2021 Holiday Gift Guide: Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

a potted plant on a desk with a candle, a full mug, and books

A perennial holiday gift favorite: a houseplant. Photo courtesy of The Sill

2021 Gift Guide

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Last-Minute Shopper

11 ideas for the 11th hour

December 13, 2021
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A lot of things may have changed over the past couple of years, but there’s one thing that hasn’t: wanting to give rad gifts to the people you care about over the holidays. However, if your brain’s a little fried from, you know, everything, and you don’t know where to begin, it’s BU Today to the rescue with some affordable ideas for what to get everyone on your list, from the hardest-to-please to the person who’s happy with anything.

We’ve put together 11 ideas for all you 11th-hour shoppers, including plenty of items you can grab from stores near you (no shipping struggles here). 

Happy gifting!

Photo courtesy of iStock/EHStock

Framed photos

They’re a holiday classic for a reason: not only are framed photographs personal, they’re also a budget-friendly option. Snag someone’s favorite pics from the year to print or stage your own photo shoot. Once you have your pictures printed, stop by your local TJ Maxx or HomeGoods for deals on department store–quality frames. (Going for an eclectic vibe? See what frames you can find at your local Goodwill.) Nab two-plus frames and you have yourself a gallery wall in the making. 

a snake plant, a candle, a cheese board, and a succulent on a white table with red curtain background
Photo courtesy of The Sill

A houseplant

Have a friend whose place could use a little brightening up? Pick up a snake plant, or something a little more ambitious, like a fern or an orchid—depending on how green your giftee’s thumb is—from your local plant shop. Or head to an online retailer like The Sill (which, FYI, recently opened a brick-and-mortar on Newbury Street), where you can order a pre-potted plant to be shipped straight to someone’s door. Just be sure to order by the 20th for guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery.

A mug of tea, cookies on a plate, and a lit candle decorated with holiday lights on a festive table
Photo by Alene Bouranova

A selection of seasonal specials

This one’s easy. Hit up your neighborhood Trader Joe’s and grab someone all of their favorite seasonal items, such as peppermint bark, candy cane Joe Joe’s, and cedar-balsam candles. Throw it all in a gift bag—remind them to cut off any rope or ribbon handles before they recycle it—and you’re good to go. 

Aerial view of dishes on table.
Photo courtesy of Brighton Bodega/Van Dyke Design & Photography

A gift card to a local restaurant

Who doesn’t love food, especially when they don’t have to cook it themselves? Treat someone on your list to a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Not sure what their favorite spot is? If they’re dining locally, check out our neighborhood guides for restaurant inspo from Roxbury to Brighton, Cambridge to Somerville, and anywhere in between.

A white scarf product shot on a white background
Photo courtesy of American Eagle

A cozy kit

Ahh, the gift of comfort. Track down a selection of someone’s must-have cozy items—whether it’s fuzzy socks, a fluffy scarf (peep this American Eagle scarf) ($17), a gourmet tea blend and mug, a giant blanket, velvet scrunchies, a sleep mask, slippers, or anything else you could describe as “snuggly”—and simply bundle them all together. If you want to take a spa angle and toss in a bath bomb or a sheet mask or two, it’s unlikely they’d complain…

a photo of the interior of Frugal Bookstore, showing a front view of shelves filled with books, as well as various pieces of African American paintings.
Photo by Justin Dynia (CAS’22)

A book from your favorite independent bookstore

For many, winter break is the only time they get to read for fun. Help them make the most of their precious weeks off by gifting them a must-read book from your favorite small bookstore. Buy something off one of the New York Times best-of-2021 lists or let the booksellers give you a personalized rec. If you’re still in Boston, check out our list of the best independent bookstores in and around town.

Rows of paint tubes in an art shop
Photo courtesy of iStock/webphotographeer

Art supplies

Have crafty nieces and nephews? Stop by a Blick, Michael’s, or similar arts and crafts supply store to stock up on art staples that’ll keep them busy through the school break (their parents will be sure to thank you). Look for easier-to-clean products like Blick’s watercolor powders ($25 for a set), which you can pair with a pack of watercolor paper sheets (starting at $13). Or, buy an endangered-animals origami kit ($11) to keep ’em folding their little hearts out through New Year’s.

A small humidifier on a table spraying mist
Photo courtesy of Target

A mini humidifier and essential oils

Bear with us here. With heaters on full blast, that means one thing: dry and dusty interiors. Ease someone’s congestion (and dry skin, dry throat, dry…you get it) with the gift of a mini humidifier, perfect for smaller spaces such as offices, bedrooms, and break rooms. Make a Target run for machines like HealthSmart’s humidifier and aroma diffuser ($30), which will keep both people and house plants happy. Throw in a couple of bottles of essential oils and you’re all set. 

a man stands in pajamas that are dark and plaid
Photo courtesy of Uniqlo

A pajama set

Time to get matchy-matchy: pick up a coordinating pajama set that’ll keep the recipient looking cool and comfy through the winter months. This classic men’s flannel set from Uniqlo ($40) comes in sizes S-3X, meaning it’ll fit most anyone on your list. Want to be extra? Track down matching flannel pillowcases to make their bedtime even more aesthetic.

A waterproof bluetooth speaker on a white background with water splashing over it
Photo courtesy of Walmart

A Bluetooth speaker 

Good news—you don’t have to break the bank to find a high-quality Bluetooth speaker. Head to your closest big-box or tech store to look for speakers like Comiso’s waterproof portable cylinder speaker ($37) or Altec’s “everything-proof” LED-lit speaker ($40). Whether they use it for camping or just singing in the shower, the folks on your list will appreciate having their playlists wherever they go.

a charcuterie board next to a drink on a table
Photo courtesy of West Elm

A fancy charcuterie board 

Sure, a cutting board works just fine for homemade charcut spreads, but sometimes you just want more. If you know someone who takes their deli meat and cheese game extra seriously, make a trip to your nearest home goods or gourmet food store to find them the perfect vessel for their next spread (example: this handcrafted slate cheese board from West Elm, $30). Add in a bottle of their favorite fig jam—they’ll know what to do with it.

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2021 Holiday Gift Guide: Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

  • Alene Bouranova

    Writer/Editor Twitter Profile

    Photo of Allie Bouranova, a light skinned woman with blonde and brown curly hair. She smiles and wears glasses and a dark blue blazer with a light square pattern on it.

    Alene Bouranova is a Pacific Northwest native and a BU alum (COM’16). After earning a BS in journalism, she spent four years at Boston magazine writing, copyediting, and managing production for all publications. These days, she covers campus happenings, current events, and more for BU Today. Fun fact: she’s still using her Terrier card from 2013. When she’s not writing about campus, she’s trying to lose her Terrier card so BU will give her a new one. She lives in Cambridge with her plants. Profile

    Alene Bouranova can be reached at abour@bu.edu

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