Gifts for the Person Who Has Everything


Every year for the past 20 years or so, I have exchanged gifts with my extended family including my parents and in-laws, who are now in their 80s. They've accumulated what they need and want but I still enjoy finding a special gift for each of them. Here are gift ideas for the person who has or seems to have everything. (See also: 31 Gifts That Keep On Giving)


Though their pantries and freezers are often full, there's still room (or will be) for special treats, which aren't necessarily sweets but easy-to-prepare snacks or meals. Since my folks on both sides have wrestled with some health issues, I try to be sensitive but festive. Here are some ideas:

  • Fresh nuts such as pecans, walnuts, or almonds. For the past few years, I've ordered in bulk from Atwell Pecan Co. in Georgia, which also has an online retail store with fancier, pricier gifts.
  • Sugar-free chocolate. This gift may not sound like fun but can be great for those who must endure family get-togethers involving lots of sweets without indulging themselves. I've sampled and enjoyed sugar-free Turtles (caramel, pecan, and chocolate) and Dove creamy chocolates; now, I see that Hershey's has introduced a sugar-free line.
  • Homemade entrees for the freezer. Moravian chicken pies are popular in my area and great to have on hand when you don't feel like cooking a meal. You can make chicken pies and casseroles, or buy them from caterers. In my area, there are several independently run shops that carry frozen-to-go homemade dishes. A good but generally less thrifty choice is to purchase prepared foods from franchise operations such as Dream Dinners or HoneyBaked Ham. (See also: 7 Savory Food Gifts)


Often the people who have everything have a closet full of clothes. But they are just as likely not to take the time to go shopping when clothes wear out, or trends change, or new technical fabrics are introduced. They might especially enjoy clothing with these features:

  • warm but washable, non-shrinking wool socks or sweaters
  • breathable but water-resistant rain jackets
  • soft, durable organic cotton sleepwear or loungewear
  • moisture-wicking shirts for workouts (or rehab sessions)
  • warm but not bulky sweaters or coats


It took me several years to find the perfect type of gift for my mother-in-law. I stumbled upon this idea when I found out that she had taken to reading books by Nicholas Sparks, many of which are based in North Carolina where we live.

Though I'd been giving books to my nieces and nephews for years (#3 and #4 on my 25 great gifts for $5 or less list), I hadn't considered books for those who have nearly everything. To keep the books from becoming clutter, welcome sharing among friends and family members.

Cash, Checks, or Gift Cards

My parents and in-laws would probably consider a cash or check an odd gift but my grandmother enjoyed receiving checks for her birthday and Christmas. Though I don't necessarily recommend this practice, she treated my checks as mini-emergency funds: she didn't cash them until she needed to pay for an unexpected expense. Now that I think of it, she may not have had a traditional checking account so this arrangement may have been suited for her style of saving and spending.

Gift cards for a favorite store or restaurant give the recipients permission to spend money on themselves. My depression-era family members rarely go out to dinner but they probably would use a gift card. Check for card terms such as dormancy or inactivity fees that reduce the value of the card if it isn't used for a while; or just make sure that the recipient uses the card in the next six months or so.

Photo Frames

I've noticed that grandparents get lots of photos of their grandchildren but don't always get an equal number of frames. If there are photos stuck inside frames or unusual places around the house, buy a nice frame or frames. Photo albums can be useful as well though I've found that some people don't really like to sit down and sort through loads and loads of old pictures.

Last year, my mom and mother-in-law both received digital frames. Before then, I never really understood why anyone would want such a item. But when I saw how much they enjoyed watching the picture show, I realized how cool this gift could be, especially if you can get one on sale as my nephew did.

Totally Personal

By using my imagination, persistence, and some decent Internet search skills, I've also found some nearly perfect gifts for people who seem to have it all. One year, I got an ornament of the exact type of aircraft that my brother-in-law flies as a hobby (the name didn't stick with me but apparently the type was critically important to him) from My Pilot Store. Hard-to-get tickets to a UNC basketball game or Broadway play, though much more expensive than the airplane ornament, could also be a nice surprise.

One of the most endearing and meaningful gifts was one from my niece's boyfriend (now her husband) to her grandfather, a World War II veteran and former member of the U.S. Army Air Corps: a USA flag that had accompanied my nephew-in-law on an overseas mission during his service with the United States Air Force.

You can spend less than $15 on a great gift or much, much more. For frugal options, try fresh nuts, simple frames, books, and homemade meals. For more costly items on a tight budget, consider a family or group gift.

Do you have great gift ideas for those who seem to have everything? Share them in your comments.

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Guest's picture

We alway use, as we have a relative who literally has everything. What she seems to enjoy is something consumable; whether that's a high point wine or a good treat. Prices are pretty good as (cheaper than trying to do it ourselves), plus you can usually get a promo or coupon of as well.

Merry Christmas :-)

Guest's picture

I'm all for the restaurant gift cards, too. I find that those who "have everything" often don't go out to eat because it isn't sensible. This forces them out, becuase wasting the gift card isn't sensible either.

Guest's picture

I like to give (and get) gifts of experiences or lessons. Talking with my Mom in the mid-summer, she said that Dad was making rhubarb pie. I didn't know my dad cooked or baked. I asked if he had made the pie crust himself. Mom said no. I recently learned to make pie crust and it's not that hard. So, for Christmas this year, I'm giving my dad a pastry blender and dough scraper along with pie crust making lessons. I taught a friend to juggle for her birthday last year. That was a lot of fun for both of us.

I like to give (and get) these types of gifts because it's not only an experience and often a new skill, but it also gives me a chance to spend some time with the recipient and have fun in the process.

Guest's picture

As a professional organizer, I'm often encouraging my clients to give (and ask for) non-tangible gifts...things they will not have to dust, store or care for. I recommend thinking in terms of fanciful or practical experiences.

For example, a year's membership at a zoo, the National Parks, a driving range or a season's fishing license can feed a loved one's desires for fun, without them having to dip into their pockets. Similarly, even for relatives who "have" everything, a year's (or quarter's) worth of internet, cell phone service, Netflix, etc. give them a chance to not have to lay out their money for the practicalities of life.

For older relatives, a gift of a packet of luxury car washes/detailing, plus an offer to meet them there, take them to lunch so they can avoid the wait, and squire them back provides both a practical and loving intangible that yields memories...and requires no dusting.

Guest's picture
Mary Ann Baclawski

My mother is elderly, has trouble reading, and is starting to suffer from dementia. Some needs are obvious and make great gifts. Magnifying glasses in different sizes that are good for different uses. I mail her large print books periodically. LP boos are expensive, so if I buy used I can buy more of them. This Christmas, my siblings and I combined our money to buy a digital picture frame. This will give my brother, who lives locally, a source of conversation when he visits. And my mother won't need a great attention span to look at photos. All three of us can contribute our photos, so that there's a large selection. When my father was suffering from Alzheimer's, I made up photo albums with all the relatives in it. Unfortunately, he was affectted badly enough that he would rip the photos out. That shouldn't be a problem with the digital frame. I'm hoping it will be a great gift that will keep on pleasing.

Guest's picture
Jeff Taylor

I messed up with the tag above. The address is

Myscha Theriault's picture

Hi Julie,

Just want to say that I totally agree with the restaurant gift card idea. We did that for David's mother and my folks this year, along with delivered holiday bouquets. We picked the kind with lots of greenery so they would last through the season and included candles. The cool thing about choosing bouquets with candles is that they tend to be lower to the table, making them great for the coffee table as well as for a nice centerpiece for the holiday meal.

My husband and I also enjoy receiving consumable gifts, as we have everything we need and are trying to downsize. Scented kitchen candles are one of our favorite things to receive and they can be found affordably. My folks included one last year in our Christmas pack that was pine scented.

Great article, as usual.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Trek Hound.

Guest's picture

There are quite a few people in my life, who either seem to already have everything, or are difficult to buy for.

For them, try to listen to them throughout the year, and invariably, at some point in time, I will always get an off-handed remark from them about something they want.

I make a note of it, purchase that for them for Christmas, and they always seem to be "touched" by it that I remembered something that they mentioned to me so many months before.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks everyone for ideas and comments. Supplying tools along with a lesson and/or experience sounds like a great way to give a long-lasting gift. Having distance-type options such as delivered (by someone else) holiday greenery and/or flowers and gift cards are wonderful if you visit often but may not make it home for the holidays.

Guest's picture

Sweaters? no one wants sweaters for Christmas! Although if the person has everything maybe it is just as well.

Julie Rains's picture

Many folks may have wool sweaters that are nice and warm but not as easy to keep clean and avoid moths as some of the newer materials.  

Guest's picture

Give the gift of clothing that will last. But it's best to use a company that allows returns with a full refund (not just for credit) and don't pay for shipping or return shipping.
Sounds impossible. But Ogie Kanogie does that and more.

Their line of floor length sweater coats, winter coats, mini dresses, long sleeve dresses, hoodie tops and mens coats are all machine washable, beautiful, fun and dramatic. Tops start at just $45--with free shipping both ways.

Ogie Kanogie is doing everything to maintain good old fashioned customer service and quality products in these tough economic times.

Guest's picture

I always turst, where I can buy any gift. The expensive watch,the unique gadget, and the cheap hat and glove set.
I do not believe one person can have everything. He or she still needs something.
Thank you for your sharing.

Guest's picture

For the person who has everything? How about a donation to a charity in their name? Donation gift certificates can make a huge impact in the lives of more than just the giver and receiver.

There are lots of charities out there, I would suggest Forgotten Voices International, they provide care for AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe and Zambia - two places where a few dollars go a loooong way. For instance, $15 will send a child (orphan or child at risk of being orphaned) to school for the entire academic year in Zimbabwe. That's a gift worth giving in my opinion!

For anyone interested here's the link:

Happy holidays!

Julie Rains's picture

Donating in someone's name is a great idea. My caveat is that the charity should be a favorite of the recipient and not the gift-giver; otherwise the "gift" is for the giver in the guise of being charitable.

A twist on this idea (not my own but I'll pass it along) is a charity exchange rather than a gift exchange: everyone donates a certain amount (either a standard amount or whatever the person would like to give) and submits the name of a favorite charity. A drawing is held to determine the winner and gifts are given to the charity winner. Just a fun and easy way to celebrate the holidays without the hassle.

Guest's picture

I think you'd be surprised how many people prefer to receive cash for the holidays. I know that a number of my friends prefer it, especially with the economy in the shape it's in, and I even put a cash fund on my online christmas list on so I'm definitely hoping to receive a few cash gifts this year.

Guest's picture

May I suggest that your time would be worth more than you think.
Check out your local rec center for a class schedule, maybe the community college arts center for affordable shows.

Guest's picture

Home made coupon gifts are great. Especially for older people. My grandparents can no longer do deep cleaning like light fixtures or heat vents for instance, or their yardwork. So i am always getting phone calls to come do things for them. This year, they are getting a coupon book filled with 1 hour coupons to use on me and my children. They can redeem them with us, get the work done they need, and we get to spend time together as a family. Cost=scrap materials around your house and your time *Free*

My dad is extremely busy with his job, but loves to cook at the same time. He also has every tool and gadget and electronic that is out there. So i got a nice glass lasagna dish. Bought non perishable gourmet food items for the lasagna. Included the recipe. And a gift card to a local grocery store to buy the perishable items. I also included a dry mix and recipe for the dessert. Almost all the items were right there and it was a new recipe he got to try. He loved it. Cost=very minimal

Another thing i never thought of until a family member moved out of the area- Getting a local paper subscription from their hometown. The company will mail the paper out. To keep this simple and not spend a lot...only do the sunday subscription. The cost will be minimal to you, but the person on the receiving end will appreciate being able to keep up with the news from their hometown.

Do you have someone saving to go to college, or buy a house, or another big purchase? Open a savings account in their name. Depostit $10 a month, and at the end of the year, they have $120 they didnt have before. That can be a big help that most dont realize. Start this young for a grandchild or neice or nephew, and they are going to have funds built up over a longer period that is going to benefit them greatly in the future.

Guest's picture

What do you get for the guy who BUYS everything? I got him tickets to the Harlem Globe Trotters.

Guest's picture

Hi Julie!

I work with DOVE Chocolate and wanted to let you know that we also have amazing sugar free products! For more information on all of the products we have please visit our website at or follow us on Twitter!

Happy Holidays!
The DOVE Chocolate Team
Twitter: Dove_Chocolate

Guest's picture

Meh. I still have to leave my casa to purchase most of these. I'm extremely lazy and cold weather doesn't sit well with me. (Why was I born in the midwest?) If you're interested in giving last minute gift cards, I recommend the website that my work was using for holiday gifting this year -- .. the website offers eGift cards that can be printed or sent virtually, reducing that carbon footprint in the process. It has over 300 retailers and is free to use. Anything that allows me to do my holiday shopping in my pajamas gets high marks with me. Plus, no shipping hassles :)

Guest's picture

I always have a hard time shopping for my parents, because, well, they have everything! Something that has gone over pretty well, though, is to buy a new or better version of something they already have. For example, I gave my mom a set of high-end cooking utensils to replace the old, worn out ones she's been using for 20+ years. I gave my dad a nice, monogrammed bathrobe to replace his old threadbare one.

Guest's picture

Your have a lot of good info.
I can take some from it.
I am so impressive with the the info given in FOOD!
Thanks for sharing!

Guest's picture

Some interesting ideas you got there Julie.
I have been confronted with the problem of unusual gift ideas for many years now, while buying gifts for my spouse.
By now, he practically has everything!

So I had to do a lot of research, to find new and unusual things.
I have compiled a list of what I have so far:

Enjoy & Happy New Year!