5 Times I Nailed Christmas (And 3 Fails)

When buying Christmas presents for my husband, it’s best to stick to “the list” – the approved items carefully considered, curated and ultimately posted on his Amazon Wish List. He put them there for a reason, so I can’t go wrong ordering anything off of it. But what’s the fun in that?! He’ll know everything he’s getting on Christmas morning – with no surprises.

Then again, I won’t get those sheepish, crooked, “trying not to hurt my feelings” half-smiles when I go off list and TOTALLY BOMB. It’s happened. A few times. I try to go off-list for one “surprise item” each Christmas. Sometimes I totally nail it with something unexpected and appreciated. But there are those times it totally goes off the rails.  Here are my naughty and nice years… and my tips for going “off-list” to shop for your guy!

#ChristmasFail 1: One of our first Christmases together as boyfriend-girlfriend, I thought it would be quite “girlfriendly” of me to buy him clothes, even though I didn’t have a full grasp on his style – or his size for that matter. I got him two checkered shirts that I thought looked sharp, but they were totally the wrong size. I think he squeezed into them once and then didn’t have the heart to try to return them – but I knew… it was a big fat fail. Lesson learned: no more clothes for Christmas.

#ChristmasFail 2: The next year, or maybe the year after, I had the best, most fool-proof gift idea. It was seriously perfect! My guy loves watching movies (he’s got a million), we were planning a couple vacations, bada bing: a travel DVD player… in the blossoming era of smartphones,  iPads and Netflix. Face palm. I was about a decade late on my super awesome idea. Within a year, the DVD player was pretty much obsolete. Good thing I got it on sale!

#ChristmasFail 3: I can’t really consider this one a fail as much as a disappointment. I absolutely love my electric toothbrush, so I decided to get my guy one as a Christmas present. He uses it every single day, but lets just say he was less than enthused that one of his gifts… was a toothbrush!

Then there are the years when it all goes exactly as planned. Santa couldn’t have done a better job. Some years I didn’t win Christmas for buying the most expensive gadget, but rather for a meaningful gift that he had mentioned once or twice over the year and then forgot about, or a personalized gift that was special to us as a couple. I’ll go ahead and ring my own jingle bells now!

#ChristmasWin 1: When we started getting serious about buying a house, my guy always talked about having a room for his game consoles and memorabilia. He wanted posters of his favorite movies to hang up – and a few times he mentioned how much he loved The Empire Strikes Back. The force was with me that year. I found an original-style Star Wars poster and had it framed. Jenn nails Christmas.

#ChristmasWin 2: Sticking with the Star Wars theme, I found the coolest stocking stuffer that I knew he would use: a Sterling Silver Boba Fett Magnetized Bottle Opener. I was stuck on my “surprise gift” that year so I went to check out his favorite comic book store and it jumped out on me. It’s still on our refrigerator and it still gets put to use.

#ChristmasWin 3: Paris. Ok not the actual Paris, but a blown-up picture of Paris from our honeymoon. I had it framed and it’s still the centerpiece of our living room. It’s a special work of art to both of us.

#ChristmasWin4: This was the MOST NAILED of all my Christmas nails! I’m really, super duper proud of this one. A guy friend of mine told me about how his girlfriend got him XM radio (back before it came standard in cars) and she even put it on her account to pay for it every month. If he was gushing about it, surely my guy would think that was pretty rad too since we were just dating at the time. I surprised him with it for Christmas and he loved it. Years later, his old car is now my car, and I still listen to that XM radio!

#ChristmasWin 5: I can’t tell you about this one yet, because it’s wrapped under the tree and I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I’m absolutely positive it’s going to be a home run. A couple weeks ago, while we were hanging out, he made an off-hand comment about something he saw that he would die to have… and I found it. I’ll update this post to show you what it was after Christmas.

So what’s the secret to going “off-list” and scoring the best surprise Christmas gift for your guy? I still have much to learn, but based on my successes here are some tips for making your man feel like a kid again on Christmas morning:

1. Listen, listen, listen all year long for clues. When he drops a hint while you’re browsing a store or watching tv, make a quick note on your cell phone to save for later. All of the best surprise gifts that I’ve given over the years have been things he said he wanted – but never put on an actual list.
2. Browse your guy’s favorite store. Does he have a hobby shop or a store that he likes to check out on the weekend? Go for a visit by yourself and something will probably jump out at you. Still not sure? Ask the clerk about the hottest item that season.
3. Ask a friend. Check in with your man’s pals who share similar interests. What do they want for Christmas? Has your main squeeze mentioned anything to them? Friends can be a well of ideas.
4. Personal gifts. If you have wall space, find a meaningful picture to blow up and frame, or create a Shadow Box of mementos. If nothing else, he’ll appreciate that you spent time on it.


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