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At their best, holiday gift exchanges express love through the magic of retail. At their worst, they are a burden, a grudging social necessity charged by family dynamics, office politics and the tyranny of Secret Santa draws. But if you’d like your awkward gift exchanges to be a little less, well, awkward, we’ve got the perfect gifts for the less-than-perfect people on your list.

YOUR BABY DADDY

Baby daddies come in all types, but let’s say yours was a terrible partner but a terrific dad. A subscription gift, like the Hot Sauce of the Month Club – a monthly delivery of delicious fire, straight to his doorstep – lets you be generous without ever having to see your kid’s father, says relationships writer and Amazing Clubs Canada spokesperson Jen Kirsch. He’ll be grateful for the tasty gift, and if you harbour a tiny hope that it burns him a new one, that’s your secret.

$90 for a 3-month membership, AmazingClubs.ca.

gift for baby daddy, hot sauce of the month, amazing clubs, The Loop

 

YOUR BABY DADDY’S NEW BABY MAMA

No matter what you think about her, you have at least one thing in common with your baby daddy’s new baby mama: the kids. For their sake, be civil. If you’re already friendly with your ex’s next, choosing a thoughtful personal gift shouldn’t be hard. And if you’re just getting to know each other (or more accustomed to snowing each other), a generic kindness can go a long way towards establishing a better relationship next year. A modest Tim Horton’s gift card says, “Yeah, you’re alright” without screaming, “Let’s be besties.”

Prices vary, Tim Hortons.

gift for baby daddy's baby mama, tim's card, be nice, The Loop

YOUR GOSSIPY OFFICE FRENEMY

So you drew your least favourite colleague in the office Secret Santa this year? Counting Sheep Coffee is a blend of decaffeinated coffee with organic valerian root (an herbal sedative). It’s meant to treat coffee lovers to a gentle nighttime brew that will help, not hinder sleep. But who knows? Maybe your Gossipy Gus will forget, brew it in the morning and be too sleepy to badmouth anyone.

Counting Sheep 40 Winks Coffee, $14 at Amazon.ca.

gift for office frenemy, counting sheep lights out 40 winks sleepy coffee, The Loop

THE TEACHER AT YOUR KID’S NEW SCHOOL WHOM YOU JUST MET AND WHO ALREADY CHASTISED YOU FOR FORGETTING TO BRING SNOWPANTS

So the term got off to a bumpy start. Luckily teachers take long holiday breaks – more than enough time to reset bad perceptions if you end the year on a good note. Take it from teachers themselves – tchotchkes get tossed, but a heartfelt thank you card matters. If you’re determined to buy a gift, teachers often suggest gift cards to Scholar’s Choice or the dollar store where they buy their school supplies. With this present, you’ll be easing the teacher’s financial burden and contributing to your kid’s final grade.

gifts teachers actually want, scholar's choice card, dollar store, The Loop

THE CHILD OF A FARAWAY COUSIN WHO IS FOR SOME REASON VISITING THIS YEAR, AND WHOM YOU KNOW ALMOST NOTHING ABOUT, INCLUDING THE FACT THAT YOU CAN’T REMEMBER THE CHILD’S NAME OR GENDER

Well, that’s a pickle. But Little-Whatever-It’s-Name will certainly remember who you are if you go large with a Sphero 2.0. Designed for ages eight and up (seriously, please do some intel before purchasing), this is the ball of the future. It pairs with Bluetooth devices to become an interactive video game (the world is its gaming system), a computer programming tutorial and more. If you’re lucky, the whole family will be so entranced by this schmancy newfangled toy that they’ll all forget your mumbled greetings and smudged gift labels.

$130 at Indigo.

gift to impress a child you don't know, sphere 2, The Loop

THE PERSON WHO SHOWED UP WITH A THOUGHTFUL GIFT FOR YOU AND FOR WHOM YOU HAVE GOTTEN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN RETURN

The eleventh hour is when subscription gifts really earn their monthly fees, because knowing they exist means you can meet gift ambushers with charm instead of fear. “Why thank you – yours is in the mail,” is a gracious and mysterious response to the gift you didn’t expect. A subscription to NextIssue provides access to over 100 magazines and bonus – digital delivery – while gourmet gift-of-the-month deliveries from Amazing Clubs Canada say, “Why of course I accounted for you in this year’s holiday budget.” Just be sure to send a card or email by Christmas indicating when the first installment will arrive.

$40 for 3 months of NextIssue digital magazine subscriptions from NextIssue.ca; Pictured: Olive Oil of The Month Club, $104.85 for 3 months from AmazingClubs.ca. Prices vary for other clubs.

gifts for gift ambushers, olive oil of the month club, amazing clubs, The Loop