Gift Ideas for Beaus, Boyfriends and Girlfriends

It is tough enough to find the perfect gift for your own college kid or 20-something. It is even more challenging when the giftee is a beau: your son's girlfriend or daughter's boyfriend - or, for that matter, your son's boyfriend or daughter's girlfriend.

Suddenly there's subtext. Is the gift too personal? Not personal enough?

The Challenge of Finding a Perfect Gift

There are entire categories of gifts that tread a tricky line. Nearly anything for the bedroom or bathroom is weird. Perfume and lotions are too personal. And what 20-something uses stationery these days?

Athletic Gifts?

Gym bags, yoga mats, and Lululemon gift cards may delight gym rats and marathon runners.

Don't go there if there's the slightest chance that the recipient's reaction will be, "Wait, you think I'm fat?!?" Especially don't go there if the boyfriend or girlfriend is curvier than your average triathlete.

Of course, if you are the one who introduced the two of them, after you met her in the yoga class you both adore, carry on.

Foodie Gifts?

Immersion blenders and food processors may delight the culinarily-creative, but you'd better watch "Father of the Bride" first, particularly the scene in which a blender sends the bride-to-be into hysterical tears over implied gender roles.

Any gift that actually benefits your kid and not his sweetheart - an espresso machine for your coffee-loving son's tea-drinking girlfriend - is not a great idea either.

So What Will Make a Great Gift?

There are plenty of wonderful and thoughtful gifts that will delight your 20-something's sweetheart. It could be something as simple as a soft wool or cashmere scarf or Blue Bottle Coffee gear.

Think of universal gifts that will not offend, but surely delight almost anyone. The following pages are filled with gift ideas to help you get started.

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Gifts for Beaus in Chilly Weather

mixed race woman in scarf

No, you are not going to give your son or daughter's sweetheart a pair of Uggs or a neon purple muffler. As long as that beau doesn't live in the tropics, a beautiful wool scarf or soft leather gloves makes a perfect gift for the holidays.

Gifts For the Guy

For a guy, go with cashmere in a rich, dark grey or muted plaid scarf that he can wear with jeans or a suit and coat. One size fits all and it is impossible to have too many!

For a practical gift, it is about as luxurious and elegant as it gets. Sure, you will find cashmere scarves for hundreds of bucks, but I've found them on sale for less than $50. 

Gifts for the Lady

For young women, cashmere or wool in a rich, solid color is always a winner! Also popular are lightweight scarves in a variety of prints to add some interest to an outfit. Those are perfect for warmer climate wear.

Vegan Boyfriend or Girlfriend?

Back away from the wool, angora, pashmina and cashmere. Instead, opt for a soft cotton version instead.

If you are not sure of their dietary preference or attitude toward animal goods, err on the side of caution and go with cotton!

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Hot Beverages

young man and woman cold weathe

Cash-strapped, coffee-loving 20-somethings tend to resort to some pretty lousy java. A really nice coffee - and the tools to turn beans into aromatic brew - make a terrific gift.

The Coffee-Lover's Gift Basket

Pair a pound or two of small-batch-roasted coffee with other caffeine-related gear.

A French press with a grinder or latte milk frother is a perfect combination. Include a fun coffee book that has information on growing, roasting and cooking with coffee. 

Don't Forget the Tea and Hot Chocolate

Pod coffee makers are also great for other hot beverages, especially tea and hot chocolate. Give a mini version of a Keurig, along with some fun teas - peppermint, lemon ginger - and hot chocolates.

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Retro Camera

polaroid picture

 Everything is digital for most 20 somethings, from greeting cards to photographs. Go retro with a Polaroid mini camera and lots of film. The novelty of printing a photo right when it's taken will inspire fun snaps and lots of laughs for everyone. They may still rely on their smartphones for most photos, but the instant gratification of a print will be fun for special events.

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Gifts for Game Lovers and Foodies

Young adults games

Not sure what to give your 20-something or college kid's boyfriend or girlfriend? Here are a few more ideas:

For Game Lovers

Classics like Scrabble, Monopoly and Backgammon will always be fun, but getting ahead of the crowd with the newest boards games is a great way to give the gift of play. Games like Blokus, Quirkle and Sequence are all very popular with young adults and may not already be in their closets.

Other entertainment ideas include video games, card games like Uno, jigsaw puzzles, or adult coloring books and colored pencils or markers.

For Chefs

Anthony Bourdain is the subversive and magnetic host of "Parts Unknown" on CNN. His cookbook Appetites is just as outrageous as he is, and the recipes are fantastic. Pick up a few of the dry ingredients needed for some of the recipes and you'll have a great gift - and maybe an invitation to dinner.

Does the young adult you're buying for love to bake? Get the Zingerman's Bakehouse cookbook and a bundt pan or muffin tin and wait for the deliciousness to happen.

Cooking can be time consuming for young adults who are on the go. Pick up an Instapot and get a cookbook with recipes to go with it. Quick and easy meals are always on young adults' list of things to do.


For Amateur Mixologists

Got a mixology maven? One who's legal drinking age? Think bitters, bar equipment, artisanal spirits and anything else from this list of 21st birthday presents.

For beer lovers, there are beer of the month clubs, and for wine lovers there are similar companies. Every month when their delivery arrives, they'll think of you. Cheers!