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13 Crowd-Pleasing Presents to Have on Hand for an Unexpected Gift Exchange

Keep these on hand to exchange with a friend who gives you a gift unexpectedly this holiday season.


Cozy blanket

A cuddly throw will be an appreciated luxury on a cold winter night. Choose a versatile color like white or gray that will fit in with anyone’s décor, no matter what the recipient’s personal style. (Related: Here are more ways to make your bed cozier.)


Gourmet popcorn

Through all the sugar overload of the holiday season, popcorn is a nice alternative to the usual box of cookies. Buy one sprinkled with cheddar in a fun bucket that your friend can enjoy long after the salty snack is gone. (Related: Here are more ways to recover from a sugar binge.)


Portable charger

A portable charger is an undoubtedly useful gift that your smartphone-toting friends probably don’t have already. Find one that works with any phone, just in case your recipient doesn’t own an iPhone. Here are more cool travel accessories you didn’t know you needed.



Whether your sweet-tooth friend bakes it into cookies, or your grill master plops it on poultry, a high-quality jam is sure to please. Head to a farmers’ market to support a local business, or order an array of interesting flavors online. (Related: Find out the difference between jam and jelly, and other commonly confused foods.



A bottle of bubbly is a festive choice to offer your host at a last-minute party. If you’re really caught off guard, you can always dip into your own wine stash—just keep some gift bags on hand to slip the bottle in.


Catchall tray

Pick out a catchall tray that any man or woman can use to corral keys, coins, and other trinkets. Leather, copper, and wood are good choices to avoid looking too masculine or feminine. (Related: For your own home, try these clever ways to organize jewelry.)



For deep thoughts and grocery lists, a solid notebook is a handy choice. Moleskine notebooks are classic, but you can hunt around for other sturdy choices too. Your friend can use it to see what their handwriting says about their personality.



You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t love chocolate. Pick up a nice assortment from your favorite local chocolatier—bonus points if the box is pretty enough to go unwrapped. Just stay away from anything with nuts so you don’t have to worry about allergies.



Protect your friend’s furniture for all those steamy cups of cocoa by giving a coaster set. Marble, wood, and agate are versatile choices, and won’t make it clear that you weren’t sure if they’d go to a tea sipper or beer drinker.


Your favorite book

No matter who the recipient is, handing over your new favorite book will seem like a thoughtful choice. As your friend opens it, give a little description about what you love about it. Here’s how to shamelessly regift.



Wrap up a winter-scented candle in an attractive jar to make any surprise recipient’s home smell holiday-ready (even if you’re not). These are the best home fragrances for every room in your house.


Winter accessories

Mittens, hats, and scarves will keep your friend warm in the winter temps. Pick some out in gender-neutral colors and styles that could work for anyone who pops up.


Hand cream

When hands get raw in the biting wind, your friend will appreciate a nourishing smear of hand cream. Find one in a non-floral scent and a masculine container so you can hand it to anyone who surprises you. Here are home remedies for dry hands and feet.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.