20 Crowd-Pleasing Gifts for People You Don’t Know Well


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Gifting can be difficult — whether it’s during the holiday season or any other time of year. Finding gifts for the people we know best can seem impossible, much less finding a gift for someone we don’t know.

Our Top Picks

Inexpensive Gifts

Sympathy Gifts

Celebratory Gifts

Gift Baskets

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But you shouldn’t give up. After all, it’s your kindness and the gesture itself that counts. There are plenty of gift ideas out there that are always pleasing to just about any crowd.

For example, finding a sympathy gift to say “sorry for your loss” may seem tricky. We’ve provided ideas for this situation and several others below. Feel free to use them as inspiration if none of them seem quite right for your recipient.

Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Someone You Don’t Know

Showing someone you care for them — even if you don’t know them that well — doesn’t have to be expensive. If you don’t find an idea that’s quite right below, think of something that you’d like to receive or something you’ve received in the past and go from there. 

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1. A nice journal

Journaling may not be habitual for everyone or even something your friend is interested in right now. 

However, it’s never too late to begin, and the journal you gift may be the motivation they need to do so. Consider getting a journal that comes with prompts to help them get into the groove or ensure that they’re using their journal constructively. 

2. A candle

Aromatherapy is a simple but powerful concept. Most times, all you need is a little candle to achieve it. 

Many affordable candles are just as long-lasting, pleasant, and aromatic as expensive options — sometimes more so. Choose a candle that may coordinate with your friend’s décor or a color scheme they may like for an added bonus. 

3. A coloring book or art book

The recipient doesn’t have to be an artist to enjoy a bit of coloring or an art book. Both make great additions to any home library or coffee table. Consider including a few markers or colored pencils along with your gift to further inspire your friend.

4. Lottery scratch-off

Lottery scratch-offs are common items at company gift swaps for good reason. They’re inexpensive, offer a bit of entertainment, and can have much larger payouts. It’s unlikely to come across anyone that would refuse the prospect of winning a bit of money. 

5. Something homemade

It doesn’t get more affordable than something you can make at home. If you have some time on your hands to make a cake, a lasagna, or anything else you specialize in — go for it. There are plenty of inexpensive items anyone can buy themselves from the store. Yet, they won’t be able to find your same care and craftsmanship. 

Sympathy Gift Ideas for Someone You Don’t Know Well

When someone is dealing with a loss, it’s important to help them feel comfortable, supported, and relaxed enough to process and grieve. While everyone handles loss differently, there are some gifts and other gestures that can help. 

Taking the step to give someone a sympathy gift, despite not knowing them that well, can mean a lot. You may also be interested in these ideas for sympathy messages for someone you don’t know well

6. Cookies or other treats

Whether you want to go the homemade route or you’d prefer to order from a bakery, food is always a comforting gesture.

Even if the person you’re directly expressing sympathy for doesn’t have that big of a sweet tooth, it’s likely that they are hosting family, friends, or young relatives that will appreciate them.  

7. A donation on their behalf

Some people simply aren’t as responsive to gifts as others. Furthermore, during delicate times such as losing a loved one, finding the right “tangible” gift may be challenging.

Making a donation to a cause that’s special to them or their late loved one helps pay kindness and generosity forward. Some causes even send a gift — like a stuffed animal or another memento — to a recipient of your choice as a thank you. 

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8. A luxury blanket

Blankets are one of those household items that you really can never have too many of. They come in handy when the weather gets cold, or guests stay the night.

And, if you select one that’s handmade or otherwise made with a higher-end fabric (like faux fur or chenille), your friend will love cozying up with it that much more. It’s an easy way to provide comfort to someone of any age, too. 

9. A plant

An indoor or outdoor plant in a nice pot is a gift that’s suitable for many occasions, especially to express sympathy.

Not only will taking care of the plant remind your friend of their late loved one, but it will also remind them of your support. Try to be mindful and choose one that will work well in your climate or something that’s low maintenance unless you happen to know the recipient is a plant enthusiast. 

10. A best-selling book

The book you choose doesn’t have to relate to loss or losing a loved one. In fact, it can be on any topic or from any genre, such as wellness or self-help, business, or history. Consider grabbing something that you believe your friend may be interested in, but try not to get anything too extreme.

For example, they may be very into murder mysteries or thrillers, but this may not be the best time for that. You may be interested in this list of books about moving on

Wedding, Birthday, or Celebratory Gift Ideas for Someone You Don’t Know Well

It’s hard not to join in when others are celebrating. To express your joy or support to someone you don’t know that well, a gift is a good place to start. You don’t have to go all out or spend a ton, either.  

11. A gift card to a restaurant you enjoy

Treating someone to a meal out (and one less night of cooking or cleaning) with a gift card is never a bad idea.

Choose a restaurant that you enjoy, or that’s good for special occasions. On the other hand, many people would be excited about any sort of food funds, glamorous or not. 

12. A board game or set of board games

The chance is very slim that you’ll pick out a game your recipient already has. Plus, board games and similar items are great for newlyweds or someone who’s celebrating a move into a new home, for example.

With video games as popular as ever, too, it’s nice to provide a different form of entertainment — if only as a backup for extreme boredom, road trips, or power outages. 

13. Gourmet snacks

As we’ve mentioned prior, it’s hard to find someone who’d turn down a food-related gift. The recipient can also always share your gift too, especially if they have a large household.

Consider getting them some gourmet snacks to keep in their office, home office, or just their pantry. Think things like popcorn, hot sauce, chocolate, or even items for a charcuterie board. 

14. A customized gift

This idea may be a bit broad, but you can really run with it depending on what you think your friend will enjoy.

You can order a welcome mat with their initials, a serving tray, a sign for their front door, a wreath — just about anything. If they are celebrating a work milestone, you can get them a plaque for their desk or door or even a painting to liven up their office space. 

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15. Wine or liquor

Alcohol and celebration go hand-in-hand. Of course, this idea only makes sense if you know your recipient is of age or will enjoy it. That being said, they will likely appreciate it, if not for themselves.

They can always save wine or liquor to serve guests during another gathering or holiday, or even use it in a recipe. 

Gift Basket Ideas for People You Don’t Know Well

Gift baskets are a wonderful gesture to put together yourself or order from a specialty company. While creating them on your own guarantees personalization, you should keep in mind that you’ll have to take shipping (and safely wrapping) items into your own hands. You may also be interested in these quarantine care packages.

16. Coffee and tea

It’s rare these days to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy coffee or tea. If you’re unsure if the recipient prefers one or the other, consider getting an assortment as well as some decaf options, for example.

You can also include honey, flavored syrup, a mug, an infuser, or anything else to make the basket more deluxe. 

17. Recipe books and kitchen supplies

Many people have strong opinions about the kitchen. Some love cooking and baking and others run in fear of it. Try to find a happy medium with your gift unless you know your friend is a foodie.

Consider including a beginner or comprehensive cookbook. Add some fun or relevant supplies to liven the basket up a bit. 

18. Pet-themed basket

Pets are equal family members in many households — they’re sometimes treated even better than that.

If you met your friend or acquaintance out at a dog park or while on a walk, for example, a pet-themed basket is a great gift. Include some gourmet treats, various toys, or other unique household items that will feel personal to them. 

19. A fitness gift

Even if you don’t know the recipient that well, a fitness- or wellness-related basket can be a great idea.

A few ideas for what to put in the basket include resistance bands, sweatbands, a cooling towel, a yoga mat, on-the-go snacks, or a reusable water bottle

20. Spa or bath products

Similar to the suggestion above, self-care gifts or relaxation gifts are never a bad idea. Both men and women can love them just as much, as long as you’re mindful of what you include.

You can add things like salves, bath salts, candles, flowers, incense, or skin and hair products. Keep in mind that you should try to choose items that are good for all skin or hair types if you can. 

A Kind Thought Always Counts

Getting a gift for someone you don’t know that well can seem a bit much — it may even feel forced. However, if you’re doing so with kindness being your primary intent, you can never go wrong. 

The recipient may not reciprocate the gesture right away or even at all, but that’s not the point. You should feel empowered that you’re able to show kindness to another person without necessarily expecting anything in return. That’s what gifts are all about, anyway. 


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