Last-Minute Gift Ideas That Really Mean Something


December 20, 2022

With the holidays fast approaching and a few people left on your gift list, you might be tempted to run to the mall, grab a gift card and call it a day. And while there’s nothing wrong with a gift card to a place your BFF loves most, there is something to be said for putting thought into your holiday presents.

Before you resign yourself to a rushed and shruggable gift, go for last-minute presents that actually mean something. From gifts of service to tasty treats, there are plenty of ways to warm your loved ones’ hearts this holiday season.

Out of time but still need a gift with meaning? Try one (or all) of these meaningful last-minute gift ideas.

Can’t-miss Tickets

Is there a tour coming to town? Perhaps it’s a live concert, a theater performance or a limited-engagement museum exhibit. If your loved one would give anything to attend, make it happen.

Buying tickets can be a great gift option for people who are short on time to go shopping. You can often get tickets with just a few clicks of your mouse. The digital vouchers will quickly arrive in your inbox. If you don’t know what day your recipient will be available, purchase a gift certificate to the ticketing website instead.

Charitable Donations

Making a charitable donation in someone’s honor doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation. Perhaps that’s because workplaces often use this as a generic gift that doesn’t actually mean much to their employees.

But if you put thought into it, this can actually be a quite meaningful gift. Rather than making a blanket donation to cover everyone on your shopping list, personalize your efforts. Pick causes that your recipients truly care about. They’ll appreciate that you recognize their passions and are willing to support their favorite issues.

You could even give them the gift of time along with your monetary donation, offering to help them volunteer at a local place that means something to them. 

Vintage Toys

Many people have sentimental attachments to the things they loved as a child. Perhaps you can get your hands on a duplicate. Imagine your recipient’s surprise when she unwraps her gift and sees a favorite childhood book or a treasured playset.

Of course, this gift option depends on being able to track down just the right items. Thrift stores and antique shops may have what you’re looking for. Online auction sites may be your best bet, especially if there’s still enough time for shipping.

Homemade Meals

Maybe you have a signature recipe that you’re known for. Friends and family rave when you make it. They’d probably love to receive a dish of it as a holiday gift.

Of course, this season usually features an abundance of food, so your loved ones may not have space in their bellies for your gift right now. Frozen meals are a great alternative. Whip up a batch of your famous lasagna in a disposable pan. If you tightly cover it with plastic wrap and foil, the casserole should keep in the freezer for a few months. Your recipients can pull out the dish for an easy dinner on a busy weeknight.

And if you don’t mind sharing your recipe, consider creating a nice physical copy of it and including it with a batch of whatever you make. Then your world-famous dish becomes a gift that will keep on giving.

Shared Workshops

This holiday season, consider experience-based gifts. Craft workshops and cooking classes offer fun environments in which to learn interesting things. You might even help your friends launch a brand-new hobby!

Consider buying a workshop pass for yourself, too. That way, you’ll be giving your loved ones both the educational experience and the opportunity to spend time together.

Family Stories

Family memories are a precious commodity, but it’s easy for them to slip away. Take the time to save those memories now before it’s too late. You can write them in a book, capture audio recordings or take videos of people telling family stories.

If you’re one of the older members of your family, perhaps you’d like to tell tales about your parents, your grandparents or your childhood. If you’re younger, ask other family members to share their memories. Compile them into one collection that both young and old will treasure.

Babysitting Offers

Stretched-thin parents may want nothing more this holiday season than a break. Offering to watch their kids might be the very best present you could offer. Whether you keep the children for a few hours or overnight, the grownups are sure to be grateful.

This might be a gift you offer before the holiday arrives. While the kids are in your care, parents can get their shopping done or simply take a step back from the hustle and bustle of holiday events. If you’d rather put a childcare gift under the tree, print a colorful babysitting coupon. Printablee offers a variety of free templates.

Year-round Letters

Sometimes, words straight from your heart make the best gifts. Maybe you have something meaningful to share, so you’ve thought about writing a heartfelt note. That’s a lovely idea, and your recipient may save the letter for years to come.

But why not take it one step further? Instead of penning just one message, write 12 of them. Tie them in a stack or slide them into a pretty box. Your recipient will have one note to open for each month of the coming year.

Overnight Trips

It’s a big world out there. Go explore it with a person you love. Planning an overnight trip together could be a gift for both of you. Round out the present with a new suitcase or a pair of walking shoes.

Consider the travel option for your hard-to-buy-for teenagers. Some might be thrilled to visit a big city for the shops and restaurants. Others may prefer a theme park adventure or a weekend of hiking. Whatever you choose, it could be a great bonding opportunity for you and your kids.

Snack Baskets

If food is the way to your loved one’s heart, then a collection of favorite treats will surely hit the spot. Arrange them in an attractive basket, and your gift will be ready to go.

To make this present meaningful, really think about the foods and drinks that your recipient will most appreciate. Perhaps that means going out of your way to track down hard-to-find items. You could also splurge for some pricier treats. Of course, this doesn’t have to be an expensive gift. Simply include your recipient’s all-time favorite goodies to make this a much-loved present.

Easy-prep Mixes

And speaking of food, busy families often need a quick dinner or side dish. Gift an assortment of pre-made mixes that bring meals together in a snap. Soup mixes are especially popular. The chef may need to add only water to transform a bag of dehydrated ingredients into a filling meal.

You can purchase mixes or create your own. If you need recipe ideas, Wholefully offers instructions for making six different soup mixes. Each can be artfully layered in a glass canning jar.

Portrait Sessions

For the grandparents who have everything, turn to family photos. It’s a gift that they’ll proudly display in their house and enjoy throughout the year.

Plus, it’s easy to pull this present together at the last minute. You don’t have to have the pictures taken and printed ahead of time. Rather, you can wrap up a gift certificate for a future photo session. Round out the gift with an attractive picture frame. Once the certificate and frame are unwrapped, you can schedule a photo day that works for each branch of the family.

And if an in-person photo shoot would be too tough for everyone to attend, consider getting a digital photo frame. You and the rest of your family can periodically send photos to the frame remotely, so your parents or grandparents always have fresh pictures on display.