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.