25 Surprisingly Perfect Gift Ideas For People You Don’t Know Well

Think Secret Santa gift exchanges, White Elephant swaps, and new friends.

by Wendy Rose Gould and Jamie Cuccinelli
Originally Published: 
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HAMBURG, GERMANY - APRIL 16: Elise Soho wearing beige Closed shoes, blue destroyed Zara jeans, Celin...

Even when you’re shopping for your closest friends, holiday gift giving can be a little tricky. So it’s no surprise that dreaming up presents for people you don’t know well can feel like an uphill battle. From Secret Santa exchanges and White Elephant swaps to coworkers and new friends, you might find yourself scrambling for the perfect present without much to go on more often than you think.

As hosting expert and founder of Bridal Bliss Event Planning Nora Sheils explains, holiday parties (and their often-included gift exchanges) can be a great excuse to mix people from all walks of life. “The biggest joy of hosting is bringing your nearest and dearest together,” she says. “I especially love when my worlds collide and friends from all different parts of my life interact and get to know each other. From work and college to kids' school and family, it's wild to look around and see connections being made with people you love and adore.”

To help you focus on these new connections without the added stress, TZR put together a curated list of unexpectedly perfect and über-stylish gifts for people of all personalities.

From darling decks of cards and artful journals to versatile homewares, these elevated basics are appropriate for an array of aesthetics and are bound to be the most coveted present everyone steals during the White Elephant swap.

Scroll and shop 25 gorgeous gifts for people you don’t know well.

TZR Shop is The Zoe Report’s shoppable guide to editor-approved buys in fashion, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. Here, you’ll find the picks we can’t get enough of and think you’ll love, too. Best of all, you can checkout right on this page — no clicking out to multiple retailers required. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through this article.

Top Pick: Best Overall

A luxe upgrade to any standard playing cards, this set by Jonathan Adler features glamorous deconstructed Versailles patterns in lavender, green, and golden hues. Not only will the 52-card deck help elevate the recipient’s next game night, but the set comes housed in a foil-stamped keepsake box. With its magnetic closure and ribbon pull, the beautiful box makes this gift all ready to give, no wrapping necessary.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Every home needs a set of playing cards and this one is especially beautiful and already perfectly packaged. What more can you ask for?

Top Pick: Best Budget

Clocking in at under $20 (perfect for those price-limit gift exchanges), this hand-picked tea blend is an inexpensive gift worth cheers’ing to. Consisting of hibiscus petals, apple, rosehip, and orange crystals, the flavor profile is lightly sweet and floral, while the addition of shimmering sugar crystals are reminiscent of a glass of sparkling bubbly, making it holiday party ready.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: With a bit of sparkle and plenty of flavor, this hand-picked tea has a celebratory nature to it and is something anyone can enjoy.

Top Pick: Best Splurge

Diptyque candles are practically synonymous with luxury, so no matter who is doing the unwrapping, they’re sure to be delighted by this posh set. Included in the gift-ready box is a mini-sized trio of the brand’s best-selling fragrances. First up is Baies, a blend of roses and blackcurrant. Then there’s Figuier, featuring notes of fig wood. And finally, Roses, with its fresh and floral aroma.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: These are a far cry from the vanilla-scented candle you buy in a pinch when you don’t know what else to get — they’re a wholly sophisticated, splurge-worthy present.

An Intention-Setting Necklace

This piece of jewelry is simple enough to suit most everyone, no matter their personal style, but it also totes a thoughtful activity for the recipient. Included with the necklace are three tiny paper scrolls on which the giftee can jot down a goal or intention for the new year. Then, they can place them inside the 18-karat gold-plated capsule to keep them close.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: The minimalist style of the necklace and the meaning behind it give this gift plenty of crowd appeal.

A Frame-Worthy Puzzle

With some studies noting the anxiety-relieving benefits of puzzles, this gift is ideal for anyone dealing with some stress in their life. Better yet, this 800-piece puzzle features a graphic design by female artisan Alja Horvat. With greenery, floral, and other colorful elements, it’ll make for an eclectic art piece once finished and framed.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: In addition to its aesthetically pleasing design, this gift also provides a soothing mental escape.

Beautifully Packaged Cookies

It doesn’t matter if the recipient is a close friend or a friend of a friend — everyone loves cookies. This gourmet batch is handmade and features sweet and gooey marshmallow sandwiched between a pair of gluten-free coconut cookies. Rainbow sprinkles and tied-with-a-ribbon packaging complete the sweet treats.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Cookies are always a crowd pleaser no matter the occasion, and these come finished with party-ready packaging.

A Trio Of Shower Oils

Turn their next shower into a spa-like experience with this trio of luxurious oils. Each is sweetly scented with botanical oils and various infusions of bergamot, jasmine, musk, lemon, English rose petals, vanilla, and more. The formulas nourish and moisturize as they cleanse, softening the skin and leaving it delicately scented.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: This shower oil set is something anyone can use, but it still feels opulent — and those beautiful scents and nourishing formulas don’t hurt either.

A Purse-Sized UV Sanitizer

Speaking of something anyone can use... This portable sanitizer is guaranteed to come in handy. Using a high-precision UV light, it can reportedly disinfect and destroy up to 99.9 percent of germs in just five seconds. It’s the perfect size for throwing in a purse or backpack, plus it’s easily and conveniently chargeable, thanks to its iPhone and Android compatible plug.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Its sleek appearance, portable size, and functionality make this small gift a must-have.

Ultra-Luxe Dog Treats

If all you know about your coworker is how much they adore their dog, that’s enough to get them (and their pet) the perfect present. Packaged in a lovely gold-trim gift box comes six bite-sized macarons, just for dogs. Made from human-grade and all-natural ingredients, the pet pastries are complete with a rose yogurt filling for a scrumptious treat.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: With their fresh-from-a-Parisian-bakery appearance, these are bound to be the most sophisticated dog treats the recipient has ever seen.

A Cute Keepsake Box

This terrazzo keepsake box is petite and playful. You could even add a note, gift card, or candies inside to elevate it further. The box itself is handmade, so each one is a bit different from the next, and each resin piece is finished with a durable cork bottom.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: A keepsake box is forever useful, and this terrazzo pattern makes a fun statement.

A Sleek Wine Purifier

If your giftee’s not already decanting their wine, this’ll make them wonder why they didn’t start sooner. Crafted from hand-blown, lead-free crystal, this carafe is topped with a purifier that’ll capture and remove sulfites and sediments from the wine for a purer, truer taste. Plus, with its minimalist style, the glass carafe will look lovely sitting atop their table.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: This purifier-carafe hybrid fuses science and style to deliver the perfect glass of wine every time.

A Sunflower Growing Kit

Your recipient doesn’t have to have a green thumb to grow a gorgeous sunflower. Modern Sprout’s Shine Bright kit makes the activity super simple: It comes complete with seeds and a terracotta-colored pot — and, as a bonus, a refreshing facial mist and a brightening sugar scrub to pass the time while they wait for a sprout.

Why It’s TZR Approved: This cheery sunflower growing kit brings on the good vibes.

A Craft Cocktail Set

Cheers to easy gift giving: Your recipient gets five handcrafted tonic syrups that represent a unique geographic location. They include the California Citrus Tonic Syrup, Silk Road Tonic Syrup, Alpine Tonic Syrup, Superbloom Tonic Syrup, and Nordic Tonic Syrup. Each elevates any drink and, because they’re alcohol-free, they’re perfect for those who prefer mocktails, too.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Whether they prefer spirits or alcohol-free spritzers, this collection of uniquely blended tonics will upgrade all of their holiday sips.

An Artful Gratitude Journal

With weekly prompts and inspiring quotes that challenge and inspire, this year-long journal offers the opportunity to practice and increase gratitude. It’s open-dated, so if the recipient misses a day they don’t have to waste precious real estate. Plus, the colorful cover design means they never have to hide it away.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Practicing gratitude can be good for one’s emotional well-being and this journal makes the activity a simple, meditative experience. Not to mention, it’ll look sharp sitting atop their nightstand.

A Gilded Bookmark

Help your giftee save their spot in the most stylish way possible. This uniquely designed bookmark is truly stunning. Measuring in at just over six inches, it's made from polished solid brass that’s fashioned into a wavy, contoured shape.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Far more chic than any receipt or Post-It note haphazardly stuck inside their novel, this curvy bookmark will make any reading sesh that much more enjoyable.

A Beautiful Baguette Board

Not only will this Arthur Court bamboo baguette board add some rustic charm to their table, but it actually makes hosting easier: It totes notches on either side that ensure perfectly uniform slices. It also comes with a grape knife to prevent smushed pieces of bread.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Its rustic styling and practicality make this gift a winner.

A Small, Stunning Vase

Simple yet chic, this round vase is available in both gleaming gold and matte black color options. Whether filled with fresh or dried flowers, a bunch of blooms or just a singular bud, it’s the perfect vessel for showcasing florals on a desk, bedside table, or coffee table. You can also gift it with a bouquet to really push this present over the top.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: While undeniably lovely, this vase is unfussy enough to suit plenty of home styles.

A Blue-Hued Diffuser

This gorgeous obsidian diffuser proves that you can indulge in aromatherapy without having an eyesore vessel sitting on your coffee table. The ceramic diffuser features marble swirls along its exterior, plus two mist modes for up to eight hours of use, auto shut-off, and a 100mL capacity. Include a set of essential oils to complete the gift.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: The painterly pattern makes this diffuser one that won’t be hidden away after using.

A Set Of Glow-Getting Masks

We love a good “treat yourself” moment, and this variety pack of masks offer plenty. Inside you’ll find six masks that’ll get you glowing (quite literally) from head to toe. They include an ultra-nourishing hair mask, a brightening facial sheet mask, hydrogel lip patches, a peppermint foot mask, and more.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: With ingredients that include hydrating hyaluronic acid, anti-aging collagen, and detoxifying charcoal powder, these skin-saving masks offer a lot of bang for just $25 bucks.

Stylish Socks

Statement socks are a perfect gift for people you don't know well. These mid-height socks from Curated Basics feature a window-pane print and contrasting coral and blue hues. They’re made from 80 percent cotton plus a poly-spandex blend for an extra cozy fit.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Everyone can use another pair of socks, and this window-pane print feels fresh and modern.

A Cool Candle

Candles are always a safe bet, and your gift recipient will be excited to light this one by cool-girl candle brand Boy Smells. An alluring woodsy scent, it boasts notes of cedar chips, dried tobacco, and spiced florals. Its coconut and beeswax blend has an impressive 50-hour burn time, and it’s housed in a shiny black glass tumbler.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: This cult-favorite candle’s scent is complex and pretty, and it’s still seasonally appropriate without being your average sweet or piney holiday scent.

A Retro Peg Game

Crafted from sustainably sourced haldu wood and Indian rosewood, this peg board game is the perfect way to engage the brain, pass the time, or give yourself a good challenge. The goal is to have only one peg remaining on the board — which is much trickier than it sounds. Its retro styling also makes it a cute addition to a living room or office.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: With its petite size and clean, vintage design, the recipient can sit this game out on their living room table for guests to fiddle with.

Industrial Wine Rack

It’s a bit of a splurge, but Graydon Living's metal wine rack will be beloved by any giftee. The stylish-meets-industrial design has room for seven bottles (time to get those out from their hiding place in the cupboard!), and it will fit effortlessly on a countertop or mini-bar.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Thanks to its cool iron framework, it’s the perfect way to instantly elevate any wine collection.

A Go-Anywhere Mug

Soma’s ceramic mug isn’t one that’ll end up in a tower of dust-collecting drinkware. A recipient of the 2018 Design Lab Vessels Award, it’s made from durable ceramic and features a leak-proof bamboo lid. The mug holds 12 ounces of hot or cold liquid, and the double insulated wall ensures it maintains its intended temperature. Available in mint, pearl, and black, no one will blame you if you snag one for yourself, too.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: The streamlined design and lid make this mug one they’ll reach for over and over again.

A Kardashian-Approved Robe

From Kim Kardashian’s coveted SKIMS line comes this incredibly cozy robe. With a short, flirty silhouette, the creamy colored robe boasts a bouclé texture and enticingly soft nylon-blend fabric. Long sleeves, rib-knit cuffs and hem, a shawl collar, and a pair of patch pockets complete the winter-morning-ready piece.

Why It’s TZR-Approved: Leave it to Kim K to make a cozy, stay-at-home robe that looks this polished.


How do I shop on this page?

Instead of clicking out to multiple retailers, you can shop all of the products listed above here on this page. Simply click on any gift to learn more, choose your size or favorite color (if applicable), and then hit add to cart. When you’re done, you can purchase all your stellar selects at once. (How easy is that?) All major credit cards are accepted, as well as Apple Pay, PayPal, and Google Pay. After checking out, you’ll receive a confirmation email with all the details of your purchase. Questions about your order? Email support@tipser.com.

What are some small gift ideas?

Small gift ideas can run the gamut, ranging from edible goods — like the lovely tea blend and delicious cookies listed above — to universally beloved items such as candles, trinket boxes, journals, and self-care items. Many small gifts don’t have to break the bank, either. You’ll find many options here under $40.

What are good Secret Santa gifts?

The best Secret Santa gifts are the ones you know will see a lot of use. We love the idea of a modern mug (like the Soma Ceramic Mug listed above), a chic set of playing cards, or unique finds that your recipient would have never considered buying themselves. The Curated Basics Window-Pane Socks, Arthur Court Designs Baguette Board, and Airome Obsidian Diffuser are all excellent examples.

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