Gift ideas for the men in your life

About three months ago, in the wee hours of morning on a weekday, I was desperately trying to get my mind to shut down and go to sleep. One thought led to another and I had this idea- get my husband 30 gifts for his upcoming 30th birthday. Excited, I gave up on trying to sleep, and started making the super set of gift ideas from which I would decide my final thirty. I wanted them to be useful, not too expensive and meaningful. After a while, my super set was still just a sub set and realization hit me on the enormity of the task I had signed up for.

Over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time figuring out the different gifts: some ideas were borrowed from others online, some were the result of a eureka moment, most were stocking stuffers. This is my attempt at abstracting the different ideas I have used in the past few months and before that, into themes, so someone chancing upon this list can extend it to suit their needs. And what better time than few weeks before Christmas!

  • What he wants: This is straightforward, something he wants to buy himself but hasn’t gotten around to yet. The key here is the timing; start early so you have enough time to identify options from daily conversations but don’t get the gift too early- if he decides to buy it himself, you will need to find excuses to stall. You could alternatively let him know what you are getting and ask for the exact specifications. Gifts: Wallet, wireless headphones, fitness tracker, a good knife set (if he does most of the chopping and complains about the knives), wine decanter, binoculars. Small gifts: Socks, USB cooling fans for the server.
  • What he needs: This list is similar to the ‘what he wants’ but he hasn’t realized it yet; at least he hasn’t explicitly mentioned it. The idea is to get something that will improve the recipient’s life. Gifts: Laptop bag, sweaters, travel kit with toiletries and the best of them all, time off from chores. When my brother was going back to school, I got him a clip on splash-proof bluetooth speaker as it was durable, small/easy enough to carry around and was loud enough for a small hostel room. Small gifts: Passport cover, touchscreen gloves. You could also put a selfish twist on it and make it a “what YOU think he needs”; sick of his beanie? use this opportunity to get him a newsboy hat.
  • What he loves: These gifts only work if you know the recipient well enough. Think of the different things he is into: sport teams, history, books, cars, music, TV series etc, dogs, cats, beer and that will help you in narrowing your search. Gifts: Newspapers from WW2 time, sports apparel and merchandise. Because my husband is an amateur radio enthusiast, my gifts to him have included a radio, buddipole and a tie with his call sign. Pro-tip: Combine related things to make a gift set. e.g. a desk plant with planter, potting mix and fertilizers make for a good combination gift. Small gifts: Novelty guitar pics, beef jerky, tennis balls.
  • Occasion specific: You can draw inspiration from the occasion to find the right gift. Gifts: For birthdays, there are a variety of gifts based on the birth date/year, like a print of the newspaper on the day the recipient was born or custom ‘aged to perfection’ t-shirts with their birth year. Small gifts: Before my wedding, I got my dad a pair of ‘Father of the Bride’ cuff links to wear during the ceremony as a just because gift.
  • DIY gifts: The key with DIY gifts is finding the shaded green portion in the below Venn diagram. Gifts: Message in a bottle, customized t-shirt using Paint/Photoshop for the design, picture collage, photo books. Small gifts: Handmade cards
  • Experience gifts: Find something that your recipient will like doing and enable that. Gifts: Gaming console, golf clubs, beer brewing kits, tickets to sporting events/shows, archery lessons, white water rafting trip, netflix subscriptions. Small gifts: Board games, movie night at home (rent on YouTube)
  • Good for a laugh: Personally I think these only make for good add on gifts but they work out well for some occasions like a gift exchange at work. For these gift ideas, google is your best buddy. Gifts: Novelty coffee mugs, tape dispenser. You could make it more personal if it is an inside joke between you and the recipient. A friend of mine had a ‘that’s what she said’ phase a few years ago and this t-shirt seemed like the perfect gift for his birthday. Small gifts: My husband was ambivalent about turning thirty. So I got him these mint prescriptions with a “Take one to feel young” customization.
  • Personalized gifts: If you decide to go this route, there is no dearth of options. I have used ‘Personalization Mall’ several times and it has worked out well for me. Etsy is another great option. Gifts: Anything monogrammed, photo gifts (e.g. photo puzzle), engraved gifts etc.
  • The gift of Reminiscence: These are my favorite kind of gifts. Goal is to find something that will bring back fond memories of the past to the recipient. Recreating childhood memories: a game he used to play as a kid, the candies he ate (if they are not typically available now), the book/movie that made the most impact on him, a trip to his favorite vacation spot as a kid. Memories of your relationship: A ticket stub book with tickets from all events you both have attended, recreation of significant milestones in your relationship. e.g. As one of the 30 gifts, I used 3-D white stick figure images to generate a picture of our first meeting. It ended up being his favorite of the lot.
“A hug is a great gift; one size fits all, and it’s easy to exchange.”
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