Birthday Gifts You Can Give to Absolutely Anyone on Your List

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Natalie Board)

Nobody wants to show up empty handed when they’re invited to celebrate a birthday, but if you don’t know the person all too well, buying a gift can be sort of a minefield.

What not to give: Tired gifts like decorative soap, picture frames or candles. Instead, put one of these five presents on your list. Each one is common enough to be a crowd-pleaser, but can be easily dressed up with a pretty or personal touch.

Flowers or a Potted Plant

Some people think that giving flowers has some sort of romantic attachment. I’d like to nip that in the bud right now (pun intended): I love having fresh flowers around, and would be delighted to receive a beautiful bunch of them from just about anyone.

How to personalize it: Assuming you don’t know their favorite flower or type of plant, pick out a color you’ve seen them wear or decorate with, and choose a bloom in a similar shade (skip the pre-arranged bouquets and instead get a generous bunch of one type of flower). If you know they cook at home, a potted herb is a nice option, as well.

(Image credit: MAST Brothers)

Really Good Chocolate

The best gifts are ones that you’d never buy yourself. A too-expensive bar of chocolate will never make the grocery list, but is priced just right for a sweet gift.

How to personalize it: Choose one with a pretty label, wrap it in a beautiful ribbon and include a handwritten note.

A Gift Card

There’s a common perception that gift cards are kind of a cop-out gift, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to receive them.

How to personalize it: Skip the Starbucks card, please. Go with a local restaurant or a boutique shop that you heartily recommend. Movie or museum passes are a pretty great idea, too.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

A Bottle of Wine, Champagne or Liquor

If you know the giftee is one to enjoy a drink from time to time, this is a gift that never gets old. Plus, a person can never have too much — booze has a long shelf life and will certainly be enjoyed one day down the line.

How to personalize it: Choose a spirit you’ve known them to drink before. If you’re at a total loss, find something with a name, brand or illustration that nods to something about them, an inside joke, or something you have in common. And if all else fails, just pick the best-looking label. (And if they are a teetotaler, you can always grab a pretty bottle of sparkling water or fancy soda.)

Lottery Tickets

Anyone who’s bought a ticket for a multi-billion dollar Powerball drawing knows that there’s quite a thrill in just daydreaming about winning money. Scratch-offs or lotto tickets are a cheap gift that goes a long way in creativity.

How to personalize it: If any of the themed scratch-offs feel appropriate to the person, go with that. If not, just tuck them into a nice card with a message that says “Good luck!”

What’s your favorite birthday gift, to give or to get?