Stocking Stuffers

Alyson asked me on Twitter about stocking stuffers for kids and husbands, and I was answering right along when I realized I was having a lot of fun, which made me think I should bring it over here. I’m going to basically cut-and-paste, which will be a little dull for those of you who already read it in Twitter format.

When the kids were littler, I kept an eye out all year for clearances in the party-favor aisle: kazoos, little plastic cars, rubber balls, those curled-up blower things, stickers, punch balloons, temporary tattoos, silly glasses/headbands, mini slinkies, mini flashlights, toy tops—really it didn’t matter what the things were, the point was to find lots of trinkets.

I’ve also had good luck with clearances in the toy section, though not as many because toys tend to be bigger. But Rubik’s cubes or similar handheld puzzles, card games, little stuffed animals, and those overpriced packets where you get one surprise tiny Nintendo figure or whatever.

And just kind of clearances all over the store. When the summer stuff cleared out, I’d get them new swim goggles, sidewalk chalk, water balloons. When the fall/Halloween stuff cleared out, I’d get them glow bracelets, new water bottles, new crayons. And so on.

One year there was a good deal on inexpensive electric toothbrushes (like, $5 each), so I bought everyone one of those.

I also put in tons of candy, and some novelty candy like Pop Rocks, Nerd ropes, chocolate in the shape of a dollar bill, chocolate coins, tubes of mini M&Ms, weird flavors of Hershey Kisses. And granola bars, and those cute little single-serve packets of Pringles. I go to the snack aisle and buy those dipper snacks: there are bread sticks or crackers or pretzels to dip in cheese dip, or Oreo sticks to dip in frosting. I get the snack-packs of things like Teddy Grahams and mini Chips Ahoy. Oh, and Pez dispensers, with refills. Lots of the kinds of things that caught their eyes when they were shopping with me.

I get them stuff that I would have just bought them anyway, like new socks or new gloves. Basically if they need something in November or December, and it’s not an immediate need, I get it for the stocking. Or I’ll get them things that are mostly practical but cost a little more because they’re fancy: character underwear, cute socks, fun bandaids.

For Paul, I get candy and snacks. We have a beer store near us, so I get him one single fun expensive beer. Sometimes I get a few of those little tiny bottles of liquor. Last year after Christmas there was a 70%-off clearance on an ice scraper with a built-in mitt, so I got him that and put it aside for this year. I get him an inexpensive kitchen gadget, like a dough docker or a squash scraper. If during the year I hear him cursing because he can’t find his duct tape or tiny screwdrivers or utility knife or hex keys or other inexpensive tool, I’ll get a new one and put it in his stocking. I usually give him a Google Play gift card for his phone.

One year a toothpaste company came out with three weird new flavors, and they had sample sizes available, so I got him those. Sometimes I put in a new toothbrush, even though he could just reach into the bathroom closet and get one out of the box. He mentioned needing a portable toothbrush for work, so I got him a folding one from the travel section. One year I gave him a silly contact lens case.

I generally get him a new Big Ass Brick of Soap, and this year I also got him bar shampoo and an old-fashioned deck of cards, because I needed a few things to get up to the free-shipping deal. And on Black Friday, the ACLU had a $10 t-shirt deal so he’s getting one of those in his stocking, and so am I.

24 thoughts on “Stocking Stuffers

  1. Jd

    The container store had some fun stocking stuffer type gifts this year: little fish that hold toothbrushes, rubber band powered helicopter. I’m still on the lookout for fun little stuff.
    I try to avoid food but my husband hates that and buys oranges and candy every year.
    When I was a teen the stocking had the most valuable gifts like earrings, a swatch, or other small but pricey items.

  2. jen(melty

    I.. had no idea a dough docker existed. I have always used a fork, haha. And it is from you that I gave my kids electric toothbrushes for a few years when they were younger!

  3. Lise

    Somewhere along the way I started putting a new pair of Christmas socks in each daughter’s stocking. Now it’s an unbreakable tradition, even though they’re all adults and I’m no longer responsible for the married daughters’ stockings. We have pictures of them through the years in nice dresses and Christmas socks.

  4. rlbelle

    We just do three gifts under the tree – from Santa, from Mom and Dad, and from the sibling – so stockings for me have become the place I put things I still want to get them – some things from their list and others that I want them to have. This usually includes a couple of blind bag type toys, books, something like a craft or puzzle, one type of candy, an ornament (or two, this year – they were really interested in ornaments for some reason), and something fun and wearable, like earmuffs, mittens, or mermaid tail blankets. These aren’t always the cheapest presents, and my family has never tried to fit all stocking stuffers into stockings. We put them on the couch, rather than hang them, and they overflow all over the place (not necessarily from so much, but we don’t relegate ourselves to small things). I feel this is tradition, but my husband doesn’t understand it at all, so he gets me, like, three things, two of which are candy. I am always disappointed in my stocking, which makes me feel childish and petty, but seriously, I would think he’d have caught on by now.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Oh! gurl. Let us discuss. Paul is terrible at stockings, terrible. I won’t even detail the ways in which he is terrible, because (1) it makes me mad and (2) deep down, I want you to like him. But just: terrible. At Christmas, everyone else would be opening overflowing stockings of wonder that I’D filled so carefully for THEM, and I would have this limp little thing of sadness. So, it took a few years to manage this transition, and I was not sure I would like it, but now it is done and I DO like it: I do my own stocking. I don’t do it ENTIRELY: Paul still gets a few things for it, and so do my parents and my brother/SIL—but MOSTLY I do it. So then throughout the year, every time I see something in the right price range, usually something that I feel I ought not to spend money on when we have a kid in college, or it’s just kind of silly and I don’t need it but I want it, I buy it, and I put it in a bag in the closet, and I try to forget about it: when I add something new, I avert my eyes from what’s already in there. Then at Christmas, I hand Paul the bag and he puts it in the stocking. When I open it, I’m genuinely surprised by most of it, and pretty thrilled, and it has removed MOST of the resentment (there remains the lingering resentment of having to do this at all).

      1. Elisabeth

        This is such a good idea! I do my own stocking but I usually just grab all of the stuff in December, so this way would be much more fun and more of a surprise.

      2. rlbelle

        Ha! “Limp little thing of sadness” pretty much exactly describes my stocking, yes. He’s getting one more chance this year, and then I think there will be A Reckoning.

        Seriously, though, I love the idea not just of getting things for myself, but of stashing them so they’ll still be surprising.

      3. Angela

        My husband tries, but is also not great at stockings. The things he thinks I would like in my stocking and the the things I actually want in my stocking are totally different.

        After reading this last week, I went to Sephora and bought a bunch of little sample sized makeup I’d been wanting to try to put in my own stocking, and when I was at Michaels getting stocking stuffers for my boys I picked up a few cute planner stickers for my stocking too.

        Now I’m much more excited about my stocking, so thanks!

    2. Gigi

      I have been married for almost 27 years – I have ALWAYS filled his and Man-Child’s stocking. Mine always hung empty. About 3 years ago, it finally dawned on him that it was his job to fill my stocking. Now it’s is favorite part of Christmas shopping. So there is still hope, yours may catch on yet.

    3. Beth

      Funny spouse/stocking story: In my extended family, all family members who are around on Christmas morning contribute to the stockings of everyone else present. So my stocking will have things from my parents, my husband, any of my siblings who are around that year, my kids, etc… (we are a far-flung large, international family so the annual cast of characters changes).

      When my brother married my sis-in-law, he somehow assumed it would be the same at her house with her big family. So on Christmas morning she came down to a sad little stocking with the 3 or 4 things he had put in it (expecting the many members of her family to top it up and all contribute). She was not pleased. He only made that mistake once.

  5. Anna

    We always do the orange in the toe- clementines or real satsuma mandarins if you can get them. We also have those little confetti poppers (the gunpowder kind), which we pop on the tree after all the gifts are opened. Socks are a big deal in my family, everything is supposed to be what the recipient likes best. When I got married my parents went to some trouble to get a sock knitted for my husband to match our existing ones, and he was astonished by how customized the contents were. For my daughter the sock ended up being a different pattern, but lucky for her it’s a little bigger than the originals.

  6. Gigi

    Thank you Swistle for sharing stocking stuffer ideas. I usually find them at the last minute in a panic. I’m going to keep an eye on this page for more ideas and making a note to start stocking up year round!

  7. Suzanne

    I love stocking stuffers! I do buy things for myself, too which is a fun way to “justify” some of the silly unnecessary things I ogle throughout the year. I am getting everyone one of those multi-tools that is the size of a credit card and has a ruler and a screwdriver head and works as a wrench… and one of those little things that goes over the camera eye on your computer… and some sort of kitchen tool. For the kiddo I do nail polish and lip gloss, mini hatchimals, some crafts, stickers, glitter glue, pez. Michaels has good stocking stuffers – that’s where I found a light up Rudolph nose. And World Market has good ones too: there I found glow in the dark stars, a mini snow globe, and the teensiest tub of nutella ever. So fun!

    1. el-e-e

      Funny comment about World Market – their pretty little jeweled pillboxes (silver, or “gold” and shaped like hearts or just ovals) are the perfect size for stocking stuffers… and I got no fewer than 4 of them this year. Some were wrapped inside one of those balls of Saran Wrap – have you seen that game? – which we played for the first time. My MIL had a field day at World Market, apparently.

  8. Alyson


    For whatever reason, Twitter never gave me a little notification icon that you’d replied to twitter. Imagine my surprise when I started reading this and realized I’d been missing out. MAYBE FOR DAYS.

    I do a few of those things. It’s nice to have a list to refer to, though. And some of them are definitely new ideas for me. (Although the underwear gets wrapped, like a proper gift. HA, you children. Actually, I’m pretty sure they just like unwrapping, what’s under the paper is often secondary, so it may as well be underwear.)

    Thanks for answering my question.

  9. Emily

    It infuriates me to no end that so many men drop the ball on their wives’ stocking. Why is this concept so hard to grab?? I’m really happy for those of you who have found a way to navigate the system to make your stocking special, but I do not understand why this problem is so widespread. It seem that 99% of men either don’t do the stocking at all (this is clearly the worst), rely on others to bolster it (not horrible), or recognize it’s their job but do it abysmally (this is offensive).

    Gigi’s comment above breaks my heart. 24 years of an EMPTY stocking?! I can’t even. This makes me want to fly around and fill all of your stockings every year.

    1. Tracy

      Me and my husband don’t even have Christmas stockings! We just hang (and sometimes fill) the kids’ stockings. We made a bigger deal of the stockings when the kids were younger, but honestly most of the stuff *we* would put in them was useless crap or bathroom necessities. Now it’s usually candy. I’m enjoying this discussion though! It’s cool that so many people are passionate about their Christmas stocking traditions!

  10. ButtercupDC

    I love stockings and stocking chat! A few years ago, it finally occurred to my sister and me (perhaps one mentioned it to the other?) that our Mom always put a lot of effort into filling stockings for everyone, including in-laws and grandchildren, and she didn’t even have a stocking. So we got her a stocking and started filling it, and though she always protests that it’s too much, I think she really relishes taking part in the stocking opening. I keep an eye peeled all year, too, and this year I have some pretty mini spatulas that were on clearance, and an ornament, and a bottle of her favorite wine that I found at Costco with a special holiday label. Oh! And a jar of some spice that escapes me now because everyone is getting spices.

    Our stockings always, always, always include a toothbrush, as do our Easter baskets. We still get both of these things in spite of our adulthood.

  11. Celeste

    I get myself some small items from the quilt shop–a book or pattern, thread, a new tool. We always get my daughter some of those chocolate gold coins–they have to be there or else.

    I have gotten my husband a mustache comb and wax as a joke, but he loved it.

    I always get my SIL one or two of the $5 potted amaryllis bulbs. I get them at Meijer but I’m sure Lowe’s has them. Who says a stocking stuffer has to fit into the stocking?

    SIL carries on MIL’s tradition of a kitchen item. She’s not much of a cook but I always give her coordinating dish towels, souvenir dish towels from our travels, or knitted dishcloths I have made.

  12. Lala

    Oh stockings! One of my favorite things. Sadly after 11 years of marriage I still have to fill my own. We have 1 12 year old stepson and his Christmasses at his Mom’s house are just bleak ( they hang stockings for decoration only???! ) and my 14 year old brother also has Christmas with us (we have to have our Christmas like on the 28th due to a custody schedule) anyway it used to be toys and candy but this year the boys are getting deodorant!! Body wash! Shampoo! Room deodorizer!!! A note from Santa saying take a shower! They’ll get candy too but seriously teenage boys. I always put fun stuff in my husbands and I buy whatever I want for mine so I get super fancy stuff that I will never buy usually. The cats also get a stocking and the kid thinks isso funny that Santa brings cat food and toy mice.

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