Shopping for That Special Guy? 13 Holiday Gifts Not to Buy

Make the guys on your holiday list happy this year. Avoid these gifting no-nos.

Ladies, as you know, shopping for men can be tough. Here’s a bit of help. While you’ll find many enticing selections for holiday gifts, there are a few categories to avoid at all costs, whether you are shopping for a guy you just started dating, your dad or the man you’ve been married to for years. Before you gift wrap that nose-hair trimmer, take a moment to consider avoiding these 12 types of gifts:

1. Ties

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Dads around the world cringe at the thought of the ties they’ll surely receive for Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Not to mention Father’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries.

As a 30-something, I think I can count on one hand the number of men I know who actually wear ties. And those who do wear ties wear them for work. Who wants to think of work on a holiday? Not the guy you love. Spare him that. Think more creatively and ditch this hackneyed guy gift.

2. Clothes and shoes

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Although not as bad as ties, clothes and shoes should be avoided, too. Why? Take your pick:

  • You could buy the wrong style.
  • You could buy the wrong size.
  • You could buy the wrong fit.

Clothing purchases are tempting. But restrain yourself unless you wish to a) help with returning the gift or b) understand that it could end up on the floor of his closet.

Thinking socks and undies are a safe pick? Stop right there! Are you shopping for your 3-year-old or a grown man? No grown man I know wants a woman buying his undergarments as a gift.

3. Nose-hair trimmers and other personal care items

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Personal care items are a land mine of unspoken assumptions and mixed messages. He’s bound to wonder what you’re trying to tell him. You think he has a nose-hair problem? You think he has a hygiene problem? You think he’s wonderful — but could be better?

No matter how much the QVC hosts try to convince you otherwise, your man will probably not be tickled to receive a three-in-one shaver. On the other hand, if you’re trying hard to offend, make a nose-hair trimmer your go-to gift.

4. Bath products

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While we’re at it, let’s rule out all bath products. “I’m going to light some candles and soak in the tub” are not words spoken often if ever by men. Some may enjoy specialty soaps that leave them smelling like lavender, lemon or cut grass. But I can’t picture men I know primping and pampering on a regular basis. So put that bath set down and find something he’ll actually use.

5. Jewelry

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It’s not that men can’t wear jewelry. But most don’t. When they do, the choice tends to be a fairly personal one.

Scroll back up to the “clothes and shoes” section and reread every potential mistake. The chance of wasting money on something he’ll never use or doesn’t like are high with a gift of jewelry.

6. Cologne

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Fragrances are another minefield. Some men don’t wear cologne at all. Those who do are likely to have very specific tastes. In addition, many men regard cologne as a utilitarian gift, kind of like receiving deodorant or shampoo.

7. Flimsy tool sets

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My late husband worked in construction, so of course everyone thought he liked tools. And he did like tools, just not the ones our relatives often gave him.

The problem was twofold: First, he already had all the tools he needed. Second, the tool sets given him as gifts tended to be cheap and poorly made. They might be acceptable for assembling furniture out of a box, but not for someone who really works with his hands.

If you’re going to buy tools and want to see your gift used, ask if there’s a specific tool he wants and then purchase the best version of it that you can afford. Or just let him buy his own tools.

8. Romantic whatever

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After nearly 15.5 years of marriage, I feel confident I can say that what women think is sweet and romantic and what men like are two totally different things. Discussions with friends back me up on this.

Booking his-and-her massages at the spa or giving your beau a stuffed bear that says “I love you” may seem the perfect way to show how much you care, but the man in your life may prefer some craft beer, a video game or maybe even (gasp!) a tie.

9. Self-help books

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I know! If only he would read “The Secrets of Happily Married Men”!

Also, I totally agree that he would get the promotion if he would absorb the lessons from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

But using a gift opportunity to try to improve someone you love is as dangerous as walking into a bear trap with bare feet. You couldn’t possibly send a stronger message of “you’re not good enough.”

I’m all for self-improvement. And I’m for encouraging self-improvement in others. But wrapping it in gift paper and ribbon is a perfect way to ruin the holiday for the one you love.

10. Pictures of you

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By all means, give him a photo of you. Or of you and him together. Frame it and wrap it up. He’ll love it, maybe. But not for the holidays. Instead, make it a “just-because” moment at any other time of year. As a holiday gift, a photo of you won’t cut it.

11. A donation to charity

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Many of the gifts above are no-nos because they are too personal.

A charitable donation, though, is not personal enough.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say it’s not a fabulous idea to take most of your holiday gift budget and donate it to charity.

But when you do, tell him what you are doing and why. And then go crazy finding inexpensive but meaningful gifts that tell him, “you are loved,” gifts that show you thought about what matters to him and what makes him happy.

12. Tech toys you don’t understand

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Personal technology, in its way, is as perilously personal a category as underwear. A successful gift of tech depends on you understanding the product choices well and selecting the best among them. It also depends on understanding your guy well enough to know which toys would delight him and which would seem useless.

Avoid gifts of personal technology unless:

  1. You have a solid understanding of the field and know for a fact that this particular thing is something he’ll use.
  2. He told you that he’d love to receive a specific thing — a pair of Bose noise-canceling earphones, a Sony PlayStation VR, a Segway or whatever.

13. Gifts that really are for you

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Let’s eliminate all gifts that are really for you. Be brutally honest with yourself about your motives. Those self-help books? Really for your benefit, right? The personal care kit? You want your guy to look clean and polished. The cologne? You want him to smell nice — for you.

Don’t give him a bookcase because you want a bookcase. Or socks because he needs them. Rather than make your gifts a reflection of what you want for him, think hard about what he wants.

If you’re not sure what he wants, just ask him.

Of course there are exceptions to all these rules. Your guy may actually want some of the items on this list of no-nos. If he does you can, with his blessing, enjoy finding him the most gorgeous pair of wingtips or low-rise briefs or argyle socks imaginable.

Men, tell us about the worst gift you’ve received: Share in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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