When trying to think of gift ideas — whether for your partner, friend, or the host of a party — it's not uncommon to come up short. You might have already given them all their favorite things. Or, you might just not know someone well enough to dream up a present that's even remotely thoughtful. In either case, turning to some old-fashioned gift ideas can really do the trick.
When I think "old-fashioned," what immediately comes to mind are hostess gifts, like a bottle of liquor, or something sweet and homemade, like a pie or hand-knitted sweater. They're classic, for sure. But also show that you put in some effort. And that's why we should bring them back.
"I would love to have the old-fashioned way of gift-giving be reintroduced today, since these kinds of ideas never go out of style," DIY-expert Cynthia O'Connor O'Hara, author of Cooking, Baking, and Making: 100 Recipes and DIY Ideas for All Seasons and Reasons, tells Bustle.
Not only are classic gifts time-tested and totally approved, but they have that little somethin' extra that shows how much you care. "I think people do not give enough gifts nowadays, and if they do, they often are store-bought and purchased in haste," O'Hara says. "It doesn't take a lot of time or expense to make your own gifts to give." Or, to tastefully throw together something store-bought with a personal touch. Read on for some excellent gift ideas that you'll definitely want to bring back.
1. Something Homemade And Packaged In A Jar
If you have the time, nothing spreads the love quite like a homemade something-or-other in a jar — which was always a big hit back in the day. "For example, jars of strawberry jam made with freshly-picked strawberries were well received," says O'Hara. "The jars were typically labeled, dated, and were made extra sweet by covering the lid with a piece of gingham fabric and a ribbon." How cute is that?
2. A Bouquet Of Fresh Flowers
As O'Hara tells me, freshly-picked flowers (or pretty ones you got from the corner store) make for an easy yet thoughtful gift — and often don't cost a lot of money. To add a more personal touch, tie them together with some pretty twine. Or pick up a vintage vase, if you think that'd appeal to your friend/partner/host.
3. A Box Of Baked Goods
Let's be honest... who wouldn't love a bag of bagels? Or a box of donuts? If you arrive at a friend's house with either of these in hand, you'll be their new favorite person. But even more so if you wrap it up with all the fixings. O'Hara suggests displaying bagels and (possibly homemade?) cream cheese in a pretty bag or basket. Perfect gift.
4. Your Favorite Bottle Of Wine
If you aren't already showing up to get-togethers with a bottle of wine, you need to change that ASAP. And don't be scared to "choose the wrong one." As Vanessa Conlin, vice president of wine at Wine Access says, "Somewhere along the line, people became afraid to give wine as a gift, in fear of choosing the 'wrong' wine ... This fear took away one of the greatest attributes about wine... that giving the gift of a wine that you truly love — for whatever reason — is a way to share something special about who you are, about what makes you unique." So go grab your fav, even if it's only seven bucks.
5. Homemade Pies Or Desserts
OK, in keeping with this food theme, why not keep with tradition and arrive at a party with a homemade pie? "It wasn't too long ago that folks would make a decadent dessert from fruit grown in their own backyard and share it with family, friends, neighbors, etc.," O'Hara says. "Nowadays, it's easy to stop by a roadside stand, visit a farmers' market, or pick up local fruit in the produce section of the supermarket."
6. A House Plant Or Herb
If your friend, partner, or host is a plant lover, look no further than the gift of something living to add to their collection. "A popular gift people used to give were plants and they still are always welcome, but it would be a good idea to give a gift that is both pretty and practical, such as a potted herb garden," O'Hara says. "It's simple to make and anyone would enjoy receiving it."
7. A Well-Chosen Candle Or Potpourri
People tend to avoid candles, since they often scream "last-minute gift idea." But they can be easily be reimagined with a little extra effort. As O'Hara tells me, you might consider adding a twist to this traditional gift by decorating the candle (think ribbons, etc.). Or, you can offer something else scented, and go the potpourri route. "Simply combine a melange of dried herbs, flowers, fruits, and a few sprinkle of essential oils," she says. Easy as that.
8. Framed Artwork Or Book Covers
"Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a ton of money, or go broke in order to give a proper gift that shows you spent time thinking of the person," etiquette expert Richie Frieman, author of REPLY ALL... And Other Ways To Tank Your Career, tells Bustle. One great idea he recommends? Choosing a fitting piece of art (or a book cover) from somewhere like Amazon, then picking up an affordable frame. Genius, right?
9. A Meaningful Map
Frieman tells me maps can make a great old school gift, too. He suggests framing a map of your friend or partner's home town (how sweet is that?). But you could gift a map that's useful, too. Let's say your best friend is going on a big road trip. Wouldn't it be amazing to give them an actual map, not only to help guide them through, but also as a memento of their travels?
Gifts don't have to be pricey or extravagant to have a lot of meaning, and this is especially true of old-fashioned gifts. Whether it's a jar of jam, or a crinkly map, they'll be sure to love it.
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