Gift Giving: Ideas for Unusual Gifts, Cards, Shopping and More
You've got a lot of gifts to give: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, holidays and sometimes "just because." We've found the Web sites to help you with gift giving ideas, places to shop, greeting cards and tips on the best way to wrap your presents. And you don't even have to send us a thank-you note.
Many Web sites have sections that suggest gift ideas based on holiday, occasion or age and gender of the recipient. Browse our recommended sites to find unique gift ideas that will most certainly be appreciated.
- Before you begin hunting for gift ideas, poke around for online wish lists that your recipients might have created. Such wish lists are increasingly popular and are available on many Web sites. Try typing the person's name and the words "wish list" into a search engine. Also read the "Online Wish Lists" section of this guide for ideas on sites to check out.
- Specific return policies (for example, a 30- or 60-day window in which the product can be returned or exchanged) vary from one Web site to the next, so make sure to read the fine print before you buy. Similarly, each store has its own policies for gift cards; many diminish in value the longer they go unused.
For gift ideas ...
is available for viewing in eight languages and features a unique take on gift suggestions and reviews: They're written entirely by visitors, and include some unusual ones. Wondering what to give your mistress for Valentine's Day? This site has it covered. Once you've registered (it's free), you can also set up event reminders or create a personal wish list.
has the usual categories (for example, “him,” “her” and “pet lover”) along with quirkier selections, such as suggestions for the eco-friendly and tech-savvy people in your life. Also look for links and ideas for gift-of-the-month clubs, which are discussed in further detail in the "Gift Subscriptions" section of this guide.
is a discount gift-giving Web site where you can find some great deals. Purchase items (for others or yourself) for up to 50 percent off retail price.
For anniversary gifts ...
lists traditional and modern wedding anniversary gifts by year. It also provides practical gift suggestions for each year and links to online retailers.
The Anniversary Shop
's anniversary gift list goes up to the 100th anniversary. Each year is accompanied by appropriate gifts you can buy directly from the site. You can also see a list of birthstones on the right side of the "Anniversary Chart
For gift certificates ...
lets you send a gift certificate via e-mail or print it out from home. This is a particularly useful feature for those last-minute (translation: completely slipped my mind) gifts. Your recipient can then shop online from any of the 300 participating retailers to redeem the certificate.
lets you swap electronic gift cards to get the items you really want. If you received a gift card for an electronics store but would rather purchase a sweater from a clothing shop, this Web site makes it a cinch to exchange. You can also buy a gift cards here, at a discounted price.
An online calendar reminder is the perfect way to track important dates. In addition to helpful text articles and visual suggestions, the Web can provide tools to remind you of important events with calendar reminders for birthdays and anniversaries. You’ll also find sites that can help you keep track of the gifts you've already given and to whom.
- Sometimes you can find gift-related tools in unexpected places. For example, the genealogical Web site Geni will send you calendar reminders for the birthdays of the members that you list in your online family tree.
- If you're already attached to your cell phone or BlackBerry, use Internet-based reminder tools to help you even when you're not at your computer. After entering the names and birthdates of all your contacts, many Web sites (including Birthday-Reminders.com, recommended below) will send calendar reminders of special occasions to your electronic devices.
- A caveat: Some free reminder sites are sponsored by merchants. As a result, you may find yourself swimming in spam thinly disguised as reminders and suggestions. If you don't want these e-mails, make sure to opt out by checking the appropriate boxes when you sign up.
's "Gift Organizer
" helps you track the people you've already bought gifts for, as well as who's still on your list. It also reminds you of upcoming occasions and even recommends gifts for people on your list.
provides free e-mail and cell phone calendar reminders about birthdays and other special occasions. Once you create an account and enter your important dates, the site not only reminds you of the approaching birthday or anniversary, but it also suggests appropriate gift ideas.
Online wish lists are similar to traditional wedding and baby shower registries, although the lists now cover a wider range of occasions. Online wish lists may take more planning and the gifts won't be a complete surprise, but you and your recipients are more likely to get what you want.
- The sites we've included here are focused specifically on wish lists, but many online retailers have their own wish list features that let you tag items the store carries. If you know some of your loved one's favorite stores, visit the accompanying Web sites and try searching for the person's name within those stores' wish list directories.
is visually appealing and easy to use, and provides virtually no limitations to what users can wish for (which makes it more likely that you'll be giving them exactly what they want). In addition to personal lists, this site features wish lists for schools and charitable organizations that allow for donations.
enables you to browse items that your friends and family have posted, or browse strangers' lists for inspiration (or voyeuristic entertainment).
offers free and easy registration, and allows you to add items from any site on the Web. Users can also add their wish list to a personal Web site or blog, so be sure to check friends' sites when you're shopping for gifts.
If you're short on cash and would rather send an e-card instead of a gift (or short on time because you forgot to mail out that birthday card), many Web sites now offer free e-cards as well as paid electronic greeting card services.
- Although there are many Web sites that provide e-cards free of charge, some sites charge a small membership fee. If you plan on sending a lot of e-cards and are looking for a larger variety, one of these premium memberships might be worth the price.
- In recent years, bogus e-card links have been sent out as spam mail. If you click on a malicious link, a virus might be downloaded to your computer. Open e-cards only from trusted sources. To combat phony e-card spam e-mails, many Web sites now offer an e-card pick-up that allows you to retrieve a card using a password rather than directly clicking on an e-mailed link.
's "E-Cards" section is loaded with free e-cards, or you can pay a small fee to send premium electronic greeting cards. The site also has a photo card
feature that allows you to personalize cards with photos and messages. Hallmark will then mail a hardcopy of this card to your friend or loved one. You can even send out large batches of cards at once—perfect for the holiday season!
was one of the first electronic greeting card providers and now charges a monthly membership fee. The quality and selection of the cards reflect this premium service charge. The site does offer a free one-month trial membership, and free wallpaper, screensavers and a birthday reminder service.
is a bit lower tech than some of the previous selections, but all of its cards are free and the site has a decent selection.
In recent years, many unique gift-giving options have emerged as a result of the Internet, including charitable gift options. For the socially or environmentally conscious person in your life, charitable donations can make wonderful gifts.
- The sites we've listed here were chosen because they let you earmark your donation for specific items. Most charitable Web sites, however, allow you to simply make a monetary donation on someone's behalf.
- If you have a favorite charity, visit its Web site to see if the organization will send a card if you make a donation in honor or in name of someone. In most cases, you can use your credit card to make your donation online.
- Check to see if a charitable organization has an online store. Many sell T-shirts and other logo items through their Web sites, making it easy to support a charity and buy a tangible gift to give.
's goal is to end world hunger while protecting the environment. Domesticated animals are given to needy families in developing countries. Donate a flock of chicks so the owners can sell the eggs, a sheep that will provide wool or any of several other animals that will help sustain their new owners.
Oxfam America Unwrapped
allows you to symbolically purchase products (such as livestock or hygiene kits) for the needy and send e-cards describing the charitable gift to your recipient. However, even if you choose a specific gift, Oxfam doesn't guarantee how your money will be allocated; it might be used in other ways if there is greater need.
offers the chance to balance out the carbon usage of your friends and family. Choose from a wide variety of gift ideas sure to give your lucky recipient the warm fuzzies.
Whether you choose a magazine gift subscription, a gift of-the-month club or any other type of present that gets delivered monthly, your friend or relative will be reminded of your thoughtfulness all year round. Club and gift subscriptions can be a particularly good idea for the person who has everything—who doesn’t get excited when a new gift arrives in the mail each month?
- Many specialty and gourmet shops offer their own gift-of-the month or gift basket options. If you have a favorite store in mind, visit its Web site to see what your options are.
- Most monthly subscriptions (especially food, wine and coffee clubs) can be purchased in time spans ranging from 3 to 12 months.
For magazine gift subscriptions ...
provides one-stop magazine subscription shopping. Both specific magazine subscriptions and open-ended gift cards are available.
is a less traditional way to purchase magazine subscriptions but it has a huge selection, and some great deals. Be sure to read the security advice
before engaging in any eBay transactions.
has a smaller selection than other sites but the prices are tough to beat, the shipping is free and there’s no sales tax.
For monthly clubs ...
has a dizzying array of gift-of-the-month clubs. From porterhouse steaks to exotic flowers to organic fruits, you can find it here.
offers free shipping and instant e-mail gift messages in addition to a wide array of monthly food and beverage clubs. Their "Wine of the Month Club" is particularly popular.
Wine of the Month Club
claims to be "The Original" wine-of-the-month club. The monthly gift membership comes with a sampling of red and white wine along with serving suggestions, recipes and more. Gift certificates, specialty wines and gift baskets are also available.
What could be better than receiving a dozen yummy things at once? Gift baskets allow you to combine your recipient's favorite fruits, wines, cheeses, chocolates and more in one container. We've got a number of resources for gift basket ideas that are sure to make a lasting impression.
- Many gourmet food and specialty shops offer combinations of their products in gift baskets. Visit your favorite online store to see if it has this option.
- A less expensive, more personal option is to order items from a variety of Web sites, have the products shipped to you and then assemble the gift basket yourself. Places like Pottery Barn and Longaberger have a wide selection of baskets to choose from.
offers gift baskets by designers Todd Oldham and Vera Wang, in addition to the usual array of food- and flower-themed baskets.
is a classic purveyor of gift baskets. The site sells an array of traditional hors d'oeuvres baskets as well as a create-your-own gift basket option that allows you to select the basket or box and the quantity and type of gourmet goodies.
Harry & David
is a gourmet foods retailer that offers fruit, candy, cookies and cakes in gift basket and gift tower form. The images on the site are quite enticing; one glance and you'll want to lick your computer screen!
The Popcorn Factory
sells a variety of flavored popcorn tins as well as holiday-themed items and gift baskets. This Web site has a ton of themed popcorn tins including ones for the NFL, MBL and NASCAR fans in your life.
is known for its gourmet pastas and sauces, but it's also one of the Web's best resources for gift baskets. The company is a favorite choice for corporate gifts and offers a full refund if you're unhappy with anything you purchase.
A well-boxed and wrapped gift can make a beautiful impression. In this section, you'll find unique gift wrapping ideas from online retailers that sell wrapping paper, bows, ribbon and tape. There are also many craft Web sites that suggest creative (and nontraditional) ways of presenting your gift.
- Most online stores offer professional gift-wrapping for a fee (usually a few dollars). If you're choosy about the wrapping, though, be wary of these services. Oftentimes it's just a plain box wrapped with ribbon that carries the store logo.
- If your gift is oversized or oddly shaped, consider placing it in a box that's easier to wrap, or use a gift bag instead of wrapping paper. Many party supply Web sites carry a wide array of these items.
To purchase gift-wrapping supplies ...
is a complete packaging and gift retailer. Find both traditional and unique wrapping paper, ribbons, boxes and bags. If you're planning to mail gifts, see their "Shipping Supplies
" section to make sure you have what you need.
The Stationary Studio
is a great source for personalized wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons, invitations and stationary. The company will personalize your paper product with names or sayings. To browse their products, visit the "Wrappings
sells high quality, moderately priced wrapping paper and accessories. The site provides useful tips on gift-wrapping techniques as well as ways to get creative. Shop the "wrap collections" for coordinated paper, ribbon and bag sets, or shop "a la carte."
For gift-wrapping tips and ideas ...
features an article on how to make your gift look as though it was professionally wrapped. Links to a few other related articles are at the bottom of the page.
offers an illustrated and easy-to-follow tutorial on wrapping a rectangular box. Look for more instructions and tips in the links on the lower right.
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