“Let’s start with budget-friendly gifts. The ‘Steals’ category of Allure’s painstakingly curated Best of Beauty Awards is one of my favorite resources for finding incredible, impressive, and under-$15(!!) winners. Hot tip, I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t flip for the lemon hand soap—it makes a great hostess gift.” -Sam Escobar
Think of your favorite people. The ones around your ideal holiday table. Or, for children of the MySpace era, those who would make the cut for a 2023 version of a Top 8.) You love these people. You know close to everything about them. So why can’t you figure out what to get them for their birthday?
First, know this: You’re not alone. Especially if you’re trying to figure out the perfect gift while also factoring in your budget and concern with climate change and waste.
I’ve found that the most simple and joyful way to solve for this is research: Reading or watching reviews, asking for recommendations, and (tactfully) asking what the prospective recipient is interested in right now. For the record, this sometimes means not spending any money at all; I’ve never seen my dad so excited as the time he unwrapped a self-framed photo of my siblings and me.
In this guide, we take you through the ins and outs of shopping of gift giving, no matter the recipient or the occasion.
Image by Iryna Veklich / Getty Images
SE: “Now, when we pick a product for the Splurges category, we always ask ourselves: Is this really, really worth the cost? Would we buy this ourselves? Would we recommend it to a loved one? If the answer is anything but an enthusiastic ‘yes,’ it doesn’t make the list. In short, every face cream, eye shadow palette, and perfume (including my all-time favorite, Perfumehead’s Cosmic Cowboy) in this Best of Beauty Awards category is tested, reviewed, debated, and decided on by beauty-obsessed editors.”
SE: “I absolutely loved—and, on a personal level, really needed during a particularly tough holiday season—this guide by Vox’s Eliza Brooke. It’s blunt, honest, and clear and offers useful, practical advice that can apply in just about any gift-giving scenario.”
SE: “There are dozens, if not hundreds, of gift guides created for those attempting to buy presents for teens. But who better to actually make recommendations than the talented team of folks at Teen Vogue, whose jobs literally involve keeping up with and reporting on that age group every day? One of my nephews is a teenager, so you can bet I’ve already bookmarked this page.”
SE: “Maybe it’s because a lot of people put their weddings on hold during the early COVID-19 years, but I’ve somehow gone to four weddings this year alone, and each had different types of wedding registries. Here’s what I’ve learned: the more specific, the better. Betrothed people, I beg you to read this guide—help us help you, friends, by giving your loved ones a clear idea of what you want and need to celebrate your new union.”
SE: “Not everyone is confident enough to gift a fragrance. To those not there yet, I say: Be bold. Fragrance is a completely fascinating art form that blends art, science, and innovation. Fun fact: It is also one of the most hotly debated categories, and our editors invariably have a lot of feelings on the scents that we try. Which makes it a safe, highly vetted resource for finding the kind of gift people will rave about for years.”
SE: “If you’re living with the person you’re attempting to shop for, here’s my favorite tip: Pay attention to what they’re watching. In 2021, I saw that my partner—a notably difficult person to shop for—frequented James Hoffmann’s YouTube channel, which is focused entirely on coffee. When the holidays rolled around, I Googled ‘James Hoffmann gift guide’ and—voila, I stumbled upon a gift guide by Hoffmann, allowing me to discover a gift that my partner wound up absolutely loving and using on a daily basis.”
SE: “Yes, this is a Mother’s Day gift guide, but I literally used it three weeks ago after realizing I’d forgotten to send my mom something for her birthday. (In my—admittedly weak—defense, it was the same week as the above Best of Beauty Awards.) My colleagues Angela Trakoshis and Jennifer Hussein put together this excellent guide to last-minute gifts geared toward mothers, though the recommendations can easily apply to any parent or loved one.”
SE: “For a range of reasons, many people truly don’t want to receive any material gifts whatsoever. Maybe they’re trying to cut down on clutter in their homes or maybe they’re just not into exchanging goods; whatever their reasoning, that’s OK! If you do want to support a cause that’s important to your loved one in lieu of a ‘regular’ gift, there are some important factors to consider, as laid out in this piece.”
Sam Escobar is Allure’s Site Director. Their writing has appeared in Esquire, MEL Magazine, The Observer, Business Insider, and Cosmopolitan, and they were named one of Brooklyn Magazine's "30 under 30." In their 10 years working as an editor, they’ve held roles at Good Housekeeping, Bustle, and The Gloss. Prior to entering journalism, they worked as a telemarketer; they continue to apologize for the inconvenience. In 2016, they co-edited Kill Your Darlings, Tweet Yr Drafts, a chapbook of casual love poetry. In their spare time, Sam can be found practicing calligraphy, petting their cats, and staring into a telescope.
Image by Christine Hahn