According to the Pew Research center, Gen Z encompasses anyone born between 1997 and 2012, which technically means ages 9-24. While kids are pretty easy to shop for, it gets more difficult for anyone 16 or up ― or, in terms of Gen Z, the ages between “driver’s license” and a “my first apartment” tour on TikTok.
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 Clubhouse NYU 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).
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
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
Get a StubHub gift card for any live event on StubHub.
Actual physical books
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
Check out new and old favorite books on Bookshop.
A getaway (or staycation)
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
Get a travel gift card at Airbnb.
Metal reusable water bottles
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
Check out the selection of Hydro Flasks at Amazon or Hydroflask.com.
The gift of green
The most popular answer we got was money. Cash. Checks. Visa gift cards. Whatever form, Gen Z wants to buy their own gifts (or like, pay for rent, groceries and car insurance.)
“Cash.” — Kim Penna
Get a Visa gift card from Amazon.
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
Get a compost bin container from Package Free for $17.
Another popular trend in our survey was ’90s-inspired bedroom decor. Think bean bags, string lights and ways to display polaroid photos.
“X-large beanbag chairs to lounge in.” — Stacy Crossfield Williams
Get the Big Joe XL from Amazon for $167.48.
A zero waste starting kit
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
Get the zero waste market kit from Package Free for $38.
Following the ’90s bedroom theme, a string of strip lights with a remote lets your Gen Zer take charge of the vibes.
“LED Strip lights to line the ceiling and corners of their bedroom.” — Tara Oxby
Get dalattin strip lights from Amazon for $26.22.
Stock their kitchen
What’s that saying, the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach? Coordinate a grocery delivery of your Gen Zer’s favorite snacks or get them a gift card so they can shop for themselves.
“Grocery gift card!!!” — Dierdre, 23
Get a grocery gift card on Instacart.
A record player and some vinyl
Handmade “comfort” items
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
Get the “Merry Christmas” gift box starting at $31.50 on SitosShop on Etsy.
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.
“Haflinger house shoes.” — Cheryl Salmen Hofer
Get Haflinger Hearts slippers on Zappos for $89.
Utilitarian, but make it thoughtful
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
Get the macrame hanging light pendant from SitosShop on Etsy starting at $112.50.
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.
“Honestly, I want a vacuum.” — Jenna, 23
Get the BISSELL 2252 on Amazon for $106.44.