Christmas stockings over a fireplace, next to a Christmas tree, illustrated in the style of old comic books

Last-Minute Stocking Stuffers They’ll Actually Use

Everyone loves a Christmas stocking—at least in theory. A lot of the time, once everything’s been unwrapped and the excitement has worn off, you find you’ve got a pile of plastic crap you don’t actually want. On the other side, trying to find an entire stocking’s worth of things your recipients will actually want can be difficult once they’re past the pre-teen years. Luckily, I am dedicated to the art of the perfectly filled Christmas stocking, and here to help!

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I’ve put together a list of stocking stuffers which, combined with a good helping of chocolate and candies, as well as the mandatory orange or satsuma in the toe (it’s tradition!), should result in happy faces around the tree this year.

Fancy tea, hot chocolate, or coffee

The Gilmore Girls, drinking coffee, allegedly, in promo art for Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

I’m talking about the good stuff here, real chocolate instead of powder and the kind of loose leaf tea blends or freshly ground coffee that constitute a bougie treat; the sort of nice thing that you can’t justify to yourself when doing the regular shop, but which receiving as a gift takes all the guilt out of having. It’s especially nice to find this sort of thing in the stocking because it’s a present that lasts a while after Christmas is over, providing you a with little lift for those times when you need one during the dark winter months. There are also a lot of fairly produced and biodegradable packaged teas and coffees around now too, so this is a perfect gift for someone keen on reducing their environmental impact.

Journaling supplies

Purple tape with lighter purple and gold d20's on it.
(Shona Mary Designs, Etsy)

Journaling has really taken off since the pandemic (not that it ever went away exactly), which makes sense because the mental health benefits are manifold and no one can afford therapy right now (too dark?). This rise in popularity has brought us a huge range of journaling accessories available now, to make the process more fun and the end result much prettier— and pretty much all of them are stocking stuffer-sized. Stickers, transfers, stencils, washi tape, and of course pens in many and varied colors, all make excellent stocking fillers for someone who journals (actually, pens are great no matter who they are, you can never have enough pens). And for an added bonus you can tailor these items to their interests, from dark academia to Bluey.

Mini bottles of alcohol and/or THC and CBD gummies

A mini bottle of Kraken rum, a two handled glass bottle with brown liquid inside and an aged paper style labour with a tentacled sea monster and black label on it.
(The Bottle Shop)

Let’s be honest, Christmas is stressful, even if you love it. Sometimes a tiny bottle of Baileys with a single shot’s worth of alcohol inside is all that’s keeping you from telling a distant relative exactly what you think of what’s just come out of his mouth—and nobody wants that before dinner. Even if you don’t have to deal with That Family Member, pulling a single serving-sized bottle of prosecco out of your stocking is a charming piece of festive magic I’ve been enjoying since I started college and my parents realized I was a for-real adult. Of course, your person might not be a drinker, in which case I suggest CBD gummies and/or THC gummies for similarly relaxing purposes.

Boring essentials

Baymax comes through with pads and tampons
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

This sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out. Everyone’s broke and a lot of us are trying to buy less, whether for sustainability reasons or the increasing drive among a growing number of people to boycott capitalism as much as they can. Filling a stocking full of the boring essentials we have to buy throughout the year—things like tampons, face wash, and hand soap—can be a really great, thoughtful gift for someone. It takes some of the pressure off their monthly budget while minimizing contributions to consumerism and waste (because it’s all essentials they’d have had to buy anyway). This is obviously the sort of present that’s not going to work for everyone; you have to be sure you really know the person well and that they’ll actually appreciate this instead of feeling vaguely offended or sad before going ahead with it, but for the right person it’s perfect.

Luxury and sustainable toiletries

Shine Shampoo Bar; a round tin with a brown cardboard square label reading Shine on it, beside an aloe plant spear.
(Shine Shampoo Bar)

Related to the previous entry but zhuzhed up a bit, if you’re filling a stocking for someone you know is trying to minimize waste and generally be a bit more eco-friendly, getting them some nice, sustainable bath products or cosmetics can be a great addition to their stocking. I’m talking reusable muslin face cloths to replace makeup wipes, reusable cotton pads, responsibly produced shampoo bars (less plastic packaging involved, and they last longer), nice bar soap from an eco-friendly company and a soap dish for it to sit in (to replace liquid soap in the plastic bottles)—there are a lot of options out there to make self-care greener and more enjoyable at once.

Travel-sized art supplies

A credit card sized six colour watercolour paint palette with mixing pans.
(Portable Painter)

But good ones. None of that Christmas cracker-style nonsense. There’s some really high quality fun-sized art supplies available now, and they make great gifts for traveling artists (the sort of unbearably wholesome people who like to go hiking and paint what they see) and those of us who are time-poor but really want to get back into creating art again. Some of them are also good for disabled artists because they come with convenient no- or low-mess adaptations like water brushes (kind of like a brush pen but filled with water instead of ink), so you can paint in bed without getting paint everywhere.

Stim toys

A metallic rainbow articulated dragon with a long tail.
(Geek and Artsy)

Stim toys are perfectly stocking-sized. While everyone loves them, they’re particularly good gifts for autistic, anxious, and ADHD friends. There are also some great geeky ones out there. Batman fidget spinner, anyone? Pokémon pop-it? Or how about this amazing articulated dragon in rainbow colors? The great thing about really cool-looking stim toys is that they fill the toy-shaped hole that’s in most adults’ hearts at Christmas, so they add that little burst of nostalgic joy to a stocking while providing the recipient with something they’ll actually use, too.

Pocket knife or small tools

A miniature replica bat'leth made from metal. It's a multi-tool.

A practical gift that people will be able to use for years! Putting a pocket knife, multi-tool, or even a cool bottle opener in their stocking is a great idea for people who want useful things over tchotchkes and “clutter.” Just check beforehand that they don’t already have the thing you’re looking at, and make sure it’s something they’d use. Then again, who doesn’t want to open their beer with a mini bat’leth?

Seeds for spring

Seed bomb multipack: Ten papier mache grenades with colorful labels

Another great gift for minimal waste, environmentalist friends as well as plant people and gardeners. Sticking some seeds or seed balls/seed bombs into a stocking is a nice way of looking forward to spring and warmer weather. There’s also something innately hopeful about seeds and plants in general, which is something we could all use more of right now. You can even get seeds and seed bombs with 100% biodegradable packaging (that’s often made from recycled materials too), so there’s nothing that’s going to end up in a landfill with this gift; something that’s going to show your minimal/zero waste friends that you’ve really thought about what they want and care about.

Sex toys or lingerie

The rose vibrator;  a red rose with thorns is beside a rosebud shaped, deep pink silicon device.
(Rose Vibrator)

Now obviously this is for a very adult stocking, the kind of stocking you do not open in front of other people—I’m assuming we all know how to be sensible about this. That said, there are so many sex toys exactly the right size for, ahem, stuffing your partner’s stocking and ensuring a very merry Christmas for you both. OK, I know that was terrible, I did it on purpose because making terrible puns is my birthright as a bisexual, but bear with me because I promise this is a good idea! Just make sure you get your partner something they’d actually like—maybe that rose toy (if they haven’t got one already) that made all those insecure men really mad on social media a few months back, so you’re not just stuffing their stocking with treats that are really for you.

(featured image: Getty Images)

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Image of Siobhan Ball
Siobhan Ball
Siobhan Ball (she/her) is a contributing writer covering news, queer stuff, politics and Star Wars. A former historian and archivist, she made her first forays into journalism by writing a number of queer history articles c. 2016 and things spiralled from there. When she's not working she's still writing, with several novels and a book on Irish myth on the go, as well as developing her skills as a jeweller.