Give Great Gifts… to a Teenage/20-something Guy

Christmas gifts for teenage guysTo launch my “Give Great Gifts on a Barebones Budget” series, I’m going to jump right in with both feet and give gift suggestions for what I feel like is the hardest category to shop for – teenage and 20-something guys.

Back when my little brother was 5 years old, he was the easiest person to shop for on my list. One year, I got him a pack of army men and a pack of plastic animals from the Dollar Tree and he loved it! For the grand total of $2, I made his day and he liked it way more than the fancy whatever-it-was I had spent more money on the year before (I don’t even remember what the expensive gift was because I’m sure he never played with it).

Now that he’s 19 years old, he’s a lot harder to shop for than he used to be! Most of his interests now involve large amounts of cash… like the new video game, tennis racket, guitar, or car I’m sure he’d love to receive.

But here are a few gift ideas for this age group that don’t break the bank:

Fake Mustaches – I got this set of 7 fake mustaches – one for each day of the week – as a gag gift for my brother and I think it was one of his favorite gifts ever. $6.

Isotoner Men’s Smartouch Fleece Lined Glove – $14.95. These gloves let you use an iPhone or other touchscreen device even while wearing gloves – perfect for walking between classes on a cold day!

Magnetic Dart Board – $14.97. I got my brother this for Christmas a couple years ago and he still has it hanging in his dorm room.

Homemade Kindle case  – You could choose manly fabrics and sew him a case for his Kindle. If you adjust the dimensions, my Kindle tutorial will also work for an iPad, laptop, or other e-reader. If you don’t want to sew one, my husband has an iPad case from bertie’s closet on etsy that is very manly and well-made!

gifts for teenage guys

Hot Wheels Wall Track Set – $18. My brother has these tracks in his dorm room and says they’re “pretty sweet”. This set is just the right size for a dorm room wall.

Leather wallet – Most guys I know have wallets that are falling apart. For only $22, this leather wallet is a steal!

Urban Shelf – This shelf seems especially handy for a college dorm room where the bed also serves as a desk, chair, and sofa. The shelf weighs less than a pound and folds flat, but can hold up to 4 lbs. and even has spots for charger cables and a lip to prevent things from rolling off. $15.

Rinser toothbrush – My brother said he really wants one of these that will be available in November – a toothbrush that turns your faucet into a drinking fountain to help you rinse after you’re done brushing. File that under “gifts I never would have thought to give”! When it comes out, it should cost $20.

Novelty items – According to my brother, funny novelty items are all the rage among guys his age. Consider things like bandaids that look like strips of bacon for $5; a keychain that looks like a mustache and says “well helloooo there” for $5.70; or a Dead Fred Pen Holder for $10.49.  While you’re at it, why not wrap it all up in Bacon Gift Wrap (2 rolls for $5.78)?

Frisbee – $9. You could also throw in a gift certificate for a disc golf course if he lives near one.

Itza Soft Football – This easy-to-throw football is perfect for low-key, pick up football games. $18.

Books – My brother recommends: The Game of Thrones series (all 4 books for $21); The Hunger Games (books one, two, and three… either $5 or $6 each); and Steve Jobs ($17).
You can either give these as physical books or as e-Books. Even if your recipient doesn’t have a Kindle, he can still read e-books using a Kindle app on his phone, iPad, or computer. If you send an eBook through Amazon, he can either download that exact book or get a credit for what you spent to choose his own book.

Guitar tab book – If the guy on your list plays guitar, consider getting him a book of guitar tabs for one of his favorite bands. Possibilities include: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Matchbox Twenty, Coldplay, and music from the movie Once. $14-18 each.

Music – If he’d rather listen to music than play it, here are a few albums he might like: “Babel” from Mumford & Sons, “Gossamer” by Passion Pit, and “The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind” from Ben Folds Five. [Warning: some of those CDs include ocassional bad language!] Apparently, 90s music is already retro (here’s where I feel old…). “Retro” favorites among the young guy demographic include: Matchbox Twenty’s “Yourself or Someone Like You” and “Cracked Rear View” by Hootie & The Blowfish. My brother also told me: “Frank Sinatra is awesome”… so you can give the guy on your list “Nothing But The Best” and tip him off that Frank really knew the way to a girl’s heart.

And, if you send the mp3s as an e-gift through Amazon, he has the option to exchange it for an Amazon gift card. I love safe gift-giving!

Headphones – Does anyone actually like the standard headphones that come with an iPod or iPhone? My friend Hannah raves about her Sony in-ear headphones and says that discovering these “changed her life… The key is in the silicone part – it’s comfy and cancels out noise.” She says they’re especially great for airplanes and are very similar to Brookstone’s $40 noise-canceling earbuds, but they’re only $12.45 on Amazon!

Ab Wheel – This provides the best ab workout ever (I can barely even do it anymore!) and it’s only $12.66.

Concert tickets – Check Ticketmaster or local concert venues to see if there are any good bands or comedians coming to town soon and consider getting a ticket or two.

shirt for guy

Clever T-Shirts – My brother and his friends all have clever and slightly geeky shirts – some with funny messages, others with “vintage” photos/characters, like Mario & Luigi in the above picture. Urban Outfitters often has fun shirts (like this nerdy elephant one or this “Keep Calm and Call Batman” one), but you have to wade through some trashy ones and they’re a bit more pricey (normally around $25).  My mom has bought my brother t-shirts from Woot before and been happy with the quality. You can sign up at for daily emails that will offer a discounted t-shirt (normally about $12-15) with free shipping.

I normally don’t like to give gift cards, but for this age group of guys, it often is the best gift. Fortunately, there are a few places where even $20 can buy a lot: Gift Cards – you name the amount. One of my favorite things about Amazon gift cards is they can be used to buy Kindle books or just general amazon purchases and there’s always something to buy at Amazon! Amazon can either send an e-gift card directly to your recipient or mail you a physical greeting card with a gift card inside that you can give face-to-face.

iTunes gift card – If you don’t feel comfortable choosing music yourself, you can give an iTunes gift card that will work for music or iPhone apps. An iTunes gift card is always a safe bet (and I love how far $20 will go – normally that will buy 2 CDs worth of music!).

Starbucks gift card – Similarly, $20 at Starbucks will buy a lot and will feel like a luxury to a broke college student!

Movie gift card – For $25, the guy on your list could see 2 movies or treat a date to see one movie with him. Most theaters are either Regal or AMC, or you can get a Fandango gift card he can use at almost any theater. Occasionally, Groupon offers discounted movie passes to Regal or AMC that will let you score an even better deal!

Gift card to local fun spot – Give him a fun day with a gift card to a local rock climbing wall, go-cart track, or laser tag center.

[Note: I included prices for some of these items, but they’re subject to change. If you purchase through my amazon affiliate links, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

I hope these gift ideas help you find the perfect gift for the hard-to-shop-for teenage/20-something guy on your list.  Check out the other lists I’m making for “Give Great Gifts on a Barebones Budget” and subscribe to stay up to date!

Do you have any other ideas for gifts that a guy in this age group would love? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Linked to: Life as Mom, Feature Yourself Friday, 5 Days 5 Ways, At the Picket Fence, The Shabby Nest, Sundae Scoop, and Naptime Crafters.


6 thoughts on “Give Great Gifts… to a Teenage/20-something Guy

  1. Andrea October 11, 2012 / 2:58 pm

    Wow!!!! This is truly fantastic!!!!! I will refer to this again and again and am sooo excited about your series!!!


  2. Jean October 19, 2012 / 4:10 pm

    These are all such great suggestions! My oldest son is only 11 but already seems to be entering the “hard to buy for” years and we have nephews and cousins who are in their 20s. I am going to subscribe to your series.


    • sara October 25, 2012 / 8:20 pm

      Thanks for subscribing! I think my brother was right around 10 or 11 when he started to get tough to shop for. I’m glad you found my list helpful!


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