Five Items To Keep In Your Emergency Gift Stash

Five Items To Keep In Your Emergency Gift Stash

Whether it’s in a box or a full-blown closet, I’ve long been a fan of the idea of keeping a supply of gifts so that you don’t get caught out by an unexpected birthday or other event. Here’s what I usually keep in mine.

Picture by Morgan

As a post we ran earlier today pointed out, keeping a gift box or closet stocked can help reduce expenditure, since you don’t race out and buy something expensive from the nearest available store.

I don’t necessarily subscribe to buying items with particular people in mind for the stash: to me, that sounds like properly organised shopping which I would do separately. What I like having on hand are gifts that I can give if the need arises and I haven’t already planned for the occasion. Here’s what I keep in stock:

Photo frames in neutral modern designs Sure, we might all use digital cameras, but people still enjoy displaying framed prints at home.

iTunes gift cards. You can give these to virtually anyone with a computer, but they’re especially useful for teenagers. Wait until they’re on special (something we constantly feature at Lifehacker) and stock up. (You could apply the same principle to any gift card, of course, but few get discounted as often as iTunes cards do.)

Nicely-packaged confectionery Chocolate is the obvious last-minute gift, but aside from being obvious, it doesn’t store well. In that respect, lollies do much better. Avoid items including nuts so there aren’t allergy complications.

A decent bottle of wine. The more unusual the brand, the better — if you give something like Wolf Blass, it can look like you hit the nearest supermarket liquor outlet. If I’ve bought a case at the cellar door, putting one aside for the gift stash makes sense (and I can always drink it if I haven’t given it away before it reaches its prime).

Small boxes of Lego. Great for young boys and nostalgic adults. Buy them when they’re on special.

Finally, not an actual gift but also important:

Generic but not hideous cards and wrapping supplies. I’ll freely admit to buying the occasional card from a $2 shop, and I bet that the recipient could tell if they were aged over about seven. However, if you shop around you can get reasonably priced, neutrally-designed cards that suit almost any occasion, age or sex. Having a few gift bags in stock also helps.

What items do you keep on hand for emergency gift-giving? Add to the list in the comments.


  • iTunes gift cards are ones you’d have to be careful with – I’d be incredibly annoyed/disappointed if someone got one for me. I don’t own any Apple products (nor do I wish to) and have not even installed iTunes on any of my computers.

    It’d probably be better to verify that your intended recipient actually already uses iTunes (for whatever purpose/device) before you give them something that may be completely useless to them…

  • “I don’t necessarily subscribe to buying items with particular people in mind: to me, that sounds like properly organised shopping”

    To me, that sounds like somebody’s getting a pile of impersonal crap.

    • Fair point; I expressed that badly (and have modified the post accordingly). What I meant was that the gift stash isn’t for the gifts you’ve carefully purchased in advance with specific individuals in mind; it’s extra backup supplies.

  • I’d hate it if someone gave me a gift too…
    But really, “unimpressed” and “extremely offended”??

    I suppose it’s a fair enough reaction though, I heard that if you even look at an Apple product you’ll catch the same cancer that Steve Jobs has, so it’s the smart thing to just steer as clear as possible.

  • “Great for young boys and childish adults. Buy them when they’re on special.”

    Childish? Are you insecure in your maturity, Angus?

    Not the first time you’ve stumbled on your words, looking at the comments.

    Try this word: Childlike

  • I tend to always have a few novelty items around the place – the kind that you just can’t resist buying but you also don’t have a reason to own. They’re good gifts, but don’t suit every occasion.

    Relatedly – and sticking to the lifehacker theme – Elizabeths Bookshops are selling a great book called ‘Make your own sex toys’ for only $10! I’ve stocked up on them for christmas gifts.

  • i have a nice stash of Avon products that always come in handy when i need a gift in a hurry, and the 9 year old and the 39 year old that live in this house would love nothing better then a itunes gift card, i also love to regift. Of course next time i get a photoframe im going to be fairly unimpressed, still i will be able to regift it so everyone’s wins.

  • I love my gift stash. It has saved me a few times. I have wrap and cards I find in my travels and present wise it’s usually handmade things that make a nice but thoughtful gift.

  • Apple hatred. Isn’t it weird!

    Try replacing with another class of item:

    ‘Tiffany items are ones you have to be careful with. Id be incredibly annoyed/disappointed if someone got one from me. I only buy Bulgari’

    ‘Agreed, I’d rage if I was given something from Calvin Klein. Only Hugo Boss for me. What an asshole’

    ‘I’d not only be unimpressed but extremely offended if anyone gave me Lego. Only a total idiot wouldn’t buy Meccano’

    ‘I was a given a Jaime Oliver cookbook by a coworker once and regifted it. I thought “do you know NOTHING about me?” I’m George Foreman through and through’

    Sheesh. Get a life peoples.

    • In fairness, an iTunes giftcard is pretty useless if you don’t use iTunes and don’t want to use iTunes. It’s not dissimilar to giving a Toys R Us giftcard to a childfree person – not a perfect analogy but it’s a gift that’s not very useful and also is a bit thoughtless.

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