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bookish1's avatar

What would make a good Christmas present for my adviser?

Asked by bookish1 (13069 points ) December 5th, 2012

I’m looking for something that will be of use or pleasure to him, but that also won’t embarrass him because he makes easily 5 times as much money as I do. Married middle/upper-middle class guy, his kids are in college, nice house and a dog.

Last year I gave him a book about progressive politics that really inspired me in college. It was a good fit, but I really don’t want to give him another book this year. Giving academics in the humanities books for pleasure reading is kind of a cruel joke.

I’d really like to give him something meaningful this year, because he has gone far above and beyond to help me out in my most difficult year of grad school. He is widely recognized as one of the best advisers in the department.

Thank you for any ideas!

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29 Answers

susanc's avatar

No one dislikes a nice box of excellent chocolate.

Shippy's avatar

A nice pen is always appreciated, a new diary for the year, with his name on it? Something for his desk, or a drawer organizer. A a great wine, even something for his dog?

gailcalled's avatar

I also like the idea of good wine, if he is a drinker. Wrap it in a new, pretty dish towel rather than wasting paper.

marinelife's avatar

How mnch do you want to spend? What about a Kindle or other e-reader?

_Whitetigress's avatar

I second @susanc ‘s idea! Maybe throw in a mug as well

BhacSsylan's avatar

What’s his field, and what’s your price range?

JLeslie's avatar

I think whatever you give, a very personal note inside of the holiday card about how much his mentoring has meant to you, with a few specific examples of things he has done that impacted you would probably be very meaningful to him.

I really like the pen idea.

Definitely don’t give wine unless you know for a fact he drinks. I get wine all the time and it either goes bad in my house or a immediately regift it. I still appreciate the thought, but, actually unless it is a specific wine picked by someone who loves wine, it is what everyone gives when they don’t want to turn up to someone’s house empty handed, so I don’t really think of it as a personal gift with tons of thought when it is given to me. But, if he is a wine drinker everything I said against the idea doesn’t matter. If he likes alcohol and you know his brand, there are very nice holiday sets usually with minis in various flavors plus a large bottle of the original flavor, things like that.

Any chance you know how he spends his free time? Golf? Cars? Travel? Cooking? Golf you could go to a gold store and get plenty of ideas. Cars, a pen or t-shirt with his favorite car logo. Travel, a dopp kit or travel bag for his toiletries. Cooking, a basket full of flavored oils and french bread, or whatever theme that would suit like Italian, middle eastern, french, BBQ, etc. There are also a lot of grilling gifts if you know he grills outside. Remote thermometers, and all sorts of gadgets. Box of nuts. You can get them with two or three flavors packaged nicely for gift giving from places like Harry and David.

I love good chocolates myself, we have a fantastic local confectioner here, but I also try to watch my weight. If he is concerned about weight and health generally I would not give chocolates or candy.

I don’t remember if you are in a cold climate? How about a nice pair of winter leather gloves?

Remote TV headphones.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

How about a gift certificate to a nice restuarant?

linguaphile's avatar

My favorite gift to give to people like that—who I really respect, but don’t know what they like, and don’t want to give mindless clutter to—is a food gift. The list below includes things from different price ranges. I’ve given and received from all of these companies—

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Fruit bouquet
Cookie bouquet
Harry and Davids
Fruit of the month club

There are delivery services for wine and cupcakes as well. There are also different companies that deliver fruit and cookies as well.

Let us know what you ultimately decide!! Happy hunting!

WestRiverrat's avatar

If he likes to freak people out get him something from here

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@linguaphile You answer made me think of another possibility. Omaha Streaks. We got a package of those one year. I thought oh yeah, frozen steak. They were amazing. And we got to eat them whenever thoughout the year. Let me look for a link.
Try this.
http://www.omahasteaks.com/servlet/OnlineShopping?Dsp=261&AID=2660&ITMSUF=MRC&SRC=AE2013
If he’s vegan I withdraw my answer.:)

JLeslie's avatar

I love Omaha steaks.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@bookish1 They are awesome. I’m drooling right now. JL’s right.

gailcalled's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: Some people might not eat meat, as you mentioned. Gifts of food and beverages are more complicated than they used to be, aren’t they?

A safe present in our picky family is freshly-pressed cider (short shelf life) or organic grape juice.

JLeslie's avatar

Food is tricky, I have to agree. You have to know what people like and are willing to eat and are not allergic to.

Coloma's avatar

Maybe just a nicely written sentiment to stroke his well deserved ego and a gift cert. for a cozy interlude at some cool little Bistro?

Bellatrix's avatar

I would agree with the idea of not buying wine or chocolates. People regularly buy me bottles of wine and I put them on my bookshelf behind the door so nobody can see them and I have only just brought a couple of bottles home that have sat there for months. Unless you are sure about what he drinks – or you can find out – I wouldn’t buy wine. Chocolates as @JL suggested could work but not if he is a diabetic or is trying to keep his weight down.

Stay away from calendars. I have heaps of those but I only use my electronic calendar attached to my mail so I have calendars on my wall that say ‘July’ or similar.

Things I have liked – as odd as it sounds a gift card for a nice coffee shop. Somewhere I can go and relax with my friends and enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) with no pressure. This with a card and a letter thanking him for the work done would be very appreciated by me. If it is carefully chosen – again is there someone you can ask about what he likes – a book or a book gift voucher really is always very welcome. I’m a book addict! Is the office filled with books? There is always something I want. A pen is nice but again, I have a gold pen I never use because I forget to take it with me or it looks a bit ostentacious to bring out in some settings.

A nice journal with blank pages? A student bought me a coffee mug and had ‘Guru’ engraved on it. That made me giggle and it was very sweet. Think about discussions you have had with this person about their life. What do they do when they aren’t working? That you remembered will mean a lot if you buy something simple but related.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bellatrix My husband’s favorite inexpensive gift to receive is a Starbuck’s gift card. Generally we are not keen on receiving gift cards, but that just makes his day. He hates paying their high prices for coffee and having the card mean someone else is paying for it. Can be just $10 and he is thrilled.

Bellatrix's avatar

I know! I got one from another lecturer for doing a guest spot and I was tickled pink! I can afford coffee myself but it was sort of nice. We have a strong coffee culture here and it’s a very social thing to do. It isn’t something people think of giving either. It’s a bit like giving someone ‘me time’. I often hold meetings with tutors and even some postgrad students at the coffee shop. It’s more relaxed and just a very civilised way to meet. Glad your husband agrees!

JLeslie's avatar

@Bellatrix Meanwhile, I don’t drink coffee, and don’t like much of anything at Starbuck’s except their lemon pound cake, which I try to resist. If you’re going to give me a gift card my favorite is a supermarket where I can get rid of it within the week. I don’t want to keep track of another card in my wallet, or forget I have it.

Bellatrix's avatar

You sound like my husband now. I often give him my ‘store cards’ because I often go out without my purse. He now refuses because his wallet end up too thick. We don’t have Starbucks here. We did but they went broke I think. Some smaller coffee shops do cards though.

@bookish1 another idea might be a gift card for the cinema too. I would love that. I love seeing films.

JLeslie's avatar

There is always the good standby a personalized mug. If the budget is very small.

Money clip.

Cuff links (a friend just bought my husband cuff links that are cars. I just bought him two shirts to go with them. They are so cute.).

susanc's avatar

Gift cards for movie theatres are tricky because they don’t honor them at all of the movies. Kinda cruddy of them, yes?

FreshlyBaked's avatar

I really like the idea of a gift certificate to a restaurant or cafe you know your adviser frequents. It shows you care, and it won’t spoil sitting on the shelf.

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bookish1's avatar

Wowza, thank you for the advice, everyone!

@susanc : Very nice idea indeed. Maybe some Belgian chocolate…

@Shippy: I like the pen idea. I love stationary and it would be fun to pick one out, and I think people in my field tend to like nice pens and such.

@gailcalled: That’s a good idea as well. I know he likes beer, but I am not sure what kind of wine he would like. But I’m sure the guys at my local wine store would help me pick something nice.

@marinelife: I would say no more than $50 and I am hesitant even to spend that much. As I said, I really don’t want to embarrass this guy or make him feel like I am trying to buy his favor (no need to, I think he already likes me fairly well, haha), and I think his embarrassment threshold is pretty low. Thank you for the suggestion, but I doubt he would use an e-reader as people in my field tend to be technology-allergic and have trouble just working a Powerpoint.

@_Whitetigress: Thank you for the idea. That made me think, maybe getting him some nice beer and a pint glass would be cool?

@BhacSsylan: We are in history, and I guess my price range is $30—$50 or so.

@JLeslie: Thank you for the thoughtful response. I will definitely write him a nice card. I tell people all the time how lucky I am to have him as a mentor and he needs to hear that! I have no idea what hobbies he has or if he likes to cook. We don’t have a personal relationship really. Thanks for the suggestion about travel goods. He travels a lot for research, so maybe that is a good area to think about.

@Adirondackwannabe: Thank you for the idea. I had been thinking about that. But I would need to buy a big enough gift certificate for him and his wife, and I worry that might get me into the “embarrassingly large” gift range. Would $50 be enough for a generous meal for two, I wonder?

@linguaphile: Thanks for the suggestion. I love food and it would be fun to pick out a food gift. Wouldn’t be too hard as I live in a foodie region.

@WestRiverrat: That would be funny, but I’m a Hindu vegetarian and I’m not buying my advisor any exotic sausage, haha.

@Coloma: Thank you. His ego definitely deserves some stroking, haha. How much do you think would be appropriate to spend on a gift certificate?

@Bellatrix: Thank you for the insider perspective :) I’m tending away from the wine idea now. I was not going to buy a calendar; he will probably get 3 of those for Christmas anyway. We have had no discussions about his personal life; we do not have that sort of relationship. I have no idea what his interests are except for classic rock and film, but I wouldn’t want to buy him music or DVDs because I do not know what he has already. The gift cert for a coffee shop is a nice idea indeed, and I never would have thought about that myself. Thank you.

@FreshlyBaked: Thanks for the idea. I have no idea where he likes to go, but I do know where he lives at least, so I could get a gift certificate for somewhere nearby.

I’ll let y’all know what I come up with. Again, I really appreciate everyone’s help!

Bellatrix's avatar

I just thought of something else. Look around his office and see how it is decorated. I love owls and my husband bought me a beautiful glass owl. My children then bought me a glass penguin (it doesn’t look like @jannb though). So one of my tutors bought me a little fluffy owl. It sits on my window sill with the others.

I got the most unusual gift this year. I have no idea where it came from or from whom – it was a beautiful shell. It came in the mail with no information, no card, nothing. It was quite puzzling but it is lovely and obviously someone was sending me a very positive message. That too sits on my shelf and reminds me someone thought well of me. I also have stones painted painted by Aboriginal artists. I think these types of things say something about us and our relationship with others. So, perhaps look for a symbolic ornament (something tasteful) that relates to your relationship with him.

What are you studying? Is there something you could buy him that when he sees it will make him think of you and your esteem for his support. If you were studying the Napoleonic Wars – would a small brass horse and soldier work? Or an old tin soldier in a French uniform. I can’t remember what it was you said you were studying – but if I was him, such a gift would have meaning and it would illustrate the topic that connects you both.

My office is fairly sparse because I only want to decorate it with things that actually have some meaning to me. So look around his room and see what he has about. The gift doesn’t have to be new – it could be bought from ebay and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive and I agree you should avoid that.

bookish1's avatar

Thanks again for everyone’s advice. I wasn’t able to find a film poster from his favorite director in my price range, but I found an old DVD from this same director that he almost certainly does not own, I’m probably going to add a gift certificate to a nice cafĂ© in town, and I am definitely going to write him a nice card.

Bellatrix's avatar

Excellent! That sounds like a wonderful gift @bookish1. I am sure he will love it.

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