Photo of a puppet's hands marking off names on a list titled "Santa's List" for an article about Christmas lists.

A Guide To Picking Your Own Christmas Gifts

You don't have to scrape the bottom of the barrel any longer; here are some useful tips to help you create your personal holiday shopping list.
December 12, 2021
9 mins read

As Thanksgiving rolled around and out, the next holiday on the horizon became louder and louder. Literally: Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé have been blasting on department store radios for a few weeks now. But just as the mashed potatoes and turkey gets passed around so does the dreaded question: “So, what do you want for Christmas!?” For some, they have a predetermined list of wants and needs that have been carefully evaluated and analyzed for maximum efficiency. However, if you’re like me, you have absolutely no idea. And that’s okay because I’m here to help. No longer do you have to stress about getting gifts (it sounds so ridiculous on paper); now, you’ll be stressing about having too much!


As a 19-year-old college student, my worries mainly consist of food, money, biology class and, most of all, clothes. Who doesn’t like to spend money on lookin’ good other than broke teenagers and 20-year-olds? Clothes never get old, and there’s always more to buy.

If you’re feeling like your wardrobe is lame, start surfing around on some websites. Maybe, you want to start hitting the gym more often — ask for some athletic wear from Nike, Under Armour, Athleta and more. Are societal standards making you want to look more spiffy? Put some proper attire on the list that’s out of your regular price range. Ralph Lauren, Express and American Eagle offer some higher-end clothes for this purpose. Don’t necessarily think about what you need, people, now is the time for what you want. Screw practicality — it’s Christmas!


Visualizing options can be a game changer if I have no idea what I want, and Etsy is a platform that is great for this. My girlfriend claims to solely use Etsy for everything she’s ever bought me, and so far, she’s only had one bad gift. But what makes this platform so essential in the gift process is its set up.

For starters, Etsy users are everyday people — your average joes, if you will — so this creates a sense of common ground between users. This relatability makes the items for sale realistic, relevant and actually interesting. Etsy’s structure is also straightforward and makes narrowing your desires easy. The website offers categories like “Gifts for Him/Her,” “DIY Gifts” and “Personalized Gifts.” It makes it easy to sort through all your potential options while providing affordable prices (and good customer service, too, I may add).


 Ah, good ol’ Google. This is a pretty standard option for this list. Once I started getting “the question,” the first thing I did was Google, “What do I want for Christmas?” Google was very helpful and provided dozens of links to websites.

The site that I most recently used is called “All Gifts Considered,” and it was extremely effective in narrowing my scope. The list includes practical, ridiculous, active, delicious and sophisticated gift ideas. They even have a “things you didn’t know” category. I am now considering buying a murder mystery subscription box, whatever that is. Websites like this are all over Google, so type in a quick search and go to town. And remember: Keep an open mind! You never know what could spark some interest.

The Looming Shadow of Academia

Whether we want to admit it or not, our crusty backpacks and crinkled notebooks sometimes won’t do the job for the next semester. No need to worry, though, because Christmas is right around the corner. Now’s the time to ask for new bags, binders, fancy pencils, dividers, notebooks or whatever else you need to get through the school year (personally, I’d ask for a graphing calculator since they’re so damn expensive). Dig through some stuff and toss out what looks outdated and haggardly. At the moment, there are Christmas deals all over the internet, so dig around and save some links! Once the list actually starts growing, you’ll see how much easier it is to fill in more options.

Hobbies and Habits

A great question to ask yourself before the Christmas list process is: “What do I like to do?” It’s simple but effective. Look for items that aid your hobbies or help cultivate new ones. Watching YouTube can be inspiring since there’s all sorts of quirky pastimes made into videos. As a kid, I was huge on Legos, especially the Architecture series, so I decided to add one of the new sets to my list.

If your catalog of hobbies isn’t too substantial, pick up some new ones! Get into arts and crafts, try out some intramural sports at school, find a new book series — the arbitrary options are limitless, so give them a shot.

Department Store Trips

This one is definitely my favorite. Most of these options can be done anywhere or anytime, as long as you have a laptop or smartphone. However, even the internet has its limits. Scrolling through online shopping and Google links can get boring and simply uninspiring, so this is where in-person experiences come into effect.

Gather a group of friends, hop into someone’s SUV and scoot on over to Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Marshalls, JCPenney, Walmart — the list goes on. This makes Christmas planning enjoyable as well as productive. Stroll through each section and see what grabs your eye. There are tons of options that you would never expect. If you don’t have any friends, well, you can go with a family member. As long as you get there and start perusing, you should definitely make some great progress.

Likewise, if you’re playing Secret Santa or don’t know what to buy for someone, this method is very effective. Walk with your giftee target and take diligent notes on what grabs their attention. This is a subtle and excellent way to narrow down your gift-giving options. It also tells you exactly what not to get, based on what your target ignores or makes fun of.

Thank You, Christmas

Christmas may be one of the most cheery, loving and enjoyable times of the year, but with any holiday comes stress and worry. As I get older, this becomes truer and truer every day, and I’m only 19. My best (and possibly most naive) advice: Embrace it! Embrace the overplayed music and financial ruin. Embrace the family events that always seem to lead to debating politics and abortion. Embrace the chaos because in the end, it’s all part of the Christmas spirit.

Jake Sanders, Rhodes College

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Jacob Sanders

Rhodes College
English, Minors in Business and Education

I’m an aspiring educator and freelance writer. I appreciate soft-filled Airheads bites and informality.

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