Every year I struggle with what gifts to get my parents. They are HARD to buy for (whether its Christmas, birthdays, or their anniversary), because if they need something, they buy it. It takes more thought to come up with what they need (but don’t know they need), or what I know they’d enjoy. I’ve gathered up some ideas of what may make great gifts for the parents, grandparents, or other older-than-you adults in your life who probably have everything they need. I’ve also included a section of gifts they most likely DON’T need, but that people tend to give as gifts when they can’t think of anything else.
Some of these gifts are over $100, which is more than many people spend on any one gift. If you have siblings or a few people who go in on gifts together, these make great group gifts! My sisters and I often purchase gifts together for my parents so we can give them something that is more expensive.
*Note: for consistency, I’m going to use the term “parents” “mom” and “dad”, but these ideas can be used as gifts for any special older adult in your life. Amazon affiliate links are included.
Photo gifts: There are unlimited options for these, but your parents would probably be happy to have updated photos with you and/or your kids. Every photo website offers photo calendars, canvases, glass/wood/metal prints, etc., but watch shipping charges on these and use places where you can pick up in store. Or you can buy nice frames (with their decor in mind) and add updated photos for display. Photo books take a little time to organize, but they are amazing to receive. Loaded digital photo frames are a great way to share multiple photos. You can also buy subscriptions to create monthly or quarterly printed photo books through various apps from photos on your phone to be sent straight to them. I’ve been creating monthly photo books via the app Recently for years now and am happy with their quality. They are intended to be more of “magazine” type books, but with thick matte pages.
This Nixplay Digitial Photo Frame is great because you can use an app or email to add photos to the frame – a perfect gift for someone who isn’t tech savvy. Wi-fi is required.
Genealogy/DNA test: Are your parents curious about the origins of their families? While they may have some idea, genealogy tests can fill in some of the gaps. There are options that are genealogy only, and ones that also provide DNA health data. Some of the tests can be used to attempt to connect with distant relatives via online DNA directories, but its optional whether they share their information or opt-in.
Note: if they are concerned about their information being “out there”, tell them to use a fake name and/or email address without their name in it in order to receive the results. Make sure that the kit you purchase includes the lab fee so they aren’t stuck with a $50+ charge to get their results. Prices aren’t included because they go up and down and on sale constantly, but they generally start around $40-$50. The ones being sold for under $30 most likely do not include the lab processing fee.
- AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity
- AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity + Traits
- 23andMe DNA Test – Ancestry Personal Genetic Service
- 23andMe DNA Test – Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Service
- MyHeritage DNA Test Kit – Ancestry & Ethnicity Genetic Testing
- National Geographic DNA Test Kit: Geno 2.0 Next Generation (Ancestry) – Powered by Helix
- Helix DNA Discovery Test Kit: Ancestry + Wellness Basics
- Vitagene DNA Test Kit: Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Reports
Favorite item that they don’t want to buy for themselves: This gift option needs to be truly personal, in that you are choosing an item that you KNOW they love. Whether the item is more expensive than they’d pay, only available at certain places, or something that they feel is too frivolous to buy for themselves, they will love receiving thoughtful things. Note: these are not options that YOU think they will love – only what you KNOW they love. Examples include favorite perfume or cologne (lotions or aftershaves of their favorite scent are often less expensive), favorite wine, beer, or liquor, special chocolates, tea, coffee, or other consumables, or other item that they consider a luxury (whether it truly is or not). If there’s a special item like this that you purchase for someone, we’d love to hear about it!
Jewelry: Whether you pick a personalized, engraved, birthstone, or classic items, make sure you pick something the recipient will love.
Phone or tablet case, cords, and necessary accessories: Unless your parents are really tech savvy (mine aren’t), they probably have a smart phone or tablet and are able to use it, but they probably aren’t keeping up with the latest and greatest accessories for their tech products. And everyone needs extra charging cords to keep around the house.
Smart speaker: There are quite a few options for smart hubs, but if they don’t already have one, starting with a simple one would probably be the best option. Not sure what to buy? Check out Consumer Report’s Best Smart Speaker for 2019
- Amazon Echo Dot (under $30)
- Amazon Echo ($60)
- Echo Show – Smart Display with Alexa ($50 and up)
- Amazon Echo Plus with smart home hub ($150)
- Google Home Mini ($20-$50)
- Google Home ($50-$100)
Smart thermometer, smart plugs and/or smart lights: If they can work the apps on their phones, they can work smart plugs and lights. These make it easy to turn lights and other electrical items off and on from anywhere. Note: some items require a “hub”, while others work with an app or smart speaker, so be sure you get the right type for your needs.
- TP-Link Mini WiFi Smart Plug, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa Echo & Google Assistant or app ($16)
- Amazon Smart Plug, works with Alexa ($24)
- Sengled Smart LED Soft White (Element Classic) Starter Kit, 4 A19 Bulbs + Hub, 2700K, 60W Equivalent, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant & IFTTT ($48)
- Smart plug ESICOO, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, No Hub Required ($29)
- TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi A19 LED Bulb, Dimmable, Tunable White (2700-6500K), No Hub Required ($26)
- Philips Hue White A19 60W Equivalent Dimmable LED Smart Bulb Starter Kit ($70)
- Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat for Smart Home, DIY Version, Works with Alexa, Energy Star Certified: We have this smart thermostat and it is affordable and easy to use. I love being able to control it from the app, whether I don’t want to get out of bed to turn the heat up, or we adjust the temperature remotely when we are out of town. Other smart thermometers here.
Ring doorbell: ($99+) This thing has changed my life. I love knowing who is at the door and being able to speak to the person without opening the door (and it’s all recorded!). I don’t worry about packages being stolen and not knowing, and I don’t worry about whether people are coming near our house at night or while we are gone. They also offer floodlights and other stick up camera options for those who don’t want a doorbell. These don’t need to be hardwired, but you do have to charge the battery occasionally or so if its not. Note: we recently upgraded to the Ring Doorbell 2 to get a higher quality HD video. It’s worth waiting for a deal if you want video that is more clear. There are other brands of video doorbells, but Ring is the only one I’m familiar enough with to recommend.
- Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote, streaming media player
- Roku media streaming: There are a variety of options for Roku systems, but they are generally easy to set up and use (ie. my parents can use this)
Robot vacuum: While robot vacuums don’t completely replace using a regular vacuum (as they can miss spots and don’t always have as strong of suction), they can definitely reduce the frequency that they’ll need to drag out the heavy vacuum to clean the house. I’m a true believer in these after using one at a rental during a beach vacation (hello, tracked in sand!) and now at home with our dog. Robot vacuums have a variety of features that you’ll want to consider, like whether they have a remote or can be controlled with an app, and if they have a cliff sensor that keeps them from falling down stairs. These range in price, but all have 4+ stars. While can’t say which is the best robot vacuum, these should all be good options and are affordable robot vacuums.
- DEIK Robot Vacuum Cleaner, New Version with 5 Cleaning Models ($159 – plus a $40 Off coupon as of 12/12!) Despite the low price, this has great reviews.
- eufy Boost IQ RoboVac 11S: ($150) Rated very good on carpet and even better on bare floor, according to Consumer Reports.
- ECOVACS DEEBOT N79S Robot Vacuum Cleaner ($140). This is the one that we own and we are very happy with it (and we have a dog and 2 young children, mess-wise). It has a cliff sensor and has never fallen down stairs
- ECOVACS DEEBOT 601 Robot Vacuum Cleaner ($200 with coupon)
- SHARK ION Robot Vacuum R85: ($200) Rated well, especially for pet hair
- bObsweep PetHair Plus Robotic Vacuum Cleaner and Mop ($239). Consumer Reports rated excellent in bare-floor test and is better than average on carpet. Also has reusable detachable microfiber mop pads that can be connected to mop the floor as it goes (which is super cool!).
- iRobot Roomba 675 ($200) This is a more of a Roomba base model, so the prices go up for higher end models
- eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 30 ($179). Very highly rated, comes with boundary strips to clean select areas.
Air purifying bags: I know…these aren’t any kind of fancy gift, but everyone can use these! Typically filled with activated charcoal, these bags are great at absorbing scents from all over the house. They’re great for closets or entryways with shoes, near litter boxes, and any other area of a house with stagnant or off-smells. They are a variety of sizes of bags, and different price points, but you generally can find about 4 bags for $20. Click here to see some options.
Salt lamp: I don’t know whether to believe the health claims about these, but they really are a pretty and soothing light! While no scientific studies have proven that they will change your life, many people swear by them. There are many different shapes and sizes, but most are under $20. See options on Amazon here.
Fire and carbon monoxide safety gear: I know that this sounds like such a boring gift, but its SO important! These safety items are often overlooked, but are essential (and not fun to buy for yourself, so they’re a great gift). Most homes don’t have enough smoke detectors, so make sure they do! There should be smoke detectors on every level of your home, and inside and outside of every sleeping area.
- Smoke detectors: buy new if theirs are outdated, or buy them a pack of batteries and go around the house replace the batteries in all of them (which should be done once or twice a year). Some fire departments will provide these free of charge and/or help with installation for those who need the assistance. See Amazon options.
- Carbon monoxide detectors. Every home with at least one fuel-burning appliance/heater, attached garage or fireplace should have a carbon monoxide alarm. If the home has only one carbon monoxide alarm, it should be installed in the main bedroom or in the hallway outside of the sleeping area. See Amazon options.
- Fire extinguishers: These should be in the kitchen, garage, and on all levels. There are a variety of sizes and styles, including standard extinguishers and cans. These do expire, so make sure yours are current! See Amazon options.
- Fire escape ladder: If there are upstairs bedrooms, a fire ladder may be the only safe option to escape. It’s not a risk you want to take, especially if there young children or older adults in the home. Amazon offers second and third story length ladders at reasonable prices.
Books: If you know their favorite genre or author, this is a great option.
Sport accessories: Whether they’re into golf, tennis, walking/running, fitness, or other sport, there are usually accessories or gear they can use. But only if they’ll use it! Don’t try to get them to start exercise that they aren’t interested in.
Gardening supplies or plants: There may not be much gardening going on in Ohio during the winter, but there are still options to buy now, including indoor plants (if they enjoy these), outdoor thermometer, bird feeders and seed, and garden accessories. Air plants and succulents are really popular now, and if your mom doesn’t still have macrame plant hangers, they are back in style!
Razors: Some are a fan of Dollar Shave Club, but I’m a fan of paying less without a subscription. Dorco USA is the supplier of Dollar Shave Club (or at least they once were) and you can order direct from them with free shipping. They have starter kits with prices starting at just over $1, kits with a handle and 10 head for $10, and other deals. I always buy razors for my dad, because otherwise he uses cheap drugstore razors (because good drugstore razors are WAY overpriced). They also sell the equivalent women’s razors, as well as double edge safety razors and blades for a good old-school shave. See options here.
Magazines: Amazon offers some seriously cheap magazines, so if there’s a favorite or two, they won’t break the bank. If they are already a subscriber, the new purchase typically starts after it expires (if duplicates are received, the magazine customer service can extend the current subscription.
What they really want with you is time. Unless you still live with them, and in that case, they may enjoy some space. But otherwise…. Buy them a gift card with the catch that you will go to dinner with them. Buy tickets for a concert, movie, or show for you to go with them. Buy a mani/pedi gift card and go with her. Buy them a mall or store gift card and go for a walk around the wall and take advantage of the after holiday sales. Give them your time. Go for a drive with them and stop somewhere for dinner. But don’t just make the promises of time…make sure you follow through with them.
Is your budget closer to zero?
Pinterest is FULL of ideas for homemade gifts. It is totally okay to make gifts to give to your loved ones, and often they are the most appreciated! Use your talents (or use very specific directions from someone else’s talents) to express your love through something homemade. Make cookies, spice mixes, hot cocoa, candy, essential oil sprays, decor – or whatever.
What they don’t need
The following gift items are often things people go for when they don’t know what to get someone. They “seem” personal, but typically are just easy and don’t require much thought. The exception is if these are options that your parents LOVE to get from you, as mentioned above. Perhaps your mom loves a perfume or expensive bath product that is more expensive that she will pay on her own – just make sure its what she still wants, and that she doesn’t still have some from a prior gift. But in general, people have more of these things than they need.
- Throw blankets
- Lotion and bath products
- Coffee mugs
- Ties and scarves
- Random fitness items: Fitness items that you “think” they should use, but they have no intention of using. Don’t get your mom a yoga mat if she doesn’t do yoga but you “think” she should. If you want her to try yoga (and you know she’s game), take her to a class or two WITH you.
Looking for more suggestions!
What are some of your favorite gifts to give to your parents (or to receive from your grown children)? Seriously – give me your suggestions so I can use them for future gifts for my own parents.
Check out our Amazon storefront for gift ideas for everyone! *Amazon affiliate links included.
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