Add-on Gifts: Yea or Nay?

Is there someone in your life who is hard to shop for? Or are YOU hard to shop for? I’ve been thinking about that this month. Despite the joy I get in creating Gift Guides, I would say gifts are not my love language — either giving or receiving. And sometimes during December, I end up feeling like I’m buying a gift just so I can mark it off my list, instead of choosing something really thoughtful.

So I adore when people make it easy to gift to them. I love registries and I love wishlists. I love Pinterest boards labeled “coveting now.” I love when I have a solid sense of what someone wants so that I know the gift I’m giving is wanted, and won’t be a burden.

Along those lines, I feel like I’ve struck gold when I find out someone on my gift list is a collector. I put collections in the category of Add-on Gifts — predictable but very appreciated gifts that you can add to every year. For example, when I was in college, I realized my Grandma Lucille loved tiny things (like miniatures). It made it so much easier to pick out something for her. And I would notice possible gifts for Grandma Lucille all year long; anytime I saw something tiny, I’d think of her.

Items I include in the Add-on Gift Category:

– An annual ornament for the Christmas tree. Hallmark, Lenox, and Waterford are all popular options, but you don’t have to choose something with a year on it; it could be any sort of ornament. Maybe something to remind the recipient of a family vacation that year.

– An annual holiday book.

– A subscription that’s renewed every January (here are some of my favorite subscriptions to give).

– Board Games or Puzzles — choose a new one each year.

– For kids, if they’re into Lego, Playmobil, wooden train sets, or Barbie, those all make great add-on gifts for birthdays or holidays or anytime. (Though be aware, the interest may only last for a limited amount of years.)

– Collections. This could be something fancy, like Lladro, or a specific china pattern, or silverware. I always love an an addition to my pewter dishes. And my mother collects Spode Christmas dishes — I know I can always add to her stash. (When I see holiday dishware, it makes me want to host a Hot Cocoa Bar. Anyone else?)

– Or a collection might be more casual — like someone might really love all things owl (owl figurines, owl dolls, owl jewelry, owl tote bags, etc.).

– Another great collection idea for kids or families is Schleich Animals. They’re beautifully made, they look realistic, there’s a ton to choose from (wild life, farm animals, sea life), and they average about $6 each. Some are available as sets, though I prefer collecting them one at a time as singles. You can gift one on each birthday or holiday or on any significant day. Maybe a new one in their stocking each year? Or in their Easter basket? They’re also great to gift as a vacation souvenir — we bought a Schleich moose on our family trip to Norway. They’re available online, but if you can find a local toy shop that carries Schleich, they’re more fun to pick out in person.

– Non-holiday books in a specific category, like my own add-on collection of Caldecott Books.

– Another add-on gift at our house, that I mentioned earlier this week, is our Fontanini Nativity Set

Do you have opinions about add-on gifts? Do you like to give them? Do you like to receive them? Any favorite add-on collections at your house? Would you say gifts are one of your love languages? Do you like shopping from gift registries? Or do you find them irritating? 

P.S. — My gift guides are especially good this year if I do say so myself. Check them out if you need ideas.

38 thoughts on “Add-on Gifts: Yea or Nay?”

  1. Hello, thanks for sharing this. My mom is actually a hard person to shop for, she just doesn’t gets satisfied with anything. Most times I take her along while shopping for her.
    But with the add on ideas you shared in this post, I think I found a solution already to that. Thanks

  2. I like the idea of “add-on” gifts, though I didn’t get it from the name. Once I read your post, though, it makes sense. It’s a specia something to add to their collection. It’s great if you notice or start a collection like that! I love getting or gifting games as it is nice to have something to enjoy together that very day.

    I admit, I don’t love wish lists when I’m picking gifts – somehow it takes the fun out of it for me. It seems too transactional, like I could just give them money instead.

  3. I love it when people collect things I can add to! It is such a personal and thoughtful gift, especially if you’ve just noticed and they haven’t specifically asked for it. I love to collect books, and tend to gift them to myself. :)

  4. Hess trucks are awesome. My parents gave them to my nephew and when we had kids we started getting them. They are so awesome, well made and unique each year. I even look forward to playing with them.

  5. My son collects Schleich dinosaurs and animals, so it makes it easy when his birthday and Christmas come around — we always buy a couple as add-on gifts or for his stocking. He has a beautiful collection of Schleich dinosaurs displayed on a shelf in his bedroom now and it’s the one toy he consistently plays with year after year.

  6. I’d love to know the source for those fantastic plates? For some reason, they remind me of the Pennsylvania Dutch area where my mom grew up and/or Norwegian folk art.

  7. I like the idea of the add-on gift, though I have to admit I know very few people who have a collection like that. One exception: My sister and I gift one another a Li Bien ornament from Pier 1 each year—my grandmother would give us each one every year at Christmas, and we continued the tradition after she died.

    I will be thinking on this though—there may be more collections in my family that I could add to than I realize.

  8. This is pretty popular now, but I have one friend who I often give enamel pins to as gifts. They’re also easy to send in the mail with card and just add an extra stamp.

  9. I wish I knew more people who I could shop for like this! I’ve been slowly building a collection of the Alpico lion’s head soup bowls from Williams-Sonoma — they’re the kind you can put in the oven (like for making French onion soup!) and look gorgeous on the table or on a shelf. For a while, my step-mom was giving me a bowl or two every Christmas, and I loved it! At about $30 a pop, I wasn’t going to go out and buy myself a bunch, and building a set over time made it more fun, too.

  10. I don’t think my love language is gifts, but if I had unlimited funds I’d have a blast gifting the tar out of people, I love to give but I don’t feel pressure to give anything particular, and as far as receiving, I’m good with whatever I’m handed. I kind of look at it as a bonus, no matter what the occasion. The occasion is the ‘gift’ any present is extra. Like “it’s your birthday!, oh and here’s a gift as a bonus!” Never expected, always enjoyed.

    I remember a couple gave us a #10 can (one of those LARGE cans no one ever buys unless they’re buying a BULK item) of *freeze dried cabbage* for a wedding gift… odd, unusual, and I’ll be honest, not a wedding gift I would have thought of, however – it’s been 42 years, and it’s one of the few gifts (of MANY) we received that I completely remember with clarity. I know that couple, and I think they gave us something from their personal stash, which in itself was a sacrifice and felt dear to me, also, I think perhaps they were trying to encourage us to be self sufficient and to store for lean times. What’s not to love about that?

    I guess my bottom line is, you are giving a gift, you should enjoy it (a lot!) and not worry so much about how it will be received. I am sure any gift you give will be a bonus to the event and the recipient will love it, and you.

  11. I love these kinds of gifts for my kids because I don’t have to think of a new place to clean them up to. The Playmobil goes in the Playmobil bin, the Lego goes with Lego, the books go on the shelf, etc.

    My daughter is receiving a gift this year that won’t have a clear space to be tidied up to and it’s freaking me out!

  12. When I was 8 or 9 my mom said I should start a collection. There wasn’t anything that I wanted to collect. So she started a bell collection for me and told everyone. Guess what I got for every birthday or Christmas from every relative? So I’m not a fan of this idea. I think it’s odd when you walk into someone’s home and everything is a theme. Just because you like roosters doesn’t mean you need 6,238 rooster figurines, pillows, tissue holders, etc. A small curated collection, great. But I feel like it can snowball out of control quickly. I would much rather someone wrote me a handwritten letter telling me their favorite memory of me, or tickets to an event they think I would like, or make a donation to my favorite charity. I don’t need another bell. ;)

    1. this story….is the BEST!!!!!!! What a good cautionary tale. “Collect something” I am giggling! I recently opened up some boxes I packed when he moved right after I graduated high school. One box was filled with masks. Like, theater-type masks that you hang on your walls. I had totally forgotten….and tossed them all in a Goodwill bin!

      I think the lesson here is that there is kind of nothing that you start collecting at some phase in your life that you will want forever…..

    2. Totally agree with the spiraling out of control! My mom collects snowmen (especially tree ornaments, but sometimes small home goods like tea towels, etc). She gets multiple every year as gifts, and she has so many ornaments now that her ENTIRE tree is only snowmen and she’s thinking about getting ANOTHER tree to display them all. At least her collection is seasonal and only takes over the house for a couple months (she leaves the tree up through January because, as she says, it’s a snowman tree, not a Christmas tree).

    3. I had the standard horse phase most little girls go thru, but my Poppop’s wife continued to gift me horse items (wallets, jewelry boxes, notepads, tshirts and a very memorable rotating carousel horse that played music) well into my teens. It sort of became a joke but I always felt bad because I knew she had taken the time and money to send me this stuff and not only had I outgrown the horse phase, the items were often too young for me and I didn’t use them. So as someone else mentioned, make sure the collection is wanted!

  13. I’ve been giving our goddaughter a Christmas ornament from some place we’ve been that year since she was a newborn. I hope that will be a good start for when she leaves home in a couple of years! And I’ve enjoyed thinking of her when we’re in a special place.

    Also, I’d love to see a gift guide some day for aging relatives. Giving things to people who have downsized is so challenging!

  14. I love that you wrote gift giving is not your love language. ME EITHER and I really hate giving someone something that I am not sure they will love or getting things I actually do not love. Yet I do love making people happy and doing for others. My fave gifts to give are plants and baked goods – I know someone won’t be stuck with them forever! Here’s a twist on an add on gift…. My mother in law has been gifting me Byer Caroler figures for Christmas for years. They are truly not my style at all and I’ve always begrudgingly put them up. This year my husband talked about how much he loved them and how traditional and classic they were. My 4 kids enjoy seeing a new one, too and they are not really part of our Christmas. So I have developed an affection for them, too.

    I personally would LOVE getting china add-ons for my every day or formal patterns. I love giving a potted amaryllis – feels so fail to me! But I guess add-ons are like everything else – you have to know what people love….

  15. Sorry if I’m clueless, but how do I find the dishes in the pictures? Where is this link? Thank you, computernotgeek

  16. Apropos the Schleich animals – and starting a collection. My kids always gets advent calenders, so like a chocolate calender, but presents. 24 little presents, one each day untill Christmas Eve. My mum makes these. One year she bought a bag full of second-hand Schleich animals and the kids would get a new animal every day. I loved that calender.

  17. My aunt gave my sister and I Christmas tree ornaments every year from when we were born until we turned 18. My husband and I are continuing the tradition with our own nieces and nephews.

  18. My grandma loved penguins, which made it easy to find fun gifts for her. Now my niece (on my husband’s side) love penguins and finding penguin gifts for her has the lovely side benefit of making me think of my grandma too.

  19. I have known several people whose initial liking for something (owls for my mother) led to people giving them “add ons” for years that they had no desire for or space to display. My daughter has a collection of silver plated music boxes in animal shapes from her only aunt….she feels like she should not get rid of them but sighs every time she packs them for a move (in her early 20s so frequent moves!) The only add on gifts I liked were a charm bracelet of states I visited and Nancy Drew books!

  20. Not so holiday-specific, but for wedding showers and housewarming, I like to add a (relatively inexpensive) pair of kitchen shears to the top of the package. For showers these are immediately useful when opening the other gifts, but regardless it is so handy to have a few extra sets of all-purpose scissors in any household.

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