How to: Holiday shop

Gift cards, knick-knacks and other useless junk

Sam Johnson

More stories from Sam Johnson

The Tator
December 13, 2022

I know it’s the season of giving, but I’m broke.

The holidays are a magical time. Spending the holiday season with loved ones is unmatched but thanks to time-honored tradition, it’s going to cost you.

Family and friends are going to get you gifts and you’re going to have to return the favor because nothing says “we care about each other” like a transaction.

This week, I’m going to help guide you through buying gifts for everyone from your friends to that uncle you don’t see very often.


Parents are easy to shop for, just think of something they like, and buy a reasonably priced knick-knack that relates to it. 

Do they like golf? Get them tees, balls or one of those goofy socks that go over the clubhead.

Sports? I guarantee there’s no end to the amount of junk that has their favorite team’s logo plastered all over it.

Best case scenario, they like your gift and use it often. Worst case scenario, two years later you stumble across your gift covered in dust on a shelf in the basement. Either way, they’re going to be happy you had $10 to spare, and they’ll still love you because they have to.


Siblings are similar, pointless hobby-related trinkets, but another option enters the playing field; gift cards.

With parents, it’s the thought that counts, with siblings, you’ve known each other way too well for way too long, so if you get them something they don’t like, they’ll probably tell you.

Gift cards are the perfect gift for siblings. Whatever coffee shop, fast food restaurant or retail store they talk about a lot will be a great pick that they can’t complain about.


With friends, the situation gets complicated. Usually, any gift exchanges with friends happen through secret Santa or some other holiday tradition your friend group decided on as an excuse to get together and drink before winterim begins.

There are three ways to go in a secret Santa, you can get them something they’ll like and appreciate, you can get them alcohol or you can get them a silly gag gift that they’ll laugh at once then immediately forget about.

It depends on how close you are and how good their sense of humor is, but any of the three options should be fine, just don’t be that monster that goes over their price limit. You might feel selfless but everyone else is going to feel ashamed.

Extended family

If your family is like mine, you have to buy gifts for members of your extended family.

Hopefully, the family member you got is a cousin, in which case follow the sibling rules with getting them a gift, but it’s possible you got one of your adult relatives.

They still like hobby and interest-related items, but you might not be as keen to their interests.

This is when you call in a lifeline, your parents. Ask them what their favorite classic rock band, movie or sports team is, then buy them a mug, shot glasses or a t-shirt related to it.

Avoid posters. While they seem like a good gift, actual adults prefer to frame the things they put on their walls, and the worst kind of gift is something you have to spend more money to be able to use.

Happy holidays, Amazon shipping takes longer this time of year, so it’s time to get to it.

Johnson can be reached at [email protected].