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16 Incredibly Thoughtful Non-Material Gift Ideas For Those Most Special to You

IT’S OFFICIALLY THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR. If you can’t tell by me type-screaming Christmas song lyrics at you, we love the holidays over here. A lot. So much so that we’ve already leaned into the season but now it’s post-Thanksgiving and no one can tell us not to. Here’s what we’re up to: drinking gallons of cocoa, decking halls, listening to Michael Buble’s Christmas album on repeat, decorating the heck outta a Tannenbaum, oh, and that reminds me that there are about one million gifts I still need to buy.

Luckily, we’re deep into the land of gift guides. If you’re stuck like I am, here’s what to give to the guys in your life, your gal pals, your Secret Santa, anyone if you have a $50 budget, the kids, and Emily (as in, what she thinks are good gifts, not what she’s telling her staff to buy her, ha). BUT WAIT! What about your S.O., your parents, your best friend who spends way more than you do on presents? Some of the best gifts for the best people just can’t be wrapped up in a box, tied with a bow. This guide here is more about the experience or the sentimental. The non-material gift ideas that we can almost guarantee ANYONE and EVERYONE will love. Here’s how to tenderly whisper “hey, I love you and you mean the world to me” without having to fumble around for the scotch tape:

The Friend/Family Member You Want to Spend More Time With

Sur la Table Cooking Class + Standing Dinner Date: I don’t know what it is but there’s just something SO romantic about food, which is maybe why I think being a good cook is an incredibly attractive quality for any person to possess. If you agree, then give the gift of sex-appeal (or maybe just have a good time with the foodie friend in your life) through a Sur la Table Cooking Class. Then make it even MORE romantic (or plutonic—I don’t know who you’re giving this to), by making a date to remake the meal and practice those newly acquired skills.

Shaker + Spoon Subscription Box + A Scheduled Reoccuring Happy Hour: Now here’s something I’d recommend for someone that seeks out a good cocktail, likes to make their own concoctions at home, or maybe just likes to get a little toasty on occasion, hey, I don’t judge. Here’s the greatest reason to hang out with someone and learn to make cool drinks! Commit to swinging by when the box arrives (you bring the pizza, maybe?) for a night of playing mixologist with your favorite imbiber.

Ice Cream Pajama Party: I’m sorry, but did you know you can get ice cream delivered straight to someone’s door from Jeni’s? What a time to be alive. So, for the “artisanal” ice cream lover in your life, this one’s for you (or them). (It’s also great for long-distance lovers or BFFS…just throwing that out there.) Get them an ice cream subscription, pencil in a date if you’re nearby to put on your coziest PJs and have an ice cream pajama party (we are gladly accepting invitations for this, because sounds like fun).

That Person You Want to Wow With Your “Effort”

Pretty Vessel + Little Papers With Personalized Compliments Written on Them: The story goes (I don’t know, I wasn’t here at the time) that for last year’s EHD holiday outing, which included a Secret Santa gift exchange, Jess brought Arlyn to tears with a beautiful ceramic vessel full of little papers with happy thoughts and compliments, so EHD followed suit by making it a birthday tradition this whole past year. IT’S SERIOUSLY THE BEST. Find a pretty vase (one big enough to stick your hand in), a box or even pretty planter, write down a bunch of nice things about a person (or get people in their life to do it with you), and wait for the tears to start flowing.

Custom Illustration: We’ve recommended this before and everyone loved it, so here we are again! Some ideas for the subject of the illustration: a pet, someone’s children, a family photo, a wedding photo, someone’s first home…get creative! Most custom illustrations won’t run you more than $50 but feel like you put a TON of thought into the gift (just be sure to allow time for the creation of the piece…this is not a “last-minute” idea…unless you’re artistic and doing it yourself).

Photo Book: There is not a parent/grandparent out there that wouldn’t squeal with delight opening up a customized photo book that you created for them (and we back that statement with our 100% money-back guarantee!). And honestly, it’s just a really good gift for anyone you care about/cares about you. It takes a little time to gather all the photos and design out the book, but sites like Artifact Uprising make it as easy as it’s going to get. (Again, plan a little extra time to build out the book and for printing.)

To Improve Someone’s Everyday Life

Skillshare Subscription: Bring out their inner hobbyist (or help them to discover what that hobby is). Emily worked with Skillshare on a styling course this fall (check that out here), but the site doesn’t just offer design e-classes. There is literally something for everyone, from cooking to business to art and photography.

Tidy Cleaning Service: WHERE DO WE SIGN UP? We know “cleaning” doesn’t sound “fun” but think of all the time you’ll be giving back to someone by letting someone else clean for them. A great add-on to the cleaning service is “tickets” someone can cash in for some fun with you (picnic at the park? movie date?) while SOMEONE ELSE is making their house sparkly.

Car Detail + Oil Change: Again, maybe not the most razzle-dazzle gift on this list, but a car detail and oil chance are the types of things everyone can definitely use but would rather spend their money on something else. Gift them a Groupon gift card so they can pick the spot that’s most convenient to them.

Someone You Want to Feel Pampered

Zeel In-Home Massage: Just what someone needs after the rush rush of the holiday season, right? Zeel offers in-home massages all across the country, so just double-check that their services are available in your giftee’s market.

Spa Finder Gift Card: This one is for the spa-lover who might prefer other services, like a facial over a massage (though Spa Finder can also, of course, be used for a massage at a ton of participating spas across the nation).

ResortPass: You know that friend/cousin/uncle who comes to life the second they plop themselves down next to a hotel pool, but also feels shady about sneaking in to use a really nice resort’s facilities if they aren’t actually staying there? Bring on the ResortPass. Basically how it works is, you pay a day rate for access to the pool or spa (or other amenities) of a posh hotel even if you aren’t an official overnight guest. This is great to use on vacation if you’re staying at a more affordable spot but want to feel fancy at that rooftop pool, or even locally to check out the offerings at a spot in your own neck of the woods.

The Adventurers and Travelers

National Parks Subscription: If you have a hiker, traveler, camper or general nature lover in your midst, an annual pass to any park managed by the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation is covered in this subscription. Valid a year from the month of purchase.

Cloud 9 Living Experiences: Cloud 9 Living has over 2,300 experiences to pick from in over 55 locations across, such as driving experiences, flying, getaways, scenic cruises, spa packages, guided city tours, golf lessons and more. We feel pretty solid on the fact that anyone would likely find a handful of activities they’d be super jazzed to try out (that they might not think to do for themselves).

Airbnb Gift Card: Airbnb isn’t just for overnight stays in cities you don’t live in. They have a ton of other local experiences (and just launched culinary which lets you enjoy a homecooked meal with a warm and welcoming native to the city…and that’s either your worst nightmare or your greatest dream).

Pack Up + Go Trip: Okay, so fair warning, this is not for the control freak in your life, but for your more loose and free loved one, Pack Up + Go will plan a surprise trip (from a road trip to a place that requires airfare) with all the details figured out based on your preferences. You just show up to the airport and get ready for a good time.


***lead photo by Veronica Crawford; styling by Jess Bunge and Arlyn Hernandez

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4 years ago

Maybe it’s just me but the text under the ResortPass item reads a little…how should I put this…not family friendly? Maybe I’m just reading it wrong?
Love this post!

4 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Yes…and I can’t even figure out what they mean!

4 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Hahaha! Hopefully it’s, ummmm………..not family friendly. Who wants kids around ALL the time. Pampering like this SHOULD be just for adults. Nothing wrong with that!

4 years ago
Reply to  Beth

It’s not just you lol 🙂

4 years ago
Reply to  Beth

HAH this is exactly how I read this too. Whoops

4 years ago

My sister donate money to a farm sanctuary in my honor! Best gift ever!

Tina Schrader
4 years ago

This is such a uunique take on the gift quides, and one I have not seen elsewhere. EHD has provided one of the most comprehensive and spot-on gift guides around. I’m normally not one for home-related blogs, but EHD’s is the only one (and Insta account) that I check daily, as much for the personality and perspective as for the content. You all put so much work in, and it is appreciated. Thank you for this and everything else!

Annie K
4 years ago

Also, museum memberships!

My sister-in-law and her family just moved to Salt Lake City area and have never lived in a real “winter”. My in-laws and we split a membership to a set of indoor play areas and museums there (called Thanksgiving Point). I’m so happy we were able to do that! Her kids are 6 and 2.5 and homeschooled so this felt like giving my sister-in-law a survival pass for the season.

4 years ago
Reply to  Annie K

That’s SUCH a good idea!!

4 years ago

My friends and I just did Pack Up and Go two weeks ago, and it was an awesome experience! Well worth doing again!

4 years ago

this is great! experiences over things alwayssss. my fiancee made haikus for date vouchers and it was the sweetest most thoughtful (and sustainable -he truly gets me ) best gift ever

Alexandra Rose
4 years ago

Yay! Thank you!