What to buy for your man

By Mir
December 13, 2007

Call me sexist if you must, but I think that quite often, men are really difficult to buy presents for. Women tend to be pickier, but the men I know are much quicker to spend money on themselves, leaving the rest of us stumped when a birthday or holiday rolls around.

Heidi knows all about this; she writes:

I’ve been married for 13 years, love my husband, but NEVER know what to buy him. If he wants something he buys it. I usually do the stand by gift like a shirt or slippers. Any suggestions?

It’s the “if he wants something he buys it” bit that gets many of us. There are only two ways around it: Either you have to buy something he wanted but didn’t think was affordable (and that means finding a killer deal), or you have to buy something he didn’t know he wanted.

Whichever route you choose to go, it’s going to require some footwork on your part.

If you’re going to buy what he knows he wants but hasn’t bought, you have to start deal-hunting, because assumedly what he hasn’t just gone ahead and bought is really expensive. I may be able to help you there, but it depends on what you’re looking for. Most guys I know have some sort of gadget obsession; the varying factor is only what sort of gadgets they like.

My husband—lord help me—is a photographer. So, you know, that’s cheap. Heh. It’s rare that I can track down something he wanted but didn’t already get, so I don’t usually try.

On the other hand, sometimes he’ll do something like vaguely talk about a stereo component he wants, but he never quite gets around to making a decision, and then I find something on sale. That works out well, generally.

As for things a guy doesn’t know he wants, here’s some suggestions:

Geeky gadgets that are either new or obscure. If he doesn’t know about it, he probably hasn’t bought it. If he’s never seen it, he didn’t know he wants it. This would cover things like SwissMemory, which most computer geeks I know would love. Or—if he’s a Blackberry or Palm Pilot kinda guy who travels a lot—check out one of these.

Thing of the month club. They make a club for absolutely everything. Beer of the month. Wine of the month. Cheese of the month. Bacon of the month club. It’s a subscription to something he loves, and it lasts all year. Think of what he loves. Ask Google if someone has that. Voila!

An old hobby. Does he like to cook? If he does, there’s no end of cool kitchen gadgets out there. Does he like to golf? Etc. Think about what he already does, and what you might be able to pick up that he hasn’t thought of. (Again, if you point me in a direction I can be more specific.)

A new hobby. I have no idea why this answer is coming out so alcohol-centric (unintentional! I swear!), but I know lots of guys who have had fun with the Mr. Beer system. And any guy who likes to tinker or woodwork can always use new tools (consult someone who knows before just buying tools all willy-nilly, though.)

An unforgettable experience. What would he love, if he had the chance? Skydiving? Skiing? Live theatre? (Okay, I don’t know many men who would consider a Broadway show a great gift, but who knows.) Just think outside the box. A gift doesn’t have to be a thing. Heck, most men I know would be thrilled with an evening out that their wives planned from beginning to end.

Top of the line. Yeah, a shirt or slippers is kind of… meh… but not if you get something absolutely top-notch. Getting slippers? Go for Wicked Good at Bean. Getting a shirt? If he does outdoor sports in the summer, get one of those UV protection ones; if he’s a winter sports guy, get some really nice underlayers.

I hope this gives you some ideas, Heidi. I’m sure others will chime in as well. Good luck!


  1. Beer of the Month Club! Thank you! My husband would love that! Now I just have to find one…..

  2. I buy my husband seasons of TV series that he enjoys. I also buy him accessories for his toys like a cool toolbox for his tools or a nice case for his laptop. Also look for things that he loves but are getting a little raggedy. My husband wears his pajama pants to shreds so he gets nice new ones every year. I like the idea of buying tickets too. My husband would love to go to an NFL game or a Baseball game out of town.

  3. also: Magazine subscriptions! my husband gets MANY and loves them all. I’ve also upped our cable as a gift to add in the golf/sports tier or HBO etc.

  4. It cracks me up every December when I wander through the mens’ department and see the gift section they’ve assembled. It invariably has various tools, obscure sports-related stuff (a golf ball stamper?), flasks, beers mugs, and other alcohol-related paraphenalia, and fancy socks and underwear. It makes me so glad I am not a man…their lives seem so, I don’t know…..limited? LOL.

  5. I almost always get my husband tickets to an event for Christmas – last year it was to see the Bucks (his hometown team) play the SIxers (we live in Philly). This year he’s getting tickets to see The 39 Steps on Broadway – he’s a Hitchcock nut and does enjoy theatre, and this is a four person comedic version of the film transferred from London. He’s also getting tix to see Rhett Miller, the lead singer of the Old 97s, in a solo acoustic show in town.

    If he’s a fan of any musical artists in particular, I recommend signing up for their email notification lists and that way you always know when they’re coming to town. Much easier to get surprise tickets that way!

  6. K three words: women’s snow boots…Yeah something you’re probably really stressed about right now in your wonderfully warm climate. But keeping in mind your wonderful readers I’m sure there are a handful of us looking for these about now (with constant snow fall since 5am and for each night the last two days). So a post on any ideas here would be appreciated. (No rush…no boots is just an excuse to stay inside) oh and (You’re really pretty and nice and a great mom so I’m sure over the next few days you maybe possibly could think about this).

  7. I am not sexist but I totally agree with you. My friend and I were commenting that even our 7-year-old sons are already getting hard to buy for.

    Great ideas! 🙂

  8. “Does he like to cook?” SEND HIM TO MY HOUSE!!

    All my husband wants is books. It’s easy, but SO boring.

  9. I can attest that a wine of the month idea is really terrific. Too bad my honey ALREADY SIGNED HIMSELF UP. Sigh…

  10. It’s kind of cliched, but right now J Crew has some holiday-themed boxers for $4.99 apiece. I bought my husband the lobsters wearing mittens and polar bears. He’s going to groan when he finds them rolled up in his stocking, wrapped around a giant candy cane.

  11. An idea that is always great for my woodworking, beermaking husband — a gift card to a specialty shop that he likes. That way, I don’t have to do the legwork on the specific items. He gets to pick them out. My DH is not a shopper, but at his favorite stores, he’s like me on the Zappos site.

  12. I had great success in organizing a sake tasting class for the boyfriend for his birthday.Since it was going to be weeks after his actual birthday, I gave him a sake set to “break the news”. I got a couple of our friends in on it as well to make it a group thing and its still the best gift I’ve ever given anyone, second only to the “Six months of tequila with tasting notes” from last Christmas. I couldn’t find a club I liked/could afford and realized I could custom tailor the tequila to his taste if I just did a little legwork myself on the tasting notes and could afford it if I spread it out over six months.

    In summary, classes + clubs = good!

    Boys are hard! Good luck!

  13. Would love to get the bacon of the month thing but I’m afraid he might think it’s really for me. My bacon love is not subtle.

  14. My dad is incredibly hard to buy for (although my husband is not, as he has a million easy-to-buy-for interests, including Legos and other toys). This year, though, my husband and I decided to get my dad a dart board. It’s something he’ll really enjoy having, but was definitely in our price range. We found a nice electronic one for $40 at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and for the first time in years, I’m really excited about his gift! He’s going to be really happy.

  15. Surprising hits for my hubby have been board games. Settlers of Kazan, Boggle, scrabble, etc. The bonus is, some nights of the year he actually sits down at the table with me after dinner and we play games together instead of both of us staring at our respective screens. It can go on giving too. Whenever I want to cheer him up it usually works to organize a Settlers game night with some good friends, snacks and beer.

    I never would have thought my downloading, video game playing, fight club and samurai movie watching guy would enjoy something so simple.

    A note of caution on power tools. If your hubby is at all close to a professional level of tool use, just leave it alone and let him get them. He’ll scoff at the dinky motor in whatever it was that you thought was a great find and tell you that it will wear out in a month, but thanks for the thought. It might be a better investment to find a set of really nice antique chisels or planes, or other hand tools that allow finesse. I suppose it depends on the man though.

    And if you can knit, they all seem to appreciate the way hand knit socks feel. Go figure. If you can’t knit, find a granny who does, or join a knitting club like Mir and just refuse to knit, and pay her to make some with sock yarn that you’ve selected. You can trace his foot onto some paper for sizing.

  16. “Okay, I don’t know many men who would consider a Broadway show a great gift, but who knows.”

    Mine does! 🙂

    My fiance has been wanting to see Avenue Q for a while and it’s finally coming to Chicago, so that’s part of my Christmas gift for him.

    Thankyou so much for all your advice and deals. I have saved so much money thanks to you, and as a recent college grad trying to make it in the city that’s important. You’re wonderful.

  17. Here’s an idea: My husband is a science geek so I got him tickets to the tech museum. A bonus is that the “Body Worlds Tour” is happening, so I’m getting tickets to that as well. I’ve arranged for a babysitter and I’m planning a day there w/a dinner at a steak house after (maybe a movie at the IMAX if he wants). Even if your Significant Other isn’t a scientist, if they’re a CSI buff or the like, and you have access to place like this I highly recommend it.

  18. My mom once bought my dad a ride in a hot air balloon.

    And I bought my hubby a good-quality hammock for the back yard!

  19. My dad is a serious wood worker. When in doubt get clamps and nails/screws.

    He says a woodworker can never have enough clamps. (they come in a crazy amount of sizes and shapes). He must have 20 or 30 clamps but says he never has enough when he’s building something.

    I got him a burbon tasting for his birthday. He loved it. I sent my hubby along to drive him home. They had cigars too. It was a HUGE hit. It was through the local liquor store.

    As for my hubby, I also tend to get him games. This year it was the musical edition of catch phrase. I found a coupon for hasbro/target and only ended up paying $10 for it!

    Hubby is also easy in that his favorite color is orange. So he got stocking stuffers that were small orange things
    -orange golf balls
    -“bob” this alarm clock bobble thing from Brookstone.
    -orange pens (he has an obsession with pens)

    On the PJ pant front, we check the clearance section at Old Navy for those. Normally we can find them for abour $4.99 or less depending on the season.

    Now how about ideas for a nerdy brother…he’s a computer geek…..

  20. Suz, try thinkgeek.com!

  21. I just found 2 items on Amazon that my husband would like–he’s a cell phone retailer so pretty techno-inclined. Number 1: He already has this & loves it, but the price is fantastic: Bluetooth headset (recertified) (normally $99) for $12.99!!!
    Number 2: The Flip video camcorder is down to $119 & sounds like even I could use it. It has great reviews which I count on reading before I buy anything I don’t already know about.
    Both offer 2-day free shipping–very tempting if either fits your hubby’s personality (or your teenage kids!).

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