My preamble is brief, and you’ll probably hear it elsewhere from all sorts of voices this holiday season: shop local, and shop secondhand. It’s easy enough to say that, but in practice? If you just took mental stock of the folks on your list and gulped, wondering how in the world to shop for Jordan and Stephanie (and don’t we all have a Jordan and Stephanie in our lives) then you might need the boost that only Goodwill aisles can bring. Here are some themed groups of preloved holiday gifts — I prefer the nondenominational term Annual Prize Packs — that I’ll use to guide my giving this year.

Thrifted Tomes

My go-to holiday gift has been books. For years. And years. I think my brother is tired of getting books? I’m too scared to ask. So this year, when I don’t want to buy new, and I don’t want to risk getting something already in his collection, I’m going narrow. Cookbooks, for instance, and always with a weird flair:

A trillion varieties of Jell-O salad and mini hot dog hors d’oeuvres at your fingertips, courtesy of vintage Betty Crocker. Or maybe bread advice from the scariest member of the Great British Bakeoff! How about ice cream recipes to last a hundred summers? Goodwill’s book selection has personality, and I’ll give gifts like these knowing they’ll speak boldly and colorfully.

Hand-Me-Down Highballs

Got a cocktail fiend on your list? A wine lover? Someone who enjoys drinking tap water out of fancy glassware because, let’s face it, our time on this earth is sadly finite? Say hello to your bar cart, Goodwill style:

If I didn’t exercise a little self-control I’d be neck-deep in mix-and-match rocks glasses, snifters, Nick & Nora stemware…you get the point. If it can hold liquid, Goodwill’s got it for less, and in wonky vintage styles that’ll make finding your glass at a post-COVID soirée a cinch. Chances are, your friends have the same decade-old set of chipped Ikea dishes that you do, so give them the gift of a complete bar cart refresh and watch the dinner party invites pour in.

Vintage Vinyl

Music lovers are notoriously difficult to shop for. Unless you’re completely dialed into a friend’s taste, you risk buying them albums they already have, tickets to a show they’ll cancel on, or a band t-shirt they’ll never wear. My trick this year is to figure out which of my musichead friends have record players, and then go ham in the Goodwill vinyl section.

Why should one own whale songs on vinyl? Why not! Is Armenian ballet music the next big thing? Who knows! Is mixing synthesizers and Christmas carols really a good idea? Perhaps! What I’m truly certain of is the music geeks on my list loving an oddball assortment of vinyl they might not find themselves. That’s the spirit of Goodwill gifting.

About our Guest Blogger:

Seth of @wholemilkthrift is a radio producer with an abiding love of vintage varsity, fur collars, and anything made of linen. Follow him to learn how thrifted finds can subtly elevate business dress codes. He thinks all men need to thrift. Like, now.