Candles. No one wants candles. The only reason people get candles for Christmas is because the gift giver doesn't know what the hell to get the recipient. Occasionally it's okay to buy someone a candle if it's a really nice and particularly fragrant candle. The thing to consider is that because of things like pets and children, candles aren't always convenient to burn. Reed diffusers are the wave of the future. They're bottles full of scented oil that you dip sticks into and the oil soaks into the sticks and out into the air. You can get some really nice ones from Yankee Candle, or better yet pick them up at your local Target.
Fruitcake. Every year I'm amazed that they still make this stuff, because I don't know a single person that enjoys eating shitbricks with jelly glazed rocks on top. The only reason this makes it to any Christmas table is because some people have sick senses of humor. If you want to get a quirky dessert that's going to knock some socks off, I highly recommend Mrs. Prindables. You can get them online, but I suggest hopping over to QVC for some of their exclusive and delicious gourmet flavors. There's everything from pie, candy bar, and sprinkle apples.
Underwear. Unless you happen to know that someone is in dire dire need, for the love of God, don't buy them underwear. If you're buying romantic underwear for someone special it is acceptable. Just make absolute certain they're not opening the present in front of their relatives otherwise you may never see your special someone in said undergarments. If you want to buy someone a practical present, try a paper shredder, a mini water cooler, a water-powered clock. You can even get one of those cool new staplers that use the paper itself to fasten the sheets together for under $5. PowerSquids are a pretty cool practical gift as well.
Chia Pet. Okay, these things have been around long enough that the novelty has completely worn off. The new Chia Pet is Magic Sproutz. Pop open the can, water, and you can grow a flower or secret message bean in no time at all. You can often find them at KayBee or even Dollar General. You can even get carnivorous plants in a can. Or, if killing flies isn't your bag you can also get mini gardens in a can.
Cheap jewelry. Rule of thumb, if the price on those diamond earrings seem too good to be true, it probably is. Don't get me wrong, we women go ga-ga for jewelry. If my first boyfriend didn't throw such shit-fits when I dropped hints about how after 5 years together he might want to get me an engagement ring, I might not have cheated on him and dumped his ass. If you're buying jewelry for your girlfriend, start saving a year in advance. Just sayin'.
Now, if you're buying little trinkety necklaces for nieces or sisters, don't bother. Even if they do wear it, it'll more than likely break or get lost within a month. If you want to get something they'll use on a continual basis and is pretty fancy looking, I have an interesting alternative -- designer pill cases. They'll cost anywhere from $5-$25 and any girl that carries a purse is going to be completely appreciative. I got one a few Christmases ago, and it's a saving grace every time I have a headache.
Soap. It's understandable that when you have no clue what to get a girl on your list you start grabbing bath gift sets. This isn't such a terrible idea, although it requires absolutely no forethought or real consideration for the recipient. My suggestion is instead of picking up some cheap last-minute set from the mall, you pick up something that's higher quality like Philosophy. You've probably heard of Philosophy before from all the times Oprah has sang their praises. What you may not know is they make some absolutely luscious holiday gift packs. They have a special Holiday Boutique set up for all their holiday inspired goodies. You have my personal guarantee that their products aren't the type of cheap goo that only smells good when you stick your nose up to it. If you use their Cinnamon Bun shower gel, your entire bathroom will smell like cinnamon buns afterwards.
Gift cards. Gift cards are acceptable gifts, but not so great on the surprise level. Target and Wal-Mart cards are easy to come by, so it's better to get one a little more clever like a gift card for a local day spa. If you know they aren't already subscribed, Netflix is a great choice. Or, you can give the gift of giving by purchasing a charitable donation gift card at JustGive.org.
Day planner. A pretty practical gift, but you have to first ask yourself if the recipient is ever going to use it and second ask if they have that much going on in life to necessitate a day planner. A better, and more practical idea is to get them emergency supplies. They make fire extinguishers that are small and perfect for people living in apartments and are extremely quick and easy to use in case a small fire breaks out. And everyone should have a really good first-aid kit.
Ugly Sweaters. Unless your giving a gift to a particularly frumpy old woman, stay away from Quacker Factory. No one likes getting ugly sweaters, no matter how cute you may think they are. If someone gets you an ugly sweater, you should pee in their eggnog. If it's winter time cozies you're looking for, try a pair of bandless ear muffs.
Food packs. Alright, while food is always good, it's not the most inventive present. Cept of course for Pie in a Jar. You know Hickory Farms can always get you out of a last-minute present predicament, but shame on you for getting into that situation in the first place! If you want something much more inventive, try browsing around sites like Perpetual Kid or ThinkGeek. Those places are plethoras of kooky gifts and fantastic ideas.
A good gift-giving tip is to think of something they own already and really like. Then go to Amazon.com, put it in your shopping cart, and see what comes up under, "Customers who bought the items in your shopping cart also bought:" A little thought goes a long way. Don't rule out As Seen on TV products, either, because some of them are pretty damn cool. And hey, maybe your absent-minded aunt really does need a sound-activated key finder. Or a can of mace. Or some throwing stars. If you still can't think of anything, try asking someone that might know their tastes a little better.
But hey, a gift basket of coffee and chocolate is better than nothing!