25 Gifts No One Wants to Get This Holiday Season


View as:

getting a bad holiday sweater
Photo credit: RTimages/istockphoto.com


Some gifts may as well come with a card saying "I didn't put much thought into this." When that's the case, it's often a better idea to spend time with someone and show your appreciation for them, rather than waste money on something that sends the wrong message or leaves the recipient feeling unappreciated. Here are 25 to think twice about.

Scented Candles
Photo credit: beyhanyazar/istockphoto.com


Just don't. We all know scented candles come from the bargain aisle at discount stores, and most don't even smell good. Scented candles are subjective enough that people should be picking out their own anyway. As gifts, they are destined for the back of a junk drawer, the charity box — or the regifting pile.

A Cute Mug
Photo credit: fstop123/istockphoto.com


If you think they're the kind of person who would like a mug, they probably already have their fair share. Most people have enough mugs and then some. If you insist on gifting glassware, go for something that speaks to their interest in beverages, which could be for something other than coffee.

Photo credit: MarinaMassel/istockphoto.com


This is not really a gift; this is a utility item. Hand-knitted booties can be a cute thing to make for someone, but store-bought socks are hard to get excited about.

Any Cosmetics
Photo credit: knape/istockphoto.com


Anything that has to do with personal care or hygiene is also not a gift. These are useful items that are necessary, and gifting a necessity basically sends a message that all the recipient deserve is a nicer version of a necessity, rather than luxury or fun.

Photo credit: StratosGiannikos/istockphoto.com


Nobody needs more keychains — the bulky pocket cloggers given away for free as promotional materials all the time. Even a "nice" keychain might be presumptuous, since it is expected to carried all the time.

Picture Frame
Photo credit: elenaleonova/istockphoto.com


This passes when it's a gift from a young child, but adults shouldn't give pictures frames to each other. While it's not exactly a necessity, it isn't a luxury either. The giver can't guarantee it matches the recipient's other frames and style, or if there's even a picture to put in it.

Holiday Sweater
Photo credit: skodonnell/istockphoto.com


Holiday sweaters are not useful all year-round, are bulky, and also usually ugly. Even the hand-knitted sweater from grandma ends up in the back of the drawer or a charity pile sooner or later. Also, how many sweaters can one person have?

Anything for a Pet
Photo credit: cveltri/istockphoto.com


Even if the recipient is obsessed with their "fur babies," a gift for a pet is not a gift for them. If you want to get a gift for their pet, that is generous — just don't confuse that as the gift for their owners, who deserve their own treat.

A T-shirt
Photo credit: paci77/istockphoto.com


Most people have more than enough T-shirts to last a few lifetimes, and adding to someone's clutter isn't really thoughtful. Clothing in general can be tricky, but something as basic as a T-shirt is one of the worst offenders, since it is so commonplace.

'Best Dad Ever' Mug
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com


Anything with this concept — a mug, sweatshirt, bumper sticker — is off the table. It's cute for about two seconds, but is more meaningful written in a card, with thoughts about how the recipient has been the world's greatest whatever.

Photo credit: Tsekhmister/istockphoto.com


Pets are amazing, but not as gifts. Giving someone anything that needs to be taken care of is more of a burden than a gift, even when it's an plant. A puppy, kitten, bird, or other pet are a cute idea that can cause a lot of tension and stress.

Exercise Equipment
Photo credit: Bill Oxford/istockphoto.com


Even if the recipient is a fitness buff, exercise gear and equipment can be touchy. It is easy to misinterpret the gift as a message that improvement is needed. If that's the message you're trying to send, don't do it under the guise of a holiday gift. Also, don't be so judgmental.

Photo credit: anouchka/istockphoto.com


Calendars are office supplies, not fun presents. They can also be highly personal, including what size, theme, or layout works best. More often than not, novelty calendar gifts are laughed at for their images once or twice and set aside until it's too late to be used.

Photo credit: Roman Babakin/istockphoto.com


We live in a world full of unnecessary stuff, and most people's homes could use a good decluttering — not more clutter. Resist the urge to buy useless things and use that money to buy the same person a drink during some one-on-one time.

Self-Help Books
Photo credit: Eva-Katalin/istockphoto.com


These "gifts" are generally well intentioned, but giving someone a self-help book is a not-so-subtle way of telling someone you don't think they are in a good place. A gift should be exciting and uplifting, not a commentary on how you view their lifestyle and choices.

DVDs or CDs
Photo credit: HSNPhotography/istockphoto.com


There was a time a good DVD or CD was an excellent gift, but technology moves fast and these gifts are now stuck in the past. The recipient may be known to resist technological advancement and still use them, but do you really want to encourage that?

Photo credit: solidcolours/istockphoto.com


Most people would love a little extra cash, but it is a tacky gift. It's so impersonal coming from a friend or family member, and some amounts can send the wrong message. Maybe you don't know what gifts to buy. But instead of cash, think of how to spend that money on an experience that will give both of you a priceless memory.

Anything That Has to Do with Dieting
Photo credit: pixhook/istockphoto.com


Certain cookbooks, food products, and supplements — literally anything that has to do with dieting is a big mistake as a gift. For those concerned about their diets, the holidays bring enough stress, and they don't need someone else's judgment masquerading as a gift. Even if it could be of use, this often comes off as hurtful.

Cleaning Supplies
Photo credit: DNY59/istockphoto.com


Cleaning is not fun, and cleaning supplies are not a gift. Similarly, booking a professional cleaner to give someone the day off is a nice gesture, but not a real gift.

As Seen on TV Big Vision Glasses
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com


There's a reason these products are being sold to sleep-deprived people at odd hours of the morning. (And, FYI, it's not a great look for holiday shopping to be done at 4 a.m.) These items also have a reputation of not only being cheap in price, but cheap in quality.

Bulk Candy
Photo credit: nwbob/istockphoto.com


A small selection of special chocolate, fine. An oversized box of candy bars, not so much. While bigger can seem like it conveys more love and appreciation, quality over quantity is key when gifting sweets. Too much sugar is not a nice thing to give to anyone, especially during a season already so heavy on treats.

Photo credit: dolgachov/istockphoto.com


It doesn't matter what shape it is, how it smells, or if it's made from special foreign ingredients. Soap is something we use to wash our hands — a necessity, not a luxury. Soap is something you get for free at motels, not something to get excited about unwrapping.

Holiday or Seasonally Themed Items
Photo credit: maodesign/istockphoto.com


It's easy to get swept up in the holiday spirit and gravitate toward that theme, but anything that stays in a box 10 months out of the year is not a great gift option. Opt instead for something that can remind the recipient of your relationship the entire year.

A Tie or Scarf
Photo credit: Photoevent/istockphoto.com


It's tempting to give men a tie and women a scarf, but there's such a thing as too many scarves and ties. If the recipient wears these items, they have plenty; if they don't, they probably don't need them. Especially bad is giving novelty ties or scarves and expecting them to be worn with pride.

A Pen
Photo credit: Radionphoto/istockphoto.com


A pen is used for work, paying bills, and addressing letters. Even if the recipient did think of you every time they used it, would you really want to be associated with such humdrum tasks?

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.