Real Simple’s etiquette expert weighs in whether or not to keep generic gifts on hand.

By Real Simple
Updated November 29, 2012
Kana Okada

Q: Do you suggest I keep "spare gifts" on hand just in case?

A: In a perfect world, every present would be hand-picked or homemade for the occasion—but then there’s this world, the real one we actually live in. The need for a gift can arise unexpectedly, and it’s best to have a thing or two up your sleeve.

For friends of ours, this means keeping a “regifting box” so they can pass along the odd underappreciated something—but that method makes me feel like I’m going to end up in my own personal episode of Seinfeld, and not in a good way (“Wait a second—didn’t I give you that wicker rhinoceros?”)

Instead, stockpile a few all-purpose goodies: a gift card or a good bottle of wine is a versatile no-brainer (and, in a pinch, can be used by needy/thirsty you); nice blank notebooks can be given to adults and kids alike (I’m partial to the Miro gilded-edge journals, from $10,; and, for little last-minute emergencies, I keep a couple of Cuppow lids handy: screw one onto a mason jar for a fun, retro to-go cup ($8,

Catherine Newman