The ULTIMATE Holiday Gift Guide to Wrap Up 2019

The ULTIMATE Holiday Gift Guide to Wrap Up 2019

It’s that time of year and you know what that means!! Yep, it’s time to bust out your moola (why is saving money so hard). One of my favorite things to do, and albeit, one of my strangest hobbies, is actually picking out gifts for people! I grew up in a huge gift-giving culture (hello: can’t say no to that red pocket money. My Chinese ancestors were onto something) and I love incorporating what I know about my loved ones to get them a lil something that they typically won’t get for themselves. Of course, sometimes it’s a hit or miss but that’s the fun of it — you learn something new about the person! If this part of the holiday gift-giving season stresses you out or you’re running out of gift ideas, I’ve got just the thing for ya.

For Your Gal-Pals

Face Mask Collection – around $2.50 each 

My absolute FAVORITE face mask brand is JAYJUN. Of all the face masks I tried (I got a ton from South Korea so trust me when I say I’ve tried a ton), I got the most dramatic results after just a night of using one of these masks. I’m talking about glowing (and I mean ~ g l o w i n g ~), clear, soft as a baby’s butt kind of skin. 

What I really like about this collection is how each JAYJUN face mask includes a little something extra aside from the mask itself. Some packs include a moisturizer, a cream, a serum, or all of the above! It becomes a 3 step skincare process all in one pack. The extra goodies really help give that extra wow factor and it makes you feel like you’re getting a great deal — which you are! 

If you’re giving a combo of these to multiple friends, order a few different boxes of the 10-packs from Amazon. You can save a few for yourself and then mix and match to give. It’s a great way to show that you’re looking out for their self-care needs 🙂 

Here are some of my favorites:

GLOW Recipe Kit – $40, on sale

This kit contains the Pineapple-C Brightening Serum that’s the new cult favorite for that glowing, “glass” skin raved about in the beauty community. I gave into the hype and bought this during a sale when the glow kit ($49) was cheaper than the pineapple serum by itself ($49). 

My thoughts and results after using it: I got multiple compliments from friends and co-workers the next two days that my skin looked great, so I think it’s safe to say it works! Personally, I don’t think the Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser was anything special compared to the cleanser I was already using, but I really like the Pineapple-C Serum and the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask from the kit. Highly recommend! 

For those who are sensitive to smells though, I have to admit — although the Pineapple-C serum smells like pineapple at first, once it gets absorbed into your skin, it seems to oxidize into a different kind of smell that I’m not sure I love… but to me, it’s whatever. A word of caution to the sensitive. (But the watermelon mask DOES smell refreshingly like watermelon before and after and I absolutely love it. It does come in a very small jar though.)

Glossier Set – Around $15-50

If your friend hasn’t hopped on the Glossier trend yet, this is the perfect time to snag some for them to try out! A makeup brand based around the “my ___ but better” trend, Glossier products are simplified to just a couple makeup essentials and are all about being easy-to-use with colors (often sheer and buildable) to play to your features. Unlike other makeup brands, they cater to making their products work for everyone, so it’s an easy makeup gift to give! 

Depending on what kind of makeup your friend has already, Glossier fan favorites are: boy brow (brow wand), cloud paint (blush), balm dotcom (tinted lip balm) and lash slick (mascara). 

If you’re buying more than one item, Glossier bundles commonly paired items together for a better priced deal, so make sure to check first by typing your product in their search bar and keeping an eye out on any sets that appear in the results. 

Here are some of their top rated bundles: 

  • Makeup Set (boy brow, cloud paint blush, lash slick mascara — great for beginners)
  • The Skin Care Edit (milky jelly cleanser, super bounce serum, priming moisturizer rich, balm dotcom, futuredew, headband — comes with a gift tag for those who want little hassle with gifts)

Morphe Eyeshadow Palette & Primer – $25

My coworker who’s amazing at makeup recommended this to me and I wish I got this sooner. Morphe palettes has the combination of everything you’d wish for in an eyeshadow palette:  reasonably priced, lots of different shades, and highly pigmented. 

Here’s the palette I have which has a variety of pretty much all the colors you’ll ever need for both every-day and nights out along with a good mix of shimmer plus matte shadows: 35V Stunning Vibes.

Here’s the one my co-worker recommended for those who prefer more natural every-day wear colors: 35O Nature Glow.

If you want to throw in a lil something extra, pair this gift with their eyelid primer for $10 or Urban Decay’s Primer Potion for $24 (they also have a travel size option for half the price at $13)! 

Mini Video Projector – $50

For those cozy aesthetic vibes, this video projector is great to gift friends who don’t have a TV in their living room/bedroom. Its mini size makes it portable and easy to carry around for camping or parties as well. 

Pet Plants – Around $20 for 4

I became obsessed with plants this past year plus they’re also strangely hip right now (??) so lucky for us that means plenty of ways to get plants online if you don’t have a nursery near you!  I personally like air plants and think they’re a great plant to gift because of their minimal care. They don’t need any soil since they don’t take in water through their roots; they just need a spritz of water on their leaves every now and then!

You can a personal touch by choosing what kind of vessel/pot to place the plants in. Air plants look super cute in terrariums by itself or decorated with colored rocks, moss, etc.

Other cute plant holder ideas: shells (this one comes with air plants already!), porcelain hand-like holder, ceiling hangers, and so on.

LUSH Bath Bomb Set – starts at $20

Lush has a bunch of beautifully packaged gift sets that are curated to a specific theme, smell, or mood. This is a slightly trickier gift since it does require an understanding of the kind of smells your friend prefers as people can be sensitive to that. But they have a lot of classic and safe combos and you can always go in-store to consult with a LUSH store associate, who in my experience, have always been incredibly patient and helpful with my indecisiveness. As a worst case scenario, your friend can always go back to a LUSH store to exchange for a different set/bath bombs of equal value with the gift receipt.

Books – starts at $10 

I feel like this is a really sweet way to share an experience that you love with someone else. Plus, once they finish the book, you can reconnect to discuss your thoughts and takeaways. It’s a gift that keeps giving.

Some popular reads right now:

Or you can give them a Barnes & Nobles giftcard with a list of your recommended books and a cute bookmark!

Fun Makeup Brush Set – $11

Great for the friend who’s just starting or branching out in makeup, there are plenty of fun shaped brushes like these unicorn horn brushes or these ones, or these mermaid ones!

Cute Slippers & fuzzy socks combo – $10-35 

Want to stick to something safe? I feel like fuzzy socks and cute slippers are always appreciated! If you wanted to spice it up a bit, you can get heat-powered slippers for that friend who’s ALWAYS cold (which tbh is me).

Some personal favorites:

Facial certificate – starts at around $50

Shower your friend with the kind of treat-yourself experience they may not consider for themselves! If you’re based out of San Francisco, here are a few spas/Groupon deals I found as recommended:

Groupon and Yelp are great places to look for deals and recommended spas in your area.

For Your Mom & Pop

Tea Sampler Sets – $15 – $40

Perfect for tea lovers, check out Smith Tea who are known for their small batch handcrafted blends (here’s a sampler set for a little bit of everything or check out their Lord Bergamot Black Tea Blend which is a fan favorite) or David’s Tea which has more readily-giftable and nice packaged tea sets (e.g. 24 Days of Tea Set)

Massagers – starts at $40

Based on your budget, there are a lot of different variations. I got the neck and back massager for my parents who love it. It’s small enough to carry around the house and to plug in wherever they’re sitting.

There are also car seat massager cushions which are terrific for parents who are always on the go and can’t find time to relax. They’re also great for those who have long commutes to and from work or work as rideshare/tax/delivery app drivers!

Smartwatch – $30 – $500

Lots of options here depending on what your parent’s lifestyle is like. There are a lot of budget-friendly options online with all the basic functionalities. For the more fitness-conscious folks, FitBit has some great sales over the holidays on their latest models. For the extra splurge and the cautious, the Apple Watch Series 5 has all the features and includes a distress call feature that detects falls and automatically triggers a call out for help. A good option for those with more elderly parents. (Tip: If you work in corporate, your wellness funds may help cover part of these costs!)

Spa/Massage Experience – starts at $100

Parents can always use some pampering too! This is a great way to turn this into an experience together — treat him/her out to a massage that leaves them refreshed for the new year. Groupon is a great place to start for deals.  

For your Significant Other

Watch – starts at $75

Watches are timeless and classic gift — but they can be expensive. MVMT has a lot of chic and affordable options to scour through. (Fun fact: one of the co-founders is an alumni of UC Santa Barbara! Go Gauchos!!)

Wallet – starts at $30

Another classic and practical gift that they’ll be sure to use day after day, look into brands known for their long-lasting materials and offer monogram services to make it personalized! I recommend Madewell for women and Fossil for men.

For the Gamers – starts at $25

Commission an Etsy Artist: Portrait of Couple Picture – starts at $25

There’s a ton of options on Etsy (here’s an example) and Thumbtack. Or if you have an artist friend, reach out to them and commission their services! It’s also a great chance to support your artist friends or local artists 🙂 


If your SO is the type of person who values experiences over things (nothing wrong with that either way), then what about doing something out of the usual together? Here are some ideas to get those gears turning: 

Pottery Classes – around $75

I did this with my friend and we both thought this would be a great date idea. Not only do you learn how the basics to pottery, it’s super fun to play with clay and you walk away with your own creations! Nothing like a keepsake to remember the experience by.

Dinner Cruises – starts at $100

If you live near a bay of some sort, chances are there are dinner cruises! What’s a more romantic memory than wining, dining, and dancing the night away under the night sky with the cityscape as your backdrop?

Concert Tickets – starts at $30 (depending on who it is and what section you get lol)

Who’s their favorite artist? Look into upcoming concerts in your area or if they like a ton of different artists, consider buying a music festival ticket for them. 

Performance Theater Tickets (musicals, plays, ballet, orchestra, etc.) – starts at $50

Best part about the holidays, is that there are a ton of different types of plays out including holiday-themed productions like The Nutcracker! You can support a local school or university’s production or go big with one of the major theater companies in your area. 

If you’re on a budget, there’s this really neat ticket discount site my friend recommended to me called TodayTix which has locations all over the world. You can get last-minute tickets (like the day before) at really low prices and good seats!

Get Away!

This doesn’t have to be a major, international getaway — this could be a staycation of sorts (e.g. going to SoCal if you’re in NorCal) or going to a popular winter travel destination (like Lake Tahoe) to ski or just play in the snow. 

Giving In Their Name

Give in their name by adopting or sponsoring a cause close to their hearts. There’s a ton of different animals, children, and causes you can support through adopting/sponsoring! Adopt in your SO’s name and present the certificate and updates to them as a keepsake. A lot of these include a monthly newsletter email to keep you up to date with how your adoption is impacting them. 

The Sheldrick Wildlife Fund is one example of that where you can adopt an orphan elephant, rhino or giraffe for as little as $50 a year. The funds are used to support the animals with everyday needs until they are grown and are released back into the wild. 

You can also sponsor a child in their name from around the world, in the United States or is a refugee. Your support will help provide the education, health, protection, and encouragement they need to grow and dream big. There are a lot of organizations who support this cause like Save the Children.

Or you can simply donate in their names towards a cause they care about! (Tip: If you work in a corporate role, look into your company’s social impact programs. A lot of companies do some sort of donation matching.)

And that’s a wrap! (how many times can I over-use this pun?)

If none of the above ideas vibe with you, think of something that you can personalize. For example, you can monogram common gift items. Beyond wallets, easily personalize any gift by adding the person’s initials like a laptop bag, throw blanket, or coffee tumbler! Or if you wanted to make it specific to your relationship and if the retailer offers extensive customization, you can switch it up by adding significant dates or coordinates of significant locations. You can also hand make gifts like ornaments, scrapbooks, or poster prints. The possibilities are endless.

Aside from showering your loved ones with your appreciation and love, don’t forget to shower yourself with some self-love too!! You did a lot in the past year and there were probably some times where you put your body or mental well-being through the wringer. So make sure to treat yourself as well, whether that’s through retail therapy or with self-care moments like a nice spa session, a get away, or with reading some wholesome books. 

Above all else, it can be easy to get lost and stressed in the middle of just things, whether that’s end of the year hecticness or holiday shopping. Don’t forget that the spirit of the holidays is really about spending time with loved ones and in the end, that’s what people really remember and enjoy. 

Hope this guide helps or sparks a few ideas and have the most jolly holiday! Cheers!


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