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FIVE Go-to Gifts for

folks who have


We have been staying at my in-laws house this past week. My FIL needed to travel for work and my MIL is homebound and unable to stay alone. Thankfully, working from home has made the hubs more mobile and we were able to help out. And I am happy to do so, even if the guest bed is like sleeping directly on a pile of bricks. (I’ve been practicing keeping my joy in spite of this challenge-LOL.)

My in-laws are truly lovely people. They are very generous and interested in what is going on in our lives and the lives of the kids. I’m really thankful that we get along so well.

But figuring out gifts for them has been one of the greatest gift-giving challenges of my adult life. They are fairly well-off folks and totally self-sufficient, so if there is something they want or need, they just take care of it themselves. And they live pretty simply; they are from the old school of wear it out before you throw it out, so some of the things still in use around this house are older than I am. (Electric can-opener, I’m looking at you.) I have given them a number of gifts over the years that I know have never been used, so I have had to re-group and brainstorm quite a bit. This is challenging for me, as someone who is normally really intuitive with choosing gifts for people. But I have persevered.

And with that perseverance I have learned a few lessons. When you are dealing with folks who already have everything (or don’t need much), there are always several things that will work.

Here are my top 5 go-to gift ideas for the folks who have everything.

1. Attention.

You might have thought I would start with time. (And I did, but I changed my mind.) Spending time with people is not necessarily the same thing as giving them your attention. (Although maybe it should be.) It’s possible I am becoming more sensitized to this as I get older, but my MIL really enjoys sitting at the table having a conversation with us. And giving her a chance to reminisce or share her ideas while we listen and reply is one of the things that means the most to her.

This is also true of my own parents and pretty much everyone everywhere. We all like how it feels when someone really sees and hears us. And since attention is a finite resource on any given day, it really IS a thoughtful gift, whether around the table at dinner or on a special occasion.

Set aside some specific time when you can give your loved one the gift of your attention. Come armed with a few questions to ask them: about how they are doing, their memories, their concerns. Then really pay attention to what they have to say.

2. Memories.

One gift that never gets old is sharing memories of our family throughout the year. There were several years I made my in-laws photo books on Shutterfly, which were a big hit. My MIL got to take her time going over what the kids had been doing, our family vacations, and important events. (And was able to re-visit those books anytime she was missing us.)

I haven’t always had time to put together a whole book, but I have also made calendars: only one photo per month required. And a framed copy of the family photo (often the one that went on the Christmas card) has always been a win.

A great idea my daughter had was to get a revolving digital photo frame that the whole family could upload photos to (it works on wifi). That way the Grands could keep up with our goings-ons in something closer to real time.

3. Consumables.

You need to know your recipient a little bit to make successful choices here, but buying pretty hand soap or candles from a place like Bath & Body Works can be a great gift for people who already have it all.

Consumables also include food items (obviously). If your person is a coffee connoisseur or has a huge sweet tooth, order a specialty item or gift basket tailored to their interests and tastes. This doesn’t have to be an expensive item, either. My dad loves Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but rarely buys it for himself. So every birthday and Christmas, he gets a giant bag from us.

Another way to tailor this idea to your specific locale is with a food item your area is well known for. My dad used to always send Florida citrus to his siblings further north each year at Christmas.

And of course there are always flowers. I love to send real flowers, but one of my MILs favorite gifts was a paper flower bouquet from LovePop cards that she has left out on the kitchen counter all year.

These things are wins because they don’t have to be stored long term and can be used right away.

4. Monthly Subscriptions.

A monthly gift can also be a great choice. For my FIL, the OG Cookie Monster, we gave a cookie-of-the-month subscription one year that was a big hit. Most companies allow you to choose from a three, six or twelve month subscription of cookies, popcorn, wine, books, tea, flowers…the options are pretty extensive!

(Just Google “[your item] gift of the month” for ideas.)

You could also give a subscription to a service like Blue Apron, who delivers meals ready to cook right to your door.

Another monthly subscription that could be a big hit is news or entertainment media. Now that so many online news outlets have a paywall, a subscription to the New York Times or The Atlantic might be greatly appreciated. Or go old-school (my preference in magazines) with a subscription to a print media publication covering a subject they are interested in.

5. Something they would never buy for themselves.

You know your people. It’s likely that there is something they would enjoy that they would never spend the money on themselves. My incredibly frugal husband is a runner. We hit on the perfect gift for my mom to give him that he literally would NEVER buy for himself in a zillion years. $15 Balega running socks. And he wears them All.The.Time.

My FIL love-love-loves Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal; my dad loves Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (see above). You think they EVER buy these for themselves? Nope.

Moral of this story: the gift doesn’t need to be a large and expensive thing to be a treat! The socks, cereal and coffee are always a huge hit. And the best part? Socks wear out and cereal and coffee get used up. So these ideas can stay in the gift rotation as long as they are well received.

You know your person best. Maybe the Magical Unicorn Gift is a pedicure or a massage. Maybe it is tickets to an event they would never pay to attend. Do a little sleuthing to uncover the special treat your person won’t buy for themselves.

Giving to someone who is hard to buy for just requires a little thinking outside the box!

Giving to your people who either have it all already or live simply and don’t need much can be a challenge. But not an insurmountable one! Hope these ideas help make it a little easier to find ways to spoil your in-laws, or whoever in your life is a little more challenging to buy for.


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