The One Trick to Giving a Thoughtful Last Minute Gift

Earn major points without spending tons of time (or money).

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Photo by GooDween123/Getty Images

Just because a gift is last minute doesn’t mean it can’t feel thoughtful. But when shopping collides with an already overflowing to-do list, it can turn into a recipe for yet another generic gift card. With the holiday madness in full swing, one smart trick is to make gift-giving a no brainer. How? By choosing a signature gift you can give everyone on your list.

While it might seem impersonal at first, choosing a go-to gift that can be personalized ensures that it always feels thoughtful—especially if the customization goes beyond just a name. Plus, it’ll make it easier to project your gift budget throughout the year. Try selecting a new gift for each calendar year so that you’re not repeating presents for your close friends and family.

Of course, you’ll probably want to choose different gifts for some people on your list—like your partner, children, or parents. But since those are likely the people closest to you, shopping is usually easier. If you’re still struggling, consult Giftable, a new service from Real Simple, to find the right fit for even the pickiest person.

Ready to choose your signature gift for this holiday season? Look for something that’s budget-friendly, customizable, and quick to ship. Here are six ideas to get you started.

Personalized Journal/Notepad: Whether you choose one that’s embossed, embroidered, or custom printed, you can never go wrong with personalized stationery. Plus, it’s something your friends won’t normally splurge on for themselves.

Our pick: Seersucker Notepad
With a simple, neutral design, this notepad can be customized in an array of colors. It can also include the recipient’s name or their favorite phrase.
To buy: $15, shutterfly.com.

Birth Date Newspaper: Ideal for a birthday gift, but great for any time of year, finding the hometown paper from your friend’s birthday seems more complicated than it actually is.

Our pick: The Day You Were Born Newspaper
Select the hometown newspaper for your friend or family member and Any Date will do their best to get it. If they can’t track down the specific paper, they have a short list of national newspapers that you can give instead.
To buy: $50, anydate.com.

Custom Tote Bag: It’s a fact of modern life that you can never have too many reusable tote bags. Why not give your friends and family members ones that only they could carry? Skip putting their name on the tote in favor of their favorite catchphrase (or hashtag) or a design with their favorite colors or past time.

Our pick: Custom Totes
These sturdy totes are designed via Makr’s iPad or iPhone app. It takes just a few taps to create a well-designed bag using their fun templates and fonts.
To buy: $22, makr.co.

Vanity Keychain: Don’t worry, we aren’t talking about those name plate key chains you see on racks at the gas station. Instead these colorful tags are completely made to order.

Our pick: Various Key Tags
Try choosing a funny phrase or inside joke instead of your recipient’s name. Since it’s smaller and less visible than a tote, you can make this one a bit sillier. Nothing come to mind? Go with their Instagram or Twitter handle.
To buy: $20, variouskeytags.com.

Monogrammed Goods: Don’t underestimate the appeal of a monogram. It adds a special touch to even the most sensible gifts. In the winter we love monogrammed blankets—in the summer you can switch to beach towels.

Our pick: Monogrammable Throw
Throws are always appreciated when it’s freezing outside. You can never be too cozy, after all. If you don’t know what your friend’s home looks like, opt for a neutral color like gray or navy.
To buy: $59, potterybarn.com.

Family Gift: Choosing a family gift can be a challenge, but opting for something personalized means everyone feels included.

Our pick: Personalized Family Mugs
With dozens of illustration combinations to choose from, you can give each family member their own likeness on a mug. Plus, it’s an easy gift to add to if your friends have growing families.
To buy: $28 each, uncommongoods.com.

Find more personalized gift ideas for everyone in your life, or get ideas for those hard-to-shop-for family members on Giftable, a new service from Real Simple.