How to Stuff a Stocking (even as a Bad Gift Giver)
By Franki Hanke
Stockings are an essential part of the Christmas morning experience for many households, including mine. However, some of us aren’t blessed with a natural talent for selecting gifts, let alone lots and lots of small ones! If you’re short on stocking stuffer ideas, don’t worry. I’m here to help with stocking stuffer ideas you can steal and guidance on coming up with your own.
Why do people care about stockings?
If your partner or family member loves stockings, but you don’t get it, that’s fair. We all have different holiday traditions, expectations, and preferences. Give it your all though as an act of love for that person.
To me, as one stocking fanatic, they feel like a part of the holiday that remained exciting through life stages where the holidays change a lot. As an adult, your Christmas experience is not like it was as a kid, but the stocking holds onto a simplicity and excitement that persists.
How to Stuff a Stocking
Like all gift shopping, stockings are an exercise in knowing your recipient, brainstorming ideas, and finding items to fit. But, it’s not as easy as just thinking hard enough!
Instead, I invite you to prepare for your Christmas stocking shopping with a brainstorming exercise. Write on paper, it helps!
- What do they do often (for fun or work)?
- What problems do they complain about or experience lately?
- What traditions do they have? If their family filled stockings, what were common stocking stuffings?
- What media (movies, music, etc) do they like?
- What food or drinks do they like? Be specific! What’s their specific favorite candy bar or what types of beer, for example? Do they prefer white, milk, or dark chocolate?
- What causes or values do they care about?
If you have the benefit of living together, don’t be afraid to do some light snooping for some additional research opportunities.
- What brands do they own the most from?
- Are any of their standby items running low? Check the levels of their beauty or skincare items, if they use them.
- What colors do they prefer in jewelry, clothing, or makeup?
Lastly, if the situation applies, don’t be afraid to contact their family members or loved ones for help. Ask what has usually gone into their stockings or call in favors for friends who know more about certain interests.
For example, if you’re unfamiliar with their sport, text one of their teammates for some in-the-know advice or ask their closest girlfriend what makeup or fashion item is on their wishlist.
Now with your brainstorming to help you, you can turn to picking items. The ideal stocking has a variety of items across different interests and facets of your recipient.
Try to pick items in these different categories:
With items in each of these categories, you’re thinking about different facets of that person which makes for a balanced stocking and shows that you know them and see the many sides of them, which is a wonderful feeling to give.
As a bonus, I always like to include one thing that’s for immediate use to emulate the excitement of being a kid opening their new toy!
How much to spend on a stocking?
Many great stocking stuffers don’t cost much, but a larger budget allows for more flexibility.
If you’re on a budget, opt for a few larger-sized items that can fill the space of the stocking quicker than many small items.
Assembling the Stocking
When to fill the stocking?
Different traditions dictate different moments to fill the stocking. Many households won’t fill a stocking until Christmas Eve as it’s associated with Santa visiting, however, all that matters is what your household does! If you’re unsure, shop early, but watch for your partner to lead on when the stocking itself is filled.
Don’t crush anything.
The items you put in first will bear the weight of everything else. Ensure the items you put in first are sturdy and won’t squish or break. One tradition states that the toe is filled with an orange or a chocolate orange. Terry’s is the traditional chocolate-orange in my, and many, households.
Decorate or wrap items.
Use leftover wrapping paper scraps from larger things to wrap some of the Christmas gifts for your stockings. This extends the time of opening and increases the anticipation for each item.
Wrapping at least the uppermost items prevents peeking too!
When there aren’t kids involved where Santa takes all the credit, I sometimes like to include small notes on wrapping or with gifts that explain some of the “why” of the package. You can do this verbally too during unwrapping, but something about a little handwritten note is touching.
Show a peek preview.
At the top of the stocking, leave some nicely wrapped gifts or one enticing unwrapped item jutting out. This is a thrilling sight before opening!
40+ Stocking Stuffer Ideas
Now, to get you started and showcase how the above brainstorming might help, here are 40 stocking stuffer ideas and how they fit.
Sometimes, you can’t solve their problem, but look for ways to ease common complaints. This is one of the clearer paths for finding a gift and yields really impactful finds, so start here!
Do they build Lego?
Remove the pinch of pulling bricks apart with a Brick Popper.
Do long nails or hand strength make opening cans hard?
Make opening cans easy with a compact tab opener.
Do they use makeup or skincare products and like to use every drop?
Help them reach the very bottom with a tiny, cosmetic spatula.
These lollipops are absolutely delicious and so overlooked in the See’s catalog.
If you’re not sure, find out what kind of tea they prefer (black, green, white, etc) to avoid gifting something they won’t like. Then, pick out a fitting flavor.
One of my favorite’s to recommend due to their unique flavor combinations and focus on quality, these syrups make cocktails easy, but work in teas, soda, and even cooking uses.
Useful items shine in a stocking because they go a bit faster and don’t need to stand on their own as a whole gift.
Bringing some extra fun to injuries, Welly makes adorable “bravery badges” that come in convenient, attractive tins.
For someone who’s recently complained about light pollution or poor sleep, an eye mask is essential. These are great for frequent travelers too for planes and hotels.
Who doesn’t have messy cords somewhere? These reusable cable ties make it easy to organize that shameful drawer or loose cords.
For cooks or bartenders, this two-ounce measuring cup is a kitchen staple they don’t know they need. We only have one, and it’s constantly in the dishwasher!
Refillable Hand Warmer by Zippo
For sports games, outdoor walks, or even watching movies this hand warmer is a reusable alternative to those single packets!
If they travel often or frequently misplace things, an AirTag is a useful gift that will really shine halfway through the year when it saves their butt!
I’ve said before how stellar this lip balm is because it’s hydrating and has SPF, plus the squeeze container is perfect for tucking in cars, drawers, and bags all over.
You really can’t go wrong with a miniature hand cream. I need one in the car, kitchen, and every purse.
Choose from a few different styles and scents to fit their preferences, but an air freshener is the perfect intersection of fun and useful!
Shop Our Suggestions: Welly’s Bandages | Silk Eye Mask | Cable Ties | Measuring Cup | Hand Warmer | AirTag | Lip Balm Set | Hand Lotion | Drift Air Freshener | Strawberry Air Freshener | Frasier Air Freshener
We’re all kids at heart, so a bit of silliness in a stocking is good, avoid junky items that will become clutter.
In a super cute jar, Super Garden’s little freeze-dried treat gives me flashbacks to museum gift shops in the best way! There are a lot of flavors to choose between too.
You may think I’m getting too silly here, but as a frequent conference call taker, I’ve found slime to be the perfect, silent fidget. So this is a lil fun that may end up useful!
The recent climb of adult LEGO enjoyers has shown us you’re never too old for this brick-builder, so let them have some fun with a simple ornament kit!
For fans of Scrabble, this easy-to-play game is a must-have plus it’s small, squishy size is great for filling out the bulk of a stocking.
Traditional stocking fillers depend on the person, but here are some examples from my own life and popular traditions.
Most people have lots of candy in their stockings from candy cane mints to specific favorites. As an adult, I find myself wanting less and less candy with a focus on better quality and only my favorites, so be mindful of overdoing it on the candy.
A tradition beyond my family, it was once estimated a Chocolate Orange was found in one of ten British Christmas stockings!
The perfect excuse to refresh your toothbrush, this a tradition one of my households that I know others share. Toiletries overall often fill stockings!
Since many folks now use high-quality electric toothbrushes, evolve this tradition into a new brush head. Check their existing model to match it.
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A common inclusion for those of age is scratch-off lottery tickets.
Shop Our Suggestions: Terry’s Chocolate Orange
Here is where you need to really apply that brainstorming for good stocking stuffers.
If they enjoy a certain card or board game, include an expansion deck.
- Munchkin | Expansion Pack
- Cards Against Humanity | Season’s Greeting Pack
- What Do You Meme | Expansion Pack
- Herd Mentality | Booster Pack
Whatever game it is, look up if there’s an available booster or expansion pack.
New Foods to Try
You’ve brainstormed their favorite items, and now find something for their stocking that’s similar but different so there’s an exciting novelty!
- For beer drinkers, find a local, seasonal batch in their preferred style.
- For chocolate lovers, visit a local chocolate shop for a seasonal flavor.
- If they have a brand preference, look for a new flavor of their usual.
Apply this same logic to whatever favorite you brainstormed before to come to a new, same-but-different stocking filler!
Do they care about their hair or often fuss with it when busy? Something for their hair might be perfect.
These pins easily make lightweight buns for long hair, plus they come in a nice, easily-wrapped box!
Protect hair from frizzing even in hat weather with a satin-lined beanie that has rave reviews for minimizing hat hair.
Alongside working well, every Amika product I’ve had has smelled amazing which is almost more important to me. This can be used as a treatment or a rich conditioner.
For those who travel often, there are a lot of small accessories that might fit into their go-bag.
In a convenient discovery pack of unique scents, you could split this one across a few different gifts.
These are my long-haul flight secret weapon. You tuck into a bathroom stall and gently wipe down to feel refreshed until you can properly shower!
For those who cook often, look for small accessories or new ingredients. Avoid gimmicky tools that won’t be used often.
Give them a new finishing salt to try with Maldon’s Smoked Salt a more flavorful cousin to the kitchen must-have that is Maldon salt.
For the baker, this intricate mold is an alternative to a standard cutter than imprints sharp, detailed designs onto cookies.
Whether they just love it or desperately need it, these finds are perfect for the one who’s staying organized.
Instead of writing down different reminders, use a convenient sticker on each relevant day. Choose from everything from trash day to book club.
If you’re putting these in their stocking, gift them a fresh 2024 planner for next year in their main gifts!
Noted is Post-It’s elevated brand–perfect for gifting as it’s super functional, but a bit extra special. This kit has three pens, a priority task list, and a desk tray.
Whether she does casual daily makeup or likes to experiment, those who enjoy makeup would love to find some in their stocking. Look to their current collection, if possible, to judge what colors they tend to use.
My most used new product this year, this liquid blush is supernatural and simple to wear. It would fit into even the most streamlined routine.
I recommend checking for a brand affiliation, but if you’re working from nothing, then take my brand recommendation! This is my preferred line for quick, easy nails.
To pick a color, look at their existing nail polish. Don’t buy something they have nothing like as they may not like to wear that color. Look for something similar, but different. If you can’t view their polish collection, look at or think back to their outfits. Pick a color out for one specific piece of clothing and say, “I got this for you to wear with your blue dress!”
I’ve bought three of these this year because before my last restock my mother-in-law loved mine so much, I handed it on over! It will keep a manicure looking fresh!
I’ve raved about it once and I’ll do it again! This sleeping balm is a dry lip savior. Go for the seasonal peppermint variety (if they like mint) for some extra holiday flair.
For hydration with color, a lip oil is perfect. Lip oils are more universal than lipsticks as they have less variations, so unless they hate all oils, they’d find a time to use this one.
Last up, while they are easy to personalize, I caution gift cards. If you’re gifting to someone in your household, especially if you share finances, gift cards can be a bit of a cop-out.
To avoid this, include a specific note on the gift card. When you include a note about the gift card, you emphasize that you’re gifting them the experience of the purchase not just the item itself.
- Starbucks: “Try the new Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai (and order a Peppermint Mocha if it sucks)!”
- Sephora: Identify something they’re low on or note something they’ve specifically mentioned. “Pick out a new eye cream!”
- Joann: “For buying all the post-Christmas clearance decor!”
- DSW: Figure out what kind of shoes they’d want: “For picking out your new boots,” for example.
If you’re gifting to someone younger or going through an expensive life stage (new house, new kid, new pet, etc…) that’s different!
Bonus: Something for RIGHT Now
To bring back that feeling of being a kid with a new toy to bust open, include a gift that can be used right away. If you’re gifting in a small group or couple, many of these can be shared activities you can enjoy together before your next festive activity.
MadLibs is a simple fill-in-the-blank game that is easy to pick up and play immediately upon opening. I recommend gifting this tied to a new pen so you don’t have to get up from your seat to play a round.
The Le Pen fine-tip’s are lovely to use and come in a range of colors so you can pick their favorite out.
Crosswords are a fun activity for now that can become a ritual going forward. My partner and I like crosswords on long drives or quieter meals.
I can’t believe how darling all the Galison holiday artwork is, but this charming snowy town is a perfect, short puzzle to do with your Christmas morning coffee!
For a cute top of the stocking gift that you leave unwrapped and peeking out, they have several ornament boxes that are equally adorable.
If you’ve ever experienced the post-gift slump where you or your partner have a sudden drop in excitement once the main event has ended, this is a must-buy. It’s a cute, easy activity that can be done cozied on the couch with a holiday film on. Consider getting two and keeping one aside for yourself so that when they open theirs you say, “And I have one, so we’ll do it together!”
Now, with this gift guide, cancel your last-minute panic trip to Target desperate for stocking stuffer ideas! This year, you’re going into the holiday season prepared for this Christmas tradition.
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