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2019 Gift Guide: What to Buy Your Coworker, Secret Santa & Other “Hard to Shop For” People

We all know them, we all (sometimes) love them, maybe you ARE them…that person who totally stumps you when it comes time for gift giving. Maybe they have everything, maybe you only sort of know them (like the coworker you eat lunch with every day but mostly just talk about your Netflix queues with) but still want to get them a little something nice to end the year with. Or possibly, they’re a family member that is notoriously “grateful” for the sweater you give them every year…that you never see the wear. We can help you do better. Read on for sure-to-be-loved gift ideas for seven types of that “hard to shop for” person in your life.

That Coworker You Only Sort of Know

Hard To Shop For Coworker

Hey Dewy Portable Facial Humidifier, $39: Winter is looooong, guys (well, not here in SoCal, #sorrynotsorry) and faces get dry. The solution? Move to LA! And if that can’t happen, a desktop facial humidifier with a 10-hour run time is a pretty decent runner up.

Patchology Winter Warm Up Gift Set, $16: For your office mate who’s always cold, there’s no better gesture than the gift of warmth (also a gift to yourself so you don’t have to hear their teeth chattering all day—win win).

Personalized Pet Toy, from $20: You might not know anything personal about this person, but you did spot a photo on their desk of them in matching T-shirts…with their Frenchie. Dig around for that pup’s name and make Susan’s (and little Lola’s) day.

Small Three-Legged Cat Planter, $38: There has never been a cat owner to walk the earth that hasn’t quickly (and likely, unprompted) claimed their “cat person” status. Solidify their feline fancy with a sweet little kitty-emblazoned planter. Throw in a succulent or two for low-maintenance, high-impact office decor.

Tasty Ultimate: How to Cook Basically Anything, $16: The siren call of a Tasty “hands and pans” video has claimed us all at some point or another. But admit it…that cookie-stuffed-into-a-pie-stuffed-into-a-cake situation looks good. Gift this cookbook to anyone you think is generous enough to make something out of it…then bring it into the office for you to partake of.

W&P Do Something Dice, $12: For the indecisive teammate who can never decide between tacos and pizza for lunch. Ya welcome.


Hard To Shop For Homebody

Boy Smells LES Scented Candle, $32: For the New York lover, hygge and wanderlust, all in one! Boy Smells also has a handful of other great scents that really pack the fragrance punch.

Custom House Portrait, from $45: Know someone who is obsessed with their home…and never leaving it? Remind them what the exterior of their dwelling looks like with a custom house portrait (but really, it’s a great gift for any first-time homeowners who will likely love the reminder of their milestone as the decades tick on).

GooDee HD Video Projector, $184: A built-in HIFI stereo speaker, low-noise cooling fan, and light-on-or-off viewability make this top-notch video projector perfect for movie day or night. (Buyer’s confidence boost: it has an almost 5-star rating from nearly 1,000 reviewers.)

Woven Linework Throw Blanket, $20: Every favorite sofa or chair corner deserves a throw this pretty.

Live Edge Wood Bath Caddy, $80 and Lord Jones High CBD Bath Salts, $65: Help turn bathtime into a spa-ahhhh moment for your favorite homebody. The bath caddy has an adjustable track on the bottom so it’ll work for most tubs, big and small, and the Lord Jones bath salts have a little sumptin’ sumptin’ special in them to go for maximum relaxation.

Pizza Baking Stone & Peel, $35: It’s not delivery, it’s…homemade pizza night. Because who can bother trying to fight for parking at the local pizzeria on a hoppin’ Friday night (and cold, congealed cheese from a slow Postmates driver is good for no one).

The Frequent Flier

Hard To Shop For Jetsetter

Vanity Case, $85: I mean…is there anything posher than a vanity case while traveling? Calpak is one of my favorite luggage brands both for form and function. This gorgeous gal has a hard waterproof case, a handing luggage trolley sleeve, and plenty of interior dividers to keep your skincare perfect organized.

Made by Design Hardside Carry On 20″ Spinner, $79: Reviewers mentioned this fit clothes for a 2-week trip, is lightweight, the wheels are smooth and the material doesn’t seem flimsy. It has a 2-inch expander for those longer trips (or over-packers) and fits in the overhead bin with ease.

Travel Smart Luggage Scale, $20: For anyone who has to pack a suitcase and hop on a plane on the reg, there’s maybe no handier tool to prevent the dreaded shuffling of stuff at the bag check counter when 3 pounds over the limit.

Packing Cubes 5-Piece Set, $58: Packing cubes are the kind of thing that you don’t know how you survived without them all this time. Digging around a bottomless pit of a suitcase for your socks or pajamas ends here.

Birkenstock Boston Soft Footbed Clog, $145: Any frequent flier knows the key to zipping through security is #1 getting TSA pre-check and #2 having shoes that are easy-off-easy-on. These Birkenstocks are beloved by anyone who has them and the closed toe keeps those toes warm in the frigid airplane.

CBD Daily Travel Set, $40: I don’t need to reiterate how stressful traveling is, even if the destination is usually worth the treacherous journey. Ease the pain of long layovers with this easy-to-pack CBD travel set.

Pinch Provisions Travel Kit, $25: Ever walk through first or business class and feel a ping of jealousy as you see people going through their complimentary “comfort kits” as I call them? Yeah…this one is WAY better, complete with anything you might need for those little annoyances that pop up.

Kristin Ess Space Saving Compact Pro Dryer, $51: Speaking of traveling and coifing, a compact, folding blowdryer is clutch for saving space in your bag but also not relying on weak hotel dryers.

Likes to Keep Busy

Hard To Shop For Likes To Keep Busy

2020 Planner 5″x8″ by Cupcakes and Cashmere for Blue Sky, $11: For the Busy Betty in your life, help them keep all their meetings, lunch dates, and weekend trips straight. This planner has weekly and monthly calendar pages to plot out the big picture plus all the nitty-gritty.

Anomia Party Edition, $25: A friend of mine pulled this out last year during a lull in a dinner party and it’s quickly become my go-to “awkward moment filler” for any get-together. The rules are super simple to understand and I promise your guests will want to go for round two (or five) once they start.

Paint by Sticker Music Icons, $11: You know what they say about idle hands…this paint by sticker (music icons!) book is a time-tested activity without any of the mess.

Singer 100-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine, $173: Give someone a sewing machine and give them a life of endless projects. This one from Singer has 100 stitches for almost any project, a 25-year warranty and comes with bonus accessories.

Sur la table Cooking Class, Prices Varied: Pasta making courses to knife skills to full-on French date night theme, Sur la table cooking classes are honestly so great, even for those that already know what they’re doing (I speak from experience). There’s a class for nearly everyone.

The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals, $14: “Realizing Your House Goals”? Yes, please! If you know someone whose Instagram bookmarks look a Container Store catalog, they’ll love the heck out of this beautiful book.

(Obligatory) Secret Santa

Hard To Shop For Secret Santa

Brita Premium Water Filter Bottle, $20: Normal water bottles are great and all, but they’re only as good as the water you put in them. This one comes with an internal Brita filter so even that questionable public water fountain H2O can be worry-free.

Fortune Telling Birthday Book,  $10: There’s a fortune for every day of the year, so you don’t even need to know a person’s birthday for them to enjoy this book. Let the giftee now it’s usually a hit if you have people over…everyone wants to hear their fortune and it turns into fun adult story time.

Nonstick Doughnut Pan, $17: Ain’t nobody out here not liking doughnuts (and if that’s you, please don’t tell me about it in the comments…you’re just wrong). 😉 If you know someone is a moderately confident baker, I can almost bet they don’t have a doughnut pan but would be pretty excited to get one.

Round Trivet Catch, $22: Someone once gave me a little ring dish for a Secret Santa (or maybe it was just a general office mate gift) and definitely didn’t realize how useful this was until I finally decided to use it. I have one on my nightstand, on my dresser and in my bathroom…basically anywhere I might need to take off my rings (or hair tie) and keep them safe.

Snake Plant in Prospect Planter, $33: I’ve bought many a plant from The Sill and they are all healthy and thriving. P.S. a snake plant is a very low-maintenance pick and easy for nearly everyone to be able to keep alive.

Versed Twice as Nice Serum Rolling Gift Set, $17: Serums + face rollers are all the rage right now and this cruelty-free set comes in under $20.

Person You See Once a Year

Hard To Shop For Person Once A Year

Homebody A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines, $24: Joanna Gaines is essentially America’s design darling (ahem, so is Emily) and while sure, it’s likely an exaggeration to say everyone loves her, it’s a solid bet your aunt you haven’t seen since last year will be delighted by this book.

Luck The Essential Guide, $22: Hot Tip: Books are a great gift for so many different types of people, and one on luck…well…who can’t use a little more of that in their lives?

Olive Wood Salad Bowl, $79 and Olive Wood Spoon Set, $25: Olive wood resists odors and stains better than most other woods, which is why you see it used so often in food-grade items. It’s also striking and open shelving worthy. Pick up the bowl or the full set for the discerning nester.

Bodum Chambord French Press, from $36 and Intelligentsia Certified Organic French Roast Whole Bean Coffee, $15: As long as you’re not dealing with a tea-drinker, a French press paired with a killer roast of coffee bean is basically a fail-proof gift.

Palo Santo Incense, $18: Whether you believe in the powers of palo santo (said to be cleansing and bad energy clearing) or not, at the very least, it smells really great…and this one is sourced from sustainably harvested trees.

Stoneware Pitcher, $15: Not that the money spent on a gift matters, but if you’re looking to impress, this pitcher definitely looks like it costs at least 3 times what you will have paid for it.

Picky Parent (or Family Member)

Hard To Shop For Picky Parent

Brass Lucky Horseshoe, $58: According to the principles of Feng Shui, placing a horseshoe above your front door brings in good luck and fortune. I don’t care how picky someone is, more “fortune” is hardly a bad thing.

Canvas Weekender, $198: Nisolo is one of our favorite conflict-free fashion retailers. Their products are very well-made (i.e. durable), quietly fashionable and you can feel good about supporting the brand.

COROSI Air Fryer 5.8 Quart, $120: Air Fryers are to the small appliance world what cauliflower is to the food world: all anyone can talk about yet pretty solid. This one is extra-large, has all the bells and whistles you could want and high review marks.

Dyson V7 Motorhead Cord-Free Vacuum, $300: Admittedly a very luxe gift, but my Dyson cord-free vac has solidified its spot on my “grab in a fire” mental list. My sister was gifted one from her MIL a few years back and literally cried because she knew how much I treasured mine and couldn’t wait for her life to be changed by it. None of this is an exaggeration, and I can firmly proclaim that this is a GREAT gift if it’s in your budget.

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug, $130: Coffee or tea going cold is an adult right of passage, but once you’ve lived through it, you’ll know it’s time for something better. The Ember smart mug keeps your drink at the exact temperature someone prefers and can be controlled from your smartphone. What a time to be alive.

The Essential Bar Book by Jennifer Fiedler, $12 and Vonshef Matte Black Parisian Cocktail Set, $35: For your favorite happy hour enthusiast, bring cocktail time home with a comprehensive set (in a very cool matte black) paired with a great bar book, all for under $50.

Need more gift ideas? We’re rolling them out this week and next, but here’s what’s live so far: 

Gift Ideas for Women | Gift Ideas for Men

***photography by Veronica Crawford, styling by Jess Bunge and Arlyn Hernandez

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4 years ago

Just an FYI Palo Santo is not “woo-woo” especially when it is apart of people’s cultural and religious practice.

4 years ago
Reply to  sonia

And I believe it is now an endangered tree species..

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily

It is an endangered species. I love a good gift guide but I hope people will not buy palo santo both because of the need to save these trees but also out of respect for the cultures for which it is sacred. Please EHD team, will you remove palo santo from this list?

4 years ago

I think the little dioramas (is that even the right word?) you guys do for the gift guides are so cute!! 🙂

Callie Barcellos
4 years ago

I just want to know where those adorable deer came from in the top image?! Target?! So cute!! ☺️

4 years ago

I can’t live without my Ember. Great choice to put this on there.

4 years ago
Reply to  Sonia

We all know them, we all (sometimes) love them, maybe you ARE them …