Make-Ahead Christmas Gifts to Give Unexpected Guests

Do you have a big family? How about a bunch of friends, co-workers, and nearby neighbors?

On one hand, it’s lovely to have a large network of people you know — and can turn to for insights, gossip, entertainment, fun or help as needed.

On the other hand, the more people you know, and the more people you have in your life, the more likely you are to forget about somebody important when gift-giving occasions occur.

This is something that’s easily avoided with a little pre-planning.

The secret: create a space, perhaps a shelf in your closet, unused cupboard in the kitchen, or area in the garage, that’s devoted specifically to gifts for upcoming holidays and occasions. Devote most of the space to gifts you want to give to the main players in your life — but also set aside at least part of the space for stashing some make-ahead gifts that would be appropriate for many different people. These would be gifts you can give to unexpected guests.

Throughout the year, stock this space with likely-looking items that you either buy on sale, or make ahead of time.

This need not be just a stash of Christmas gifts. You may wish to keep a few baby items on hand so you always have something ready if you get a last-minute baby shower invitation. It’s also a good idea to have some birthday-friendly items, and an assortment of greeting cards, ready to put in your stash.

A Few Ideas for Stocking Your Make-Ahead Gift Stash:

If there are bunches of kids on your gift list, amigurumi toys are fantastic items to stash.


Christmas ornaments are failsafe gifts for people who celebrate Christmas. (Do avoid giving them to anyone who’s Jewish or Messianic…or for that matter, anyone at all who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.)


If your crowd is of-age and enjoys alcoholic beverages, bottles of liqueur or wine, tucked inside pretty handmade bottle cozies, are a possibility for making ahead of time.


Pouches full of small items like office supplies, little toys, wrapped candies, hair accessories or lottery tickets are creative gifts that work well for emergency gift-giving.

The office supplies might be appreciated by co-workers you don’t know all that well.

The toys would be fun gifts for kids.

The wrapped candies would be great for just about anybody who isn’t diabetic or on a restricted diet.

The hair accessories would be nice for little girls, tweens or teens.

The lottery tickets, well, I normally think they’re a waste of money — but in the past I have had fun giving tickets to coworkers.

One year I bought 50 tickets and gave them out, one each, to 50 different co-workers.

I wish I could tell you that somebody hit the jackpot, but the results were not that exciting. One guy won $20; several other co-workers won additional tickets. Overall, the state of California was the biggest winner…but at least that idea neatly solved the problem of how I could get gifts for 50 co-workers on a tiny budget of only $50.

In the past I’ve experimented with maintaining a gift stash like the one I’m describing. In my experience, the stashed items that came in handiest were the baby projects. For whatever reason, I never seem to get much notice when a new baby is about to make an appearance. For that reason, I always try to keep a few baby projects on hand, or at least in progress, so I’m never caught empty handed. Preferably, it’s nice to have a mix that includes some baby boy projects, some baby girl projects, and some gender-neutral projects — just to cover your bases.

A Tip: It’s a good idea to wrap each gift that you stash ahead of time, but if you do, discreetly stick a post-it note to the package with a note reminding you about what’s inside. Be sure to remove the note before you give the gift to its final recipient!

I hope these ideas will help you avoid possible embarrassment, not to mention some of the biggest stress-creators that come along with holiday entertaining and gift-giving. Won’t it be nice to never again have to worry when long-lost relatives turn up on Christmas morning — because you will be able to gracefully grab appropriate gifts out of your stash to present to them?


Wishing you and yours all the best for a happy fall, followed by a happy holiday season this year.

Holiday Patterns to Knit and Crochet:

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