Twelve emergency Christmas present ideas that can work for any occasion

Stay on top of any unexpected situations by keeping a small stash of items ready

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We’ve all been there. Just when you think you have Christmas all wrapped up, out of the blue someone gives you an unexpected gift and all you can do is smile and think in a panic: “Oh no, I haven’t got you anything!”

If you like to be prepared for any eventuality, keeping a selection of emergency gifts is a surefire way to avoid being caught out.

The main thing to remember about maintaining a drawer of last-minute presents — that can work for any other occasion too, be it a birthday or seasonal celebration — is that the gifts inside should be as one-size-fits-all as possible, not to mention unisex and suitable for an array of ages.

Scroll through the gallery above for 12 easy gift ideas

Easy options: vouchers and re-gifting

Last-minute gifts shouldn’t feel rushed, they shouldn’t have a “this will do” vibe. Translation: simple is the way to go.

With that in mind, vouchers are a must to keep on hand. You can either order them online to arrive in the recipient’s inbox within minutes or buy some hard copies for different amounts to give as needed. Just remember to check for expiry dates.

Emergency gifts can also be presents you and your family have received in the past, which you haven’t liked or found a use for. Repurposing them is an inexpensive and sustainable way to give gifts.

Presents for all ages

Despite retailers designating toys for boys and girls, there are plenty of gifts that are unisex to buy ahead and wrap up as needed. Board games and outdoor play sets can easily suit any age and gender.

Toys encouraging building and creativity such as Lego or art kits are perfect for little ones, while older children and adults can enjoy a grown-up paint-by-numbers kit.

Science experiments and bathtime gifts also tick the box.

For presents to suit anyone from a toddler to a senior citizen, space and galaxy projectors, atmospheric lights and plasma balls are perfect for all ages.

Pool floats are another easy gift, coming in all different shapes and sizes from camels and ice creams.

Food gifts are a favourite option, with hampers available to suit different ages and tastes, while chocolate never goes out of style whether in the shape of hot chocolate bath bombs or an at-home chocolate fondue set. Again, best to check the expiry dates so your drawer of last-minute treats doesn't turn into a horror show.

Updated: November 17, 2022, 7:05 AM