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15 Practical Last-Minute Gifts She Really Does Want

I’ve had beaus who gave me lovely presents. And I’ve had gentleman friends who were not at all good gift-givers. The ones who knew me well got that I didn’t need something big and flashy and expensive, but I do love a token of affection.

Once that gift is purchased (and should be at this point, right?), and a significant other is wracking his brain for another gift for the holiday, I propose that he make a practical choice.

I like gifts that serve me well — at my desk, in my office, as I prep lunches every day. I appreciate when someone I love notices that I’m missing a convenient gadget or that my toaster really needs to be replaced. I don’t think of those presents as boring, I think of them daily as I go about the business of my life. And often, as I mix up mac and cheese or steam my favorite maxi dress for a date night, I remember the person who gave me that little practical gem and am happy their thoughtfulness impacts tiny moments like those.

I’ve compiled a list of my very favorite practical gifts that you can run out right now and pick up, no problem. But before you do –

HEED THIS WARNING: Do not EVER give a woman a practical gift as her sole gift. Get her something loving, sentimental, high-tech or shiny. THEN and only then can you consider adding on something that clips, cleans, carries or sucks. 

If you do not follow this warning, you will probably end up spending a lot more on her at the next holiday. Or end up using the practical gift in your own apartment, alone. (OK, maybe it is not that dire, but you hear me.)

Here are my favorite 15 practical gifts that I say she really will like and you can run out and grab just as soon as you’re done wrapping her iPad Mini.

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  • Shoe Shine Kit 1 of 15
    Shoe Shine Kit
    I'd prefer to pick out my own tall boots and killer pumps, but I'd love a little help keeping the shoes I have in ship-shape condition.

    Many shoe shine kits come in big bulky wood boxes, but thisPerfectly Polished Kit ($12.50) is perfect for throwing into a travel bag, desk drawer or cramped bathroom cabinet. It comes with three pen-brush vials of polish, a suede brush and case so ladies can do touch-ups in a snap.
  • Sexy Shoe Inserts 2 of 15
    Sexy Shoe Inserts
    Hot shoes cost a lot. And the payment comes in nasty blisters, granny callouses and numb toes. I am willing to pay it (don't lecture) but that doesn't stop me from stocking up on pretty little pillows for my feet to tuck into those painfully gorgeous pumps. I'd love my Secret Santa to stock me up with shoe inserts (I'm a longtime fan of the cheetah-print Dr. Scholls For Her Sole Expressions ($14.99 per pack) that feel good, stay put and don't scream, "SWEATY GNARLED SHOE PAD!" when I slip off my heels.
  • Binder Clips. Yes, Binder Clips 3 of 15
    Binder Clips. Yes, Binder Clips
    I adore office supplies, particularly in lovely colors. And it makes me even happier to whip off an invoice or spreadsheet if it is all contained by a fancy clip. These pretties are one little dollar per set, so there's plenty of leftover cash in the stocking stuffer budget for a few Sharpies in ice-cream colors, too.
  • Hand-Held Clothing Steamer 4 of 15
    Hand-Held Clothing Steamer
    One of my very favorite gifts last Christmas was a steamer to loose pesky wrinkles from my delicate silk blouses, stubborn denim and even my son's Tae Kwon Do uniform without having to put them under an iron.

    This Samsonite Dual Voltage Garment Steamer ($24.99)gets high ratings from reviewers, travel experts and customers and tucks away in a dresser or luggage easily. Hot!
  • Cable Cords 5 of 15
    Cable Cords
    When I bought my first set of these cable-keepers, I could hear my dad's voice in my head, "Why would you spend ten bucks on these when you have plenty of twist ties and duct tape in the house?" Alas, my dad would have been wrong if he'd scolded me for buying these babies. CableDrop Cord Clips ($9.99) keep all my electronic wiring in place and organized. I have them on my desk, behind my desk and even on the side of my night stand to keep my phone charger from slipping out of reach. More, please!
  • Travel Coffee Mug 6 of 15
    Travel Coffee Mug
    I've gotten a few personalized travel cups over the years with photos of my son on them (adorable! plus, caffeine!). But as much as I love my kid's mug on my mug, I mostly want one that doesn't spill all over me in the car, won't instantly chill my coffee, can be tossed in the dishwasher and isn't a gazillion dollars. Sound impossible? Nope. Horde some for me at at Target for about $16. Hot pink is a fine substitution for last year's Halloween photo of my boy -- thanks.
  • And Also Coffee 7 of 15
    And Also Coffee
    Forget coal. Fill my naughty-lady stocking with breakfast blend. If I have a Costco size bag on hand, I might be alert enough to be a little nicer in the year ahead. Win/win. <br.
    Ginormous bags of java available at warehouse discount stores for about $14.
  • A Bad-Ass Snow Scraper 8 of 15
    A Bad-Ass Snow Scraper
    I live in a city that kindly asks climate changes to step aside and then dumps fourteen inches of snow on top of the car of a mama who ignores the weather and wears 4-inch suede heels outside. That calls for some swift scraping of windshields and other car surfaces caked in ice and snow. I like to wield a tough snow scraper with a claw that won't break and brush that won't fray. And I like to have an extra on hand to put my kid to work. Buy me a good one (which, crazy enough are NOT the expensive kind) and you will have my city-girl heart forever. This one from Home Depot has my stiletto stamp of approval (less than $10).
  • Plus, a Heavy-Duty Shovel 9 of 15
    Plus, a Heavy-Duty Shovel
    I can't stop the snow and sleet but I can count the calories I'm burning when I'm outside shoveling for an hour. And then again an hour later. Do arm a hard-working mama with the right tools for some snow cardio -- and then be even smarter by clearing a space for her car as an early-a.m. surprise.

    I'm loving this two-shovel setalso at Home Depot for $50.
  • Compact Rug Cleaner 10 of 15
    Compact Rug Cleaner
    I have a small child and an affinity for red wine and Doritos, which can make a messier household than if we were keeping cats and puppies and the class pet. That's why I'm a little in love with this Bissell SpotBot ($149.95) that Bissell sent me to field-test in my living room and on my (gah! what was I thinking?) fluffy white bedroom rug. The clincher? You set it up and walk away. To go pour a glass of red wine. Obviously.
  • Flat Tire Kit 11 of 15
    Flat Tire Kit
    Sexy, right? Well, of course not. Nothing flat every is. That doesn't mean an emergency flat-fixing kit won't come in (ahem) handy and make me smother the gift-giver with kisses if I ever have to put it to use. Fingers crossed, it will be the present that stays wrapped.<br.
    I'd like to stow this one-step FixAFlat tire repair kit ($30 at big-box stores) in my trunk.
  • Ink Cartridges 12 of 15
    Ink Cartridges
    Are you getting the hint that I'd really like the elves to take care of the Target run full of things I am constantly running out of? Good.

    Ink cartridges are spendy, y'all. And for some reason, I am always low on cyan (how does that happen?). Get me inky with a set of cartridges ($35 and up)that fit my printer. This will require some forethought and sneaky investigation, but I know you can do it.
  • Ear Buds 13 of 15
    Ear Buds
    What am I -- a tween? No. But somewhere in the vortex of single socks and every pair of underwear I had in college, there lives 27 pairs of earbuds that I've mysteriously lost. Hook a lady up. Something in a Sony and flashy color (instead of skulls) will be perfect ($14.99).
  • A Frying Pan 14 of 15
    A Frying Pan
    I know, I know. Frying pans always make the Worst Gift Ever In the Universe to Give a Woman lists. Hear me out:The Not Boyfriend is a chef and tsk-tsks every time he sees the peely nonstick pans piled up in my kitchen cabinet. He gently steered me to toss the old and unhealthy pans and stick to the stainless. I'd love a few more to keep up with all the scrambled eggs I plan to make him in 2013. I think he'd approve of this Calphalon number (about $50 )
  • Knives 15 of 15
    I've also learned from my chef-love that it's not safe or fun to slice up ham into bite sizes for a kid's lunch when your knives are dull and the handles cracked. Ask a loved one to help you take control of your own kitchen with proper knives, like this set from Sur La Table (just under $100). Chef hat and frilly apron optional.


Read more of Jessica’s adventures as a single mom in the city at Sassafrass.

Meet up on Twitter. 

Ogle shoes together on Pinterest.


Read more of Sassafrass Says So Here:

A Very Emerald New Year: How to Add the Color of the Year to Your Favorite Party Outfit

Grandma Can’t Trump Santa and Other Rules for the Holidays

5 Surefire Toys for Boys — All Under $50

Can I make my Jewish-Buddhist boyfriend love Christmas?




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