Between angst, school, friend drama and generally learning who you are and how you want to “contribute to society,” 16-24 is a tough age range to shop for. So if you’re a parent, grandparent, sibling, gender-inclusive aunt/uncle, mentor or otherwise any person expected to give a holiday present to Gen Zer this winter, you’re likely looking for some gifting guidance. I got you.
After close to two years in a global pandemic, Gen Z is navigating even blurrier lines separating their offline and online lives. Because of this “who am I?” tension between digital and real life, Sarah Jannetti, a 22-year-old Gen Z queen and co-host of the viral ClubhouseNYU Girls Roasting Tech Guys, said Gen Z wants gifts that really mean something. Instead of a place-holding sweater or an “I had to get you something” lotion kit, they want gifts from brands with values that align with their own. Things they can actually use. And, ultimately, presents that make them feel heard and seen.
“Gen Zers are much more intentional and thoughtful gifters and buyers in general,” Jannetti told HuffPost. “They generally care more about where a product comes from, where it’s made and how sustainable it is. The way they shop and discover new products is also different — primarily on Instagram and TikTok.”
While you may have lusted after luxury brands in fashion magazines as a teen, Jannetti said that Gen Z is all about shopping small. They don’t want something flashy and expensive just because it’s a status symbol; they want something meaningful to them personally. Think a cute desk lamp because they’ve mentioned reading in the dark, or a compost container because they’re always posting about climate change.
“The best Gen Z gifts are accompanied by some kind of connection or story that makes it obvious why the buyer would purchase it for the Gen Zer being gifted,” Jannetti said.
In addition to thoughtful, personalized gifts and useful tools for their apartment, Jamie Lee, the 21-year-old founder of Gen Z social app Flox, suggests giving “experiences” over literal wrapped gifts, like tickets to concerts or sporting events or money for a vacation. (If you’re not sure what type of events your Gen Zer likes, you can go for a StubHub or Airbnb gift card.)
“Coming out of the pandemic, most of us feel like we have so much time to make up for and memories to make!” Lee told HuffPost.
From bedroom decor to “zero-waste” starter kits, we asked Jannetti, Lee and HuffPost readers across Facebook and Instagram for their Gen Z wish lists and gifting success stories, to give you a totally Gen Z-approved gift guide. No cap (or whatever it is they say).
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A set of tarot cards and a tarot guide
Tickets to live events or StubHub gift cards
In the olden days, when department stores were lunch destinations, giving someone a gift card felt cold or last-minute. Yet, for Gen Z, gift cards to concerts, sporting events, museums and other live events are the gift that keeps on giving. Rather than fixating on finding a physical present to wrap, think about giving them an experience they can enjoy.
“Gen Z really values in-person experiences (ex. concerts).” — Lee
Yeah, yeah, Gen Z is always on their phone and needs everything online. But look around a park or the subway: The people reading e-books on Kindles are generally not Gen Z. This generation is all about actual paper books, and double points to you if it’s from a small, local business. If you don’t have time to pop into your local brick and mortar, the website Bookshop connects you to local book shops you can buy from online.
“My Gen Z’er loves books. His last requests were Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ and Dumas’s ‘Count of Monte Cristo.’ He typically goes for history books.” — Tina Reynaga Parra
You may want to give your Gen Zer some cash for their vacation. But to be extra intentional with jumpstarting their travel fund, consider snagging them an Airbnb gift card that they can use at their leisure.
“‘Experiences’ are wonderful gifts as well.” — Jannetti
The best part about reusable water bottles (other than reducing one-use plastics) is that you can never have too many. Big, small, colorful, minimalist — there’s no wrong way to go with a metal water bottle.
“Those chunky metal water bottles.” — Sabrina Soros Kareha
Second to “cash,” the next popular answer was gifts that inspire sustainability efforts or help people reduce their green footprint. Something like this cute compost holder is a great addition to a renter’s kitchen that helps them do their part.
“How about real action on climate change?” – Samantha Darcy
For a plastic-free and zero-waste double wammy, get your Gen Zer a “no waste” starter kit so they can TikTok going to the farmer’s market in style. This kit comes with a Mason jar for ice matches and a cloth produce bag likely to be used as a purse.
“Zero-waste, plastic-free and sustainability-focused gifts from responsible and ethical companies.” — Jen Goldberg Leonard
Millennials are the generation of i-everything minimalism and sleek aesthetics. But Gen Z wants handmade, homemade, small business coziness like hand-poured candles, crocheted coasters and locally sourced fiber blankets. Think elevated art teacher.
“Custom things (from Etsy), thoughtful gifts (those connected to a need or desire expressed by the giftee), something handmade, and comfort products, as we all spend more time inside/on the couch/in bed, all serve as great gifts for Gen Z.” – Jannetti
Don’t be fooled by Shein hauls all over TikTok; there’s also a strong anti-fast fashion trend happening throughout Gen Z. They like brands that are transparent about their sustainability efforts and products that last. If you’re thinking about getting your Gen Zer a pair of slippers or thick socks with the threads on the bottom, poke around some “outdoors” brands to find something wooly and well made.
It’s easy to get carried away trying to find “the perfect present.” But Jannetti suggests not overthinking it. When in doubt, go for something cute but practical. Think of things that they can use around their house that will make their space look even more “them.”
“Things that I can use each day and be reminded that I’m loved.” — Jannetti
In addition to half-cute, half-practical home items, you can also go for full practical items. Gen Z likes to be “heard.” If your Gen Zer has mentioned wanting a space heater or needing a coat rack, take note.