The best gifts for busy people
Updated 19 December 2023
While it may be true that we all have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé, the reality is most of us don't have the same resources. And yet that doesn't seem to stop the busy people in our lives from biting off more than they can chew. If that sounds like someone you know, this gift guide is for you.
Here are our suggestions for gifts a busy person will actually use, because it'll make their life that bit easier. They'll love you for them, in fact.
The list at a glance
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Self-watering plant pot
Laundry service voucher
Gourmet ready meals
Bluetooth key finder
Multipack of hair ties (or anything else easy to lose)
Home massage voucher
Gym class gift voucher
Sourdough bread subscription
Wireless charging station
Packing cube set
Coffee alarm clock (fancy)
Coffee alarm clock (cheaper)
Restful gift box
Sunrise alarm clock
Fancy dry shampoo
If they've barely got time to drink enough water themselves, their houseplants are likely to be extra thirsty. Help alleviate the wilt guilt with a beautifully designed self-watering planter, like this one from LSA International. You can find cheaper ones too, like this £10 one from Elho.
Honestly this gift is so universally appealing that you may as well buy vouchers in bulk to cover every upcoming birthday, anniversary or 'just because' gift. I Hate Ironing (and other companies like them, see Laundry Heap) collect your dirty washing and deliver it right back to you, washed, folded and freshly pressed. Gift cards start at £25, the perfect amount to cover at least one mountain of washing after a particularly busy week.
The tyranny of deciding what to cook for dinner can be the last straw when you're already fried. Fieldgoods take the pressure off with pre-prepared comfort food from carefully-sourced, sustainable suppliers. Their £58 bundle will fill your friend's freezer with eight nourishing meals – all they need to do is choose which, from lamb and apricot tagine to Goan fish curry. Yum.
Is there anything worse than being ready to leave on time for once, only to lose 10 minutes to a tear-inducing search for your keys? Bluetooth item finders like Apple AirTags or these from Tile Mate, are both a time and a sanity-saver. Instead of flipping the house upside down, they can calmly check their phone to locate not just keys, but TV remotes, inhalers or work passes.
When you're mega busy, losing everyday things becomes mega stressful (see above). So while on the face of it, a multipack of 200 hair ties may not scream 'thoughtful gift', when they're still bobble-rich in a year's time, they'll definitely think of you. The same goes for things like pens, lip balms and sports socks – not glamorous, but oh-so-useful in bulk.
When they're working full-time and juggling pet and/or child-care, suggesting they book a spa day might be met with a look of pitying amusement. But with Urban, you can send the spa to theirs. Either book for them (anytime from 7am-11pm, daily), or treat them to a gift card so they can choose what, where and when to indulge.
There are 30+ home treatments on offer, from deep tissue, sports and relaxing massages, to facials, manicures and even specialist services like mobile physio.
When life's busy, managing to read half a page at bedtime before nodding off is considered progress. Audiobooks are much easier to digest as you can play them on the commute, while you're cooking or at the gym.
A subscription to an audiobook platform like Audible is the perfect gift for your busy friend. As well as books, they can listen to a range of exclusive podcasts you can't find on Spotify, like Alan Partridge's From the Oasthouse, and French and Saunders' Titting About.
If they work irregular shift patterns, they might find it hard to make exercising a regular habit. The beauty of ClassPass is it's totally flexible. You get credits to spend on gym, yoga, dance classes and more, without having to commit to ongoing monthly fees. A £39 gift card will allow them to try four to five different classes around their schedule. Just be careful, they might rope you into joining them too.
When you become a parent, you say goodbye to drinking a hot cup of tea or coffee. Or at least that's how it used to be before mugs got smart. Now you can set the ideal temperature you'd like your beverage to be and keep it there for up to an hour and a half. With the Ember mug you can also track your caffeine consumption - super useful if you're pregnant or trying to cut down.
Sourdough bread subscription
From £9 a delivery from Good In Bread
There's something so romantic about a delivery of freshly baked sourdough. Indulge their fantasies of having time to bake a loaf themselves with a bread or bagel subscription. London-based Good In Bread offers weekly, fornightly and monthly options, with free delivery on orders over £9. They may end up eating their toast on the way to the Tube, but at least it'll be absolutely delicious.
Wireless charging station
3-in-1 wireless charger by Belkin, from £139.95
Forget fishing around the bedside table to find the right charging cable for each device. With these convenient all-in-one chargers, you simply place your items down and let the MagSafe charging technology work its magic. They're not just for iPhones either, there's plenty available for Android users too.
When it comes to convenience, investing in quality products is a better strategy than throw-away items you'll need to keep repurchasing. Blunt Umbrellas are designed with that philosophy in mind. They're sturdy, engineered to withstand wind, and can be repaired again and again thanks to a modular design. It's the ideal gift for the person who has everything – chic, practical and sustainable.
This one's great if they travel a lot. Packing cubes help them colour-code their items so they can quickly find things. The Baggu ones are particularly aesthetic, making packing a little lovelier. These are great for people who are tricky to gift (think in-laws) as they'll be able to find a use for them even if it's just organising bits around the house. Feeling extra thoughtful? Fill them with travel essentials so they can grab and go: think hand sanitiser, travel cosmetics and earplugs.
The stuff dreams are made of. While this is a pricey gift, it's something they'll appreciate daily and forever. With different attachments to make tea or coffee, this magical alarm clock wakes you up with a fresh brew. It stores a week's worth of coffee grounds and has a mini fridge drawer for fresh milk, and even (because why not?) has a USB charging port for your phone. Very Wallace and Gromit-core – ideal for the person who has everything.
Okay so technically it's not an alarm clock, but this coffee machine is programmable which means your busy friend can set it up before bed and have a cup of hot Joe ready just before they need to leave the house. The fact it grinds the coffee fresh and pours straight into a travel cup ticks two tasks off the morning get-ready list. Plus, it's nice and compact so won't take up too much bench space.
It's so great these are fashionable again, as they're so handy for sunglasses and reading glasses. As we mentioned above, losing things is extra annoying when you're busy. Keeping their glasses close to their chest will save them time and money on replacements. Plus there are loads of different designs out there, from leather to beads to bling.
Sometimes all you need is a bath and an early night. That's especially true for your busy friend, which is why they'll love this cute hamper curated by Whitley Bay boutique, Bellwoods.
It comes with Himalayan bath salts and a soy Sanctuary candle, all wrapped up in peach tissue paper topped with dried flowers. Check out their other hampers too - the cosy one might also be up their street.
No matter how busy you are, there's always time for a cup of tea, especially when there's three new ones to try each month.
Bird & Blend Tea Co. offer a tea tasting club where you'll get three (quite generous) sachets of loose leaf teas sent through the letterbox. Opt for three, six or twelve months of delivery, and then choose between three flavour profiles. There's one for traditionalists who like a variation of black tea with milk, one for flavour adventurers, and another caffeine-free option.
It's not fair is it? Some people are just morning people, springily opening their curtains onto a pitch black sky at 4am.
But for people who have no choice but to be a morning person (thanks to parenting, shifts or long commutes) this gift is a must. The Lumie alarm clock wakes you gently and gradually with light, which gets brighter over 30 minutes. There's a sunset feature too which limits wakeful blue light to get you ready for bed.
There's nothing wrong with good old Batiste, but it doesn't say 'gift' in quite the same way as this fresh and citrusy dry shampoo from Kevin Murphy.
It's ideal if they have to skip hair wash day on the regular, as unlike some of the cheaper options it doesn't leave white residue.
How to nail a thoughtful gift for someone who is always busy
Let's start with the worst gifts you could give them. When you're in a state of stress, you're likely to be more reactive thanks to the fight or flight mode that'll be activated. Don't add to that stress with gifts that involve them having to change plans last minute. Avoid surprises, or experiences that require a big time commitment (even dinner out can be a lot to ask when they're stressed).
Safer bets are experiences they can book on their own terms, like spa gift vouchers, or even better a spa experience that comes to them at home, like the wellness treatments offered by Urban.
Anything that helps them feel more calm is likely to be welcomed. Think weighted blankets, sleep eye masks, lavender scented things (pillow mists, bubble bath and pulse point oil). A subscription to an app like Headspace might be welcome if you know them well enough, but be careful you're not implying they 'just need to calm down' which might not be helpful.
Help with life admin
It's probably safe to assume that someone who works a lot doesn't always have the time for life admin and everyday chores like cooking and cleaning. So a great start is a gift voucher for a home cleaning service (think Housekeep if they're in London) or door-to-door laundry (Laundry Heap, I Hate Ironing and other similar services).
Cooking-wise, you could gift them credit for a service like Deliveroo so they can get meals delivered to them, or a subscription to a meal kit company like HelloFresh or Gousto.
Chic accessories for work
If they work in an office, you can't go wrong with well-designed items they'll use a lot during the day. Think reusable water bottles, travel coffee mugs, pens and personalised stationery.
If they commute and you want to spend a bit more, a good quality backpack or laptop case is a must-have that they may not want to treat themselves to with their own money.
Something to take the pressure off
If they work in a role that sees them on their feet or at a desk all day, they will love anything that eases the tension. You could get them a massage device or foot spa, or go one further with a voucher for an at-home massage. With Urban, you can gift them reflexology foot massage, deep tissue massage for sore shoulders, or even a check up with a physio to address any ongoing issues caused by their job.
It depends what they do for a job, their age and their interests, but if she works in an office or corporate role, she might like:
Reusable water bottle (we love the Hip water bottle)
Stationery, like planners or to-do list pads
Subscription to a mindfulness app like Headspace or Calm
Commuter backpack or handbag
Luxury hand sanitiser
Personalised work pass holder (like these recycled leather ones)
A takeaway coffee subscription, like Pret A Manger's Club Pret
Play it safe with something you know that literally anyone finds useful:
- Reusable shopping bag
- A luxury candle (pair it with colourful matches for an extra classy touch)
- Hand soap and lotion set
- A restaurant voucher
- Credit to spend at their favourite store - M&S food hamper