11 Last-Minute Gifts That Don’t Seem Last Minute

These are the kind of gifts that come in handy when an unexpected guest shows up around the holidays. Keep a stash of these on hand for when the need arises.


The secret to successful last-minute gifting is to buy something that men, women and even older kids will love. These are things you can have on hand for when there’s an unexpected guest or friend of a friend who shows up at a gathering. They are also things that plenty of retailers have, so you should be able to snap them up last minute if needed.

1. Spice up their lives

You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to enjoy the way spices perk up veggies, meats, soups, grilled foods and even baked goods. Penzey’s Spices has a mini-gift box with four universally appealing spices that will suit whatever food or beverage speaks to your gift recipient’s taste. $14.99 and up.

2. Light up a smile

Funky light bulbs are those things that you love when you see them at someone’s home, but you never think to buy them for yourself. The designer filament bulbs with “Smile” (or Flamingo Palm Tree or other words and designs) at ELightBulbs are fun gifts folks don’t think to buy for themselves. $7.99 and up.

3. Give them a sign

The beeps, rings and dings signaling text messages, emails and automatic electronic alerts are as disposable – and easy to ignore – as paper plates. Give the gift of old-school communication with a hanging chalkboard sign for simple messages and endearments. Who doesn’t want to see “I Love You” written by a special someone after a hard day at work? Find one at Terrain for $14.99.

4. Go old-school music

Nope, you’re not going to roll out a player piano (remember those?), but how about a portable modern-day mechanical music box from Fat Brain Toys? The kit comes with musical staff paper, so you can compose your own tunes or fire up your favorites. Starting at $16.95.

5. Glow up a storm

Holidays are a time to be corny, so everyone will enjoy a Giant Light Up Bulb Necklace. There is an array of more, and less, tasteful versions on Amazon that run from $5 to $20.

6. Provide this secret weapon

Don’t you hate it when you’re out and about and need to tighten a screw or open a bottle or make a quick cut? The multitool from ModCloth is the size of a credit card, so it slips into anyone’s wallet. $14.99.

7. Sweeten up

What about a personal taste of dark, milk and white chocolate, or three variations of peppermint-infused chocolate plus three types of classic chocolate? Anthropologie has a trio of tastes for you to gift. Best of all, they’re individual portions so no one has to share. $16.

8. Help ’em chill

Don’t think of the Corkcicle from Crate & Barrel as just a way to chill wine. Keep it in the freezer and pop it in a bottle of soda, juice or any other beverage you forget to chill. $12.95.

9. Arm them for auto trouble

OK, the auto emergency tool from Brookstone might not inspire the instant high fives of other sexy gifts, but it will be greatly appreciated when the recipient’s car breaks down and the flashlight, strobe, seat-belt cutter and other tools are available. Safety is always cool. $19.99.

10. Mug it up

You don’t need to be a “Dr. Who” fan to love the funky, square – literally and figuratively — Tardis mug complete with lid available at ThinkGeek. $19.99

11. Offer a look into the future in retro style

Fans of the ‘60s sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” know that lead character Robert Petrie had a Magic 8 Ball on his desk. The retro toy that “answers” questions is still a fave and can be found at Toys R Us. $11.99

Do you have a stash of gifts, just in case? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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