Mission Possible: Gifts for the Impossible Person

We all have those one or two people (ok: more like four or five) that are impossible to buy for at the holidays. Like I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E impossible. You wrack your brain for weeks leading up to the holidays and then you end up getting them a gift card, candle or something equally generic.

Well stress no more, mama, because I’ve surveyed dozens of moms, finding out their most impossible gift recipient and then come up with suggetions to solve your gift giving woes. Here goes:


I honestly don’t think there is a worse category of people to buy for than a teen boy. Everything they want is small and electronic and expensive. I consulted with my teenage neighbor, and after several uncomfortable “I don’t know” responses, got the following suggestions (by means of “I guess…”):

  • Xbox magazine subscription. It’s the gift that lasts the whole year through, encourages reading AND involves video games? Practically perfect in every way. About $30.00 and available through a variety of online retailers. You can even grab a current issue to wrap up! Order a subscription here. 
  • Pistons Tickets. Seriously. Basketball is all the rage with teenage boys. Tickets are as low as $6.00 a seat from some games and nosebleed seats. Get some tickets for a home game against the Cavaliers or Pacers. Buy them here.
  • A Drone. He might not ever ask for one, but I guarantee if you get him one, he’ll use it. Especially if there’s a camera. The market is saturated with inexpensive drones like this one
  • If all else fails, go for an itunes gift card. Who doesn’t love one of those. Generally, I don’t like to give gift cards, but itunes is different. You would totally give someone a CD – this is basically the same thing!


I was surprised by this one, but three out of my three best friends said their in-laws were the hardest to buy for. If this is the case, I suggest you get them a joint gift – much less stressful and chances are, at least one of them will like it. Here are some ideas:

  • A handmade wooden serving set for family gatherings. Sort of like this one. Or this one. There’s millions of them out there. Find one in your price range and go for it. Heck, maybe you can find a personalized one on Etsy.
  • Dinner at your house once a month for a year. Yes, you heard me. My sister did this last year for my parents, complete with handmade coupons. My mom is still talking about it. Apparently that was better than my gift…that I can’t even remember. I rest my case.
  • Date Night Basket. Grandparents need date nights too! I guess technically this is a gift card, but it is really so much more. Grandparents also tend to go to the same places and do the same things. So pair a new restaurant gift card and movie tickets. Add a gift certificate for a local wine tasting for two. Tickets to a play or musical. The possibilities are endless and can be tailored to the recipients. But they’ll get out of the house and try new things!


This is another one that surprised me, most often in the form of a sister-in-law that hates your guts. And its tough because you want the gift to be sincere, but you kind of really don’t care either. You also don’t want to give anything to offend him/her. Here’s what I suggest, make sure you include the third option, which is one of my faves:

  • A really, really, really, really, really nice blanket. Like this one. It is more personal than a candle, and just nice and cozy and well-intentioned. Nobody can get mad about a blanket.
  •  A good bottle of wine or whiskey. Not my Yellow-tail, $4.75 per bottle Moscato (with Kroger card and 10% four-bottle discount) but a bottle where you speak to the sommelier (try Nino Salvaggio’s) and explain what the recipient likes and go with the suggestion. It’s not something people would buy for themselves, and they will definitely enjoy it. Plus, you put in a lot of time – that counts!
  • Whatever you have in your re-gift drawer. Then be sure to give their child the loudest, most obnoxious toy you can possibly find, preferably with significant assembly, lots of stickers to adhere and many small parts. The secret joy you feel about the obnoxious toy will outweigh any gift remorse.


I am 100% guilty of this. My husband too. If we really want something, we buy it. Turns out, people hate buying us gifts because there isn’t anything we desperately want or need. So the trick is to find something that the recipient didn’t know they wanted or needed. This is very recipient dependent, but here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • String bracelets. Not like the summer camp kind, but these. I didn’t know these existed or that I wanted them until I stumbled across them on Black Friday. (Yes, I bought some for myself – but to put in my stocking! That doesn’t count does it?) Think of something trendy or different that the recipient might not buy for their self – then you get it for them.
  • A Basket of Michigan Stuff. Even if its just two or three things, pride in Detroit and Michigan is at an all time high, so take advantage. Check out the DMB local gift guide and order a few of our faves.
  • Tickets to Drag Queen Bingo or a Comedy Show.  Who doesn’t love to laugh? Try this – even my 56 year old mother laughed so hard she cried. Or Mark Ridley’s. They have some funny peeps.


This is a toughie. One year they get you a Coach purse. The next, it’s a pair of slippers. You never know or anticipate the level. My advice on this one is to split the difference when establishing your budget/ideas (if you can afford it.) My second piece of advice is to gift from the heart.

  • Personalized “Family Rules” Sign. I made something like these for my entire family last year, complete with their name and things that were special to them (for some – baseball, for others -church, etc.) They were a huge hit. They’re prominently hanging in everyone’s house. And I’m mad that I didn’t make one for myself (I know, I know, see the category above.) If you’re not crafty or the DIY type, check Etsy for sure.
  • A Fun Purse. Not necessarily a designer purse, but something cute, dressy and maybe even sparkly that they wouldn’t buy on their own accord. They can use it for weddings, retirement parties, or any fancier night out. I’m contemplating this cutie.
  • Sports Stuff. Figure out their favorite team and get something along those lines. My husband has been eyeing this Lions sweater (he thinks it is hilarious) and my brother-in-law laughed so hard at some of these shirts. If they’re a true fan, any fan gift is a good gift.


This is a near impossible task. Because NOTHING will be good enough. The best advice I found on this one is to look for something super-cute or trendy, but affordable. The recipient may not love it, but will appreciate the effort.

  • Designer Household Goods. Department stores and discount stores like Marshalls, have made designer household goods affordable. Check out these Kate Spade items at Macy’s. The odds and ends dish is adorable!
  • Costume Jewelry. Not like your grandma would wear, but something very trendy and cute. Like this. Or this.
  • Tech Accessories. Not the tech – the accessories for it. Give them something to try that they might not ever try on their own, like this phone case. Or some of these super comfy ear buds. Or a the Echo Dot!

Finally, if you’re at your wits end, here’s some random things that my husband and I both agree we would love to receive:

Bourbon Cream. If you find it, get a bottle for yourself too. It will change lives. Anyone will enjoy a glass of it, even non-drinkers. I promise. Come to think of it, any liquor is probably fine.

Free Babysitting. Seriously, we would take some babysitting coupons over just about any material thing in the world.

Nice Gloves. With two young kids, we can never find our gloves. We always seem to be missing one – especially when it snows.

Amazon Fire TV Stick. We are contemplating getting one, but haven’t done so yet. Hey – maybe we don’t buy EVERYTHING we want for ourselves after all. How about that!

Do you have any suggestions on gift ideas for hard-to-buy recipients? Share them in the comments!!

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