start by looking at things not available on the high street. Gifts that, even if they are not appreciated on a functional level, still retain some "wow factor" because they are customised, hand made, well made, imported, out of the ordinary in some way. It doesn't have to be expensive or snobby, and you can apply this criteria to almost any type of gift and tailor it to any recipient.
posted by fire&wings at 4:52 PM on October 10, 2005

I'm with flavor, great gifts are ones that the recipient would enjoy but either wouldn't spend the money on themselves or doesn't know about the gift in the first place.

I had a friend who recently *really* got into reading literature, so I got him a moleskin to keep notes/quotes in for his birthday.

Along the lines of the plush microbes, plush Cthulhu.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:57 PM on October 10, 2005

Response by poster: Good leads... and to answer the questions: most of my friends are in their 30s, pretty hip, semi-trendy but not in a gross way (it's hard not to be aware of trends here in Hollywood), and are starting to have kids.
posted by tsarfan at 5:09 PM on October 10, 2005

For the new parents:

i might barf
posted by jonah at 5:22 PM on October 10, 2005

You might think lotions and soaps are a good idea, but as a female who gets a lot of presents from people who don't know her well, I have to say that's a terrible idea. At any given time, I have a few sets of "bath products" in frou-frou arrangements in the closet that I won't use (or use slowly) because 1. I hate the scent 2. I don't use bath salts, cubes, etc. Maybe, however, the problem is that people who don't know me well also won't be spending 50-100 on a present for me, hmm.

So maybe that highlights, also, the issue of how well you know people well that you're shopping for (as danb pointed out, we need to know more about your recipients!).

Food also is a red flag to me of a typical "don't know me well enough" sort of gift, unless it's something I drool over.

Unfortunately, I don't have any real suggestions, because I have the same problem as you. If you don't want gift certificates, a truly great present has to be personalized to the recipient (thus is the moral of my post). And this is also why Christmas shopping takes me so long. I search out perfect presents. :D

(but can I say, as a geekish girl who gets too many soap baskets, I would totally love to get a gift certificate to a gadget store or an ipod shuffle. So then you're back to the advice to get the recipient what they wouldn't get themselves (or what other people wouldn't think to get them).
posted by artifarce at 6:00 PM on October 10, 2005

Oh, I see your latest post.

On that note, then, I know when I find a new, hip product or store I deliciousize it. And on browsing the first page of the "stores" tag, I found the Urban Materials store. Looks promising.
posted by artifarce at 6:04 PM on October 10, 2005

I just have to absolutely agree that the best gift is always specific and something a little luxurious that they would never buy for themselves. I got a friend who likes plants 3 months of orchids (1 every month) from Smith & Hawken (as an example of how innacurate even "Pretty much everybody appreciates good food" is, these friends of mine would have hated anythign like truffle oil, Vosges chocolates maybe would have been fine). I once brought a giant microbe to a Chanukah party and I was so embarassed by how much everyone hated it. Group assault.

I have a wishlist so it's convenient for my friends and I also save neat gift ideas as I troll the web. I also give a lot of books, and think consumables are a great idea, too.
posted by scazza at 6:30 PM on October 10, 2005

Tiffany's has beautiful crystal stemware and other gift items. You can get two crystal champagne flutes, boxed and wrapped (in that distinctive Tiffany blue paper) for less than $100.

We've given single pieces of stemware to business associates to thank them for referrals and have given several other Tiffany items for occasions like birthdays, Christmas, and so on.

Plus you get to give this intangible gift: There's nothing like receiving a box from Tiffany's with your name on it.
posted by lambchop1 at 6:33 PM on October 10, 2005

I usually go to little art or craft shops when I'm travelling: glass galleries, art galleries, woodworkers etc. I only get gifts like these for people I really know well though, so I have an idea of what they'd like. For instance, they might have a curio cabinet where they store their favourite glass things so I'd look for something striking that I think they'd love maybe considering favourite colours or themes in their living room. You can usually find something interesting for around 100 bucks.

The key for me has always been to find something they'd enjoy but wouldn't buy for themselves. Sometimes that might be something like an iPod shuffle too.
posted by substrate at 7:20 PM on October 10, 2005

Good gift giving depends on the person. My best friend -- she doesn't shop for clothes, but obviously needs them, and I'm good at finding things that she likes. I get her clothes fairly often for this reason. Conversely, she loves books, is usually short of funds, and I am shit at picking out books for her to read. So sometimes she gets Barnes & Noble gift cards.

All of this to say, I generally try to think about the person, and think about what they've mentioned lately (or ever, really, as a real "want"), and what they would like to do for themselves or need to do for themselves, and then I do what I can to make that happen. If I have a friend going on a vacation, and she wants money to spend while there (keeping in mind for most of my friends, affording the vacation would be monumental), then I feel perfectly fine about giving money. Gifts between friends dont have to have any great meaning other than, "I pay attention, and I care."
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:22 PM on October 10, 2005

I definitely agree with artifarce about the soap and bath gift baskets. To me this is the completely generic gift that you give a woman you don't know well enough to know anything about her taste. So if you receive it from a close friend it can be very insulting. It's the gift that basically says "I know nothing about you or what you like, so here's something that, uh... smells pretty." This is of course null and void if you know your friend well and know she loves to luxuriate in long baths.

So basically, what everyone else has said, pick up on a hobby of your friends' and get them something that speaks to that. Or, barring that, some kind of unique gift that they might not know about for themselves. This is a total self-link, but kind of ties into the question, I think. I just started a blog of unique and interesting things made by small crafters that may not be available in any stores: Hands On: A Craft Blog.
posted by MsMolly at 8:04 PM on October 10, 2005

Find a taylor and/or seamstress near you. Ask them what you can get for $100 (a nice dress, a pair of monogrammed shirts, etc.), then tell your friend you've bought them something at said business. All your friend has to do is go down and pick out what kind of cloth/color/style they like and voila, great gift. It's custom made for them (likely unique), it's something they will definitely like (since they picked out the details), and it's way more thoughtful than a simple gift card. Plus, fashionable people simply love being able to answer "Where did you get that?" with "Oh, I had it made."

This is even something you can give the same person more than once. (Though some philistines might get tired of it.)
posted by oddman at 8:07 PM on October 10, 2005

Jonah has great tips. I think the best gifts are ones that people would buy for themselves, but seem too indulgent or frivilous-think guilty pleasures and treats-perhaps a beloved TV series on DVD or a desert basket. The other best gifts, and others have said this, so really I'm just agreeing, are things you get just anywhere. One of a kind, hand made, antique, ect. For craft stuff, try Etsy or Plain Mabel.
Try for something that says: I put time and thought into this, I'm thinking carefully about you and I want to make you happy. Obviously, that's what you think about for every gift, just try to make sure that comes through.
posted by slimslowslider at 9:39 PM on October 10, 2005

I like to give gifts that are consumed, so that I can give them again.

Magazine subscriptions -- my mom loves her history mag subscription because it won't be out of date if she doesn't get around to reading it for a while. My sister-in-law likes her home decorating magazine, even if she doesn't get around to implementing the ideas. My husband loves his music mag because it comes with a CD every month.

I also like to do themed food baskets. For example, one year, I bought my grandparents an ice cream scoop, two banana split bowls, sprinkles, nuts, fudge sauce, caramel sauce, etc. For another person, I put together all sorts of Mexican food products. I tend to shy away from gourmet foods, unless I know the person will appreciate it. My grandparents would not like truffle oil. My grandmother would rather get a $1.99 package of taco seasoning than $10 jar of mole sauce. So I plan accordingly.
posted by acoutu at 10:48 PM on October 10, 2005

You actually get many gift ideas every time you meet with your friends. They usually come and go too quickly to be noticed.

Next time you spend time with your friends, pay attention to their minor difficulties or bemusements. Especially minor annoyances said in passing. Take note when they say things like "crap, I always leave some cork in the bottle", "sorry, this cooler only holds a six-pack", "careful, that (blank) is a little wobbly","oh well, I lost my ladle, just pour it out", "sorry this is taking so long, but this (blank) is a piece of crap."

Trival complaints like that are made all the time but they're forgotten as soon as they're said. Remembering them is the better part of the gift.
posted by klarck at 4:29 AM on October 11, 2005

Pick a hobby or interest of theirs, and then buy something that goes with that. That's really the only way to buy a gift that's a great gift.

Otherwise you end up being like my aunt, who buys 7 year olds bottles of expensive perfume. Just cause its a good item doesn't mean its the right gift.
posted by Kololo at 5:14 AM on October 11, 2005

I vote for gift cards or gift certificates. Let the person pick out what he/she likes. Few things are more uncomfortable than receiving a present (especially if it's non-returnable) that the giver loves, but the recipient hates.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:13 AM on October 11, 2005

Hmmm. giantmicrobes.com - know I know where to shop for a present for my ex!
posted by phewbertie at 7:44 AM on October 11, 2005

Just an aside: Truffle oil is not made from truffles. It uses a man made flavoring. With banana flavoring there are two kinds: one that tastes like banana (sort of) and one the actually recreates a specific molecule that occurs in nature. In the second case the ingredients do not need to list artificial flavoring.

It's not uncommon to see restaurant reviews complaining about heavy handed use of truffle oil, and this is why it can be less than thrilling.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:00 AM on October 11, 2005

The Grateful Palate has some unique and not-too-terribly expensive gifts.
posted by grateful at 11:18 AM on October 11, 2005

I'm not sure why this matters, but all the truffle oils I've seen are made with truffles. Right after olive oil the ingredient is extract du tuber magnatum. I don't doubt artificial flavorings are used a lot (maybe all? I don't know) of the time, but whatever--it's just a name for a product I used off-hand, as a throwaway example for the general category of food items people normally wouldn't buy themselves.

As a counterpoint, I generally cringe when people get me gifts based on some general interest of mine. For instance, if I were into painting, it would be a nice thought for somebody to get me paints or brushes, but unless this person is a similarly discriminating painter, it is too much to expect them to know what kind of paints and brushes out of the whole world of paints and brushes are the ones I'd actually be interested in getting. Most of these nice thoughts end up seeming like a waste of money. So, from my experience, I would caution against giving gifts based on someone's interests unless you are just as interested in that thing as they are. Or unless somehow you know quite specifically what they would like getting.
posted by flavor at 11:19 AM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

I send pears and baskets from Harry and David. Their prices are relatively high (though most are under $100), but they're top quality, absolutely reliable and live up to their claim of "the best guarantee in the business."

For people who will appreciate something really good, rather than something fancy, I send Vidalia Onions.

A good quality florist can make stunning $100 arrangements, but use someone local rather than FTD, which has boring stuff.
posted by KRS at 11:54 AM on October 11, 2005

Funny - I just blogged about this: trying to come up with a great default gift. I second the above poster who referenced theme gifts ... fun to pick out and fun to give. I also like giving gourmet gifts, as some other people recommended, especially gift sets from from Penzey's Spices. Most recently, I've been hung up on the gourmet meal sites where you can pick out a whole dinner - from appetizers to desserts - and have it delivered on dry ice to be easily prepared by the recipient; I made a big list of the companies that prepare such meals here. We actually ordered one from Artiko for my parents, and they can't stop raving about it. As flavor posted, "Pretty much everybody appreciates good food."
posted by roundrock at 3:44 PM on October 11, 2005

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