Recently, it has come to my attention that most store-bought advent calendars in America are lame. Either they are filled with cheap and cruddy chocolate, made purely for kids, or very very expensive. Not in my house. I want the extravagant calendar filled with amazing treats but don’t want to break the bank. I want something besides chocolate (or something at least better than waxy chocolate) and that I’ll actually like or use after. So that’s what I do. I make our calendars customized to each person. Sometimes I make it go with their main Christmas gift and then really take the whole thing to the next level. Here are 15+ ideas on how to create the best advent calendar geared toward adults (but teens and such may like ’em too).
Tips and Tricks for Making an Amazing Advent Calendar this Year
- You don’t need one of those really fancy wooden or whatever reusable calendars that cost nearly $50 a pop. If you already have one, great, if not, you don’t need to get one necessarily. You can DIY one (just google it there are so many out there), or you can simply give the item to the person every day (wrapped or hidden). If you want a countdown symbolic of an advent calendar, you can make or print something off that has the 25 days on it and let the advent calendar recipient cross it off.
- Also, if something won’t fit into your wooden calendar or whatever, do a simple 3 step scavenger hunt (3 hints total and the present is hidden in the location of the third clue), and stick the paper with the first clue written on it into the calendar.
- Now, I am going to sort the following list by hobbies, passions, likes, whatever, but you can pick multiple to fill a calendar with. For example, Derek is really into music and loves coffee, so I will probably do a combination advent calendar for him this year.
- You can get cheap and small items to give on an everyday basis and then uses larger or more expensive items as ‘special’ or ‘big’ gifts to give every 3-5 days (or just once). Normally in advent calendars, you will have a small piece of chocolate every day and a larger chocolate or something more special every 3 days, so were mimicking this.
- Just because you are giving the same gift/treat every day doesn’t mean you can’t change up the flavor. If you want to give chocolate every day give a variety of milk, dark, and white for the ‘every day’ gifts like a normal advent calendar would.
- For an extra special advent calendar, coordinate the calendar gifts with the main Christmas gift. For example, you can give coffee related items for the advent calendar and give an espresso maker for the main Christmas gift (make sure they can actually use most of their advent calendar gifts before they get the main gift).
Let’s get to the ideas!
Advent Calendar Stuffer Ideas
This is sorted by passions, likes, and interests.
If you have a coffee lover in your life, which who doesn’t, this is a very easy advent calendar idea that is super customizable. Pick a few ideas below and give one or two things per day. Save big items for every 3-5 days for an extra special treat. You could combine this with a Christmas gift (like a coffee/espresso maker, french press, etc.).
- Stuff the calendar with small amounts of different flavors of coffee. You can find some multipacks/samplers in stores, like this, but they can be a bit expensive for what they are. You could instead purchase small amounts from a local store that sells grind-it-yourself coffee and pick a few flavors out to make your own multi pack of coffee flavors. Plus, not every day on the calendar needs a different flavor, most will only have 4 different types of chocolate that they cycle through, so you don’t need to go extreme. Place the coffee in cute paper envelopes/bags and mark them with the flavor. Make sure to give enough ground coffee for at least one cup.
- Coffee syrups and flavoring. Recently I stumbled upon a mini version of flavored syrups that comes in multi-packs, similar to this. You could try to find this at a local store or online. If not you can get two big bottles of syrup and give them as ‘big’ gifts in the calendar (restaurant supply stores have a ton of flavors for really cheap).
- Add in pastries and other coffee goodies. Throw in some biscotti, scones, and other shelf-stable treats and pastries. You can get several flavors of biscotti and mix them in throughout the calendar too. I find cute little pastries at discount, off-price retail stores like Ross, Tuesday Morning and others all the time (and ones you don’t see every day!).
- Give a new collection of mugs. Depending on what you find, you can offer a few different mugs for big gifts on the advent calendar or make it part of a bigger Christmas gift. If you buy a 4 pack that all matches they may be cheaper for more!
- Toss in some chocolate covered espresso beans. For an easy and cheap addition give chocolate covered espresso beans. You can buy a big bag and separate them out into different small bags and give them as an everyday treat (kinda like the ground coffee).
- Throw in a gift card or two. A gift card to a coffee shop is a great present. You can do $5 or $10 gift cards a couple days out of the calendar for something special (or just one day).
For a completely next level calendar, I would give a small amount of ground coffee and 3-5 chocolate covered espresso beans (or one pastry) every day. Then I would give the flavoring on the 5th and 15th of December and a new mug on the 10th and 20th of December (something cute and matching). However, for a smaller calendar, just give different flavored coffees every day and give 3-5 espresso beans every 4 days. You can really mix it up any way you choose!
- Give guitar picks. There are some really interesting multipacks of guitar picks sold online (like Amazon) that would make good ‘every day’ gifts. You can buy a few packs for the entire calendar.
- Throw in some music-themed chocolate items/goodies. See if you can find some music-themed goodies as special ‘big’ gifts for a few days out of the calendar. Here are some chocolate music notes on Etsy.
- Get guitar pick holders. You can get a guitar pick holder as a big gift. There are some that go directly on the guitar or these ones that are for a keychain.
- Switch it up with bigger guitar accessories. Get guitar straps, strings, a tuner or a capo for big gifts for the calendar or for Christmas gifts to go with the guitar-themed calendar.
Now, this idea depends on the alcohol your advent calendar recipient likes, so format this to their likes and interests.
- Start with mini versions of alcohol. For an everyday gift, you can get small 1.5 oz bottles of alcohol, mini bottles of wine, or a beer a day for the advent calendar. Most grocery stores (or liquor stores) have a large selection of beer where you can pick out whatever you like and select a bunch of different varieties to make your own six pack of sorts.
- Try to add in food pairings. Try to research and find common food pairings that go with the wine or beer you picked out. Some people swear by chocolate with stout and there are a ton of wine pairings out there too. Look for shelf-stable treats that you can add-in to give the recipient a special treat every few days.
- Pack in some alcohol containers/glasses. If you are giving beer give some pint glasses, or, if you are giving a certain kind of hard alcohol, give a glass that commonly goes with that alcohol. This can be given as big gifts every few days (split up a 4 pack of glasses) or give as a Christmas gift.
- Give bar tools. If the recipient loves making cocktails or received a bunch of hard liquor you could give different bar tools throughout the calendar. You can usually find a whole pack that comes with a cocktail shaker, strainer, muddler, and jigger for $15-$30 and you can split these up throughout the calendar.
This one is super easy to do since makeup usually comes in small sample sizes at places like Sephora, Ulta, etc. Give things like lipstick (weird and fun colors would be good), face masks, and small samples of makeup. However, it doesn’t have to be purely makeup/face related, you could give small samples of lotion, small candles, perfumes, and much more. DO NOT try to give foundation, concealer, eyebrow pencils and things, or anything skin colored. You will most likely not match it up quite right and a few shades off could upset the recipient.
Obviously, buy things that could be used by the pet lover in your life. Don’t buy something for a bunny when they own a dog.
- Find yummy treats for an easy gift. Treats would be a perfect gift for everyday gifts. Just make sure you are being considerate of any dietary needs the pet may have. You can also do a mix of ‘dry’ food and treats for the pet so they don’t get too many each day. You can also mix up the treats from bones to fancy cookie shaped treats for dogs to fishy treats and catnip for cats.
- Get small toys. If you are giving the calendar to a cat owner there are a ton of toys for a dollar or two each at places like Walmart, heck, even Petsmart has a few. There are also cheap options for dogs and other pets too. Pick out a few of them to include with treats every few days. You can also get bigger toys for more special gifts if you’d like.
- Take a few pictures or just get them printed. If you are halfway decent at getting photos you could try to get photos of the pet or include a pet photo shoot ‘coupon’ in the calendar. If not, you could also just print off some of the owner’s favorite pictures of the pet and make a collage or just give printed off pictures every few days.
- Coordinate a paw print keepsake. For the calendar or a Christmas gift, coordinate a paw print keepsake. I wouldn’t recommend taking the pet to go do anything by yourself unless you are very familiar with the animal. Just give it as a ‘coupon’ (saying it is good for one free keepsake) or gift certificate (if possible).
- Give small necessities. If you are looking for more big gifts to give in the calendar or a collection for the Christmas gifts, give small necessities like a brush, leash, collar, nail trimmers, etc.
Now this one is also pretty basic, but give a different ornament each day. You can buy a multipack of ornaments that are kind of plain for every day, and every few days give more special decorative ornaments. You could make the final day a topper for the tree.
Now this kind of goes in the same boat as the coffee, but there are a few more ideas.
- Give a small sample of tea every day. You can usually find sample packs of tea at local stores, online, or at places like Ross and Tuesday Morning. You can split the multipack up for everyday gifts in the calendar. You can also check out places like Teavana and select a few specialty teas and split them into individual bags yourself for a more customized gift.
- Find or make flavored/infused honey and sugar. You can purchase (or DIY) some specialty flavored honey and infused sugar for every day or every few day gifts.
- Pick out some reusable tea holder or diffusers. For a bigger gift get some cute tea bag holders or tea diffusers.
- Get tea friendly pastries. Like in the coffee lover suggestion above, get some pastries to go with the tea. Throw in some biscotti, scones, and other shelf-stable treats and pastries. You can get several flavors of biscotti and mix them in throughout the calendar too. I find cute little pastries at discount, off-price retail stores like Ross, Tuesday Morning and others all the time (and ones you don’t see every day!).
- Give mugs or teacups. Give them as big gifts or something fancier for a Christmas present.
Now I don’t have a very clear ‘every day’ gift for this category, but depending on your price range and the person you are creating this for, I’m sure you can come up with something. For example, if they love coffee and books give quotes and chocolate covered espresso beans every day.
- Write special and inspiring quotes. If you have a true bookworm on your hands, you could give inspiring and thoughtful famous quotes from books or by authors for an every day gift.
- Find interesting bookmarks. You can usually get a few in each pack and sprinkle them throughout the calendar.
- Get a gift card or two. If the recipient has a favorite local bookstore or loves audio books try getting a gift card or two for $10-$20 as a special gift in the calendar or as a Christmas gift.
- Give reading accessories. Give big items like a reading light or a book page holder.
- If you feel you know the person really well you could give them a few books too.
- Find bulbs and seeds for a great everyday gift. Often times home improvement stores will sell seeds and bulbs throughout the year. You may even be able to find some seasonal favorites they can plant right away.
- Pick out cute labels. If you can, try to find some cute or chic labels that the recipient would like. It is a small part of the gardening experience, but a nice label makes it that much more fun to watch the plants grow.
- Pick out some gardening essentials. If you can, try to find a gardening tool set and split it up over a few days. You can get things like gloves, garden tools, and a hat.
- Find specialty salts/herbs/whatever. For many foodies, the experience is everything. Try to find a sample pack of salts to split up throughout the calendar or see if you can find interesting herbs and spices to let them experiment with.
- Get some utensils. If they are just starting out, picking up a multipack of utensils can go a long way and you can split them up over a few days.
- Pick out an apron. It may seem silly, but aprons are a great tool in the kitchen (bonus if it has pockets). You can give this as an extra special gift or as a Christmas gift.
- Get a good cookbook. If you can and it’s in the budget, get a good cookbook as a big gift or as a Christmas gift.
- More mini bottles of wine! I know I already suggested it, but get mini bottles of wine that are good for cooking for more experimenting.
Crafters and Artists
Now the following doesn’t need much explanation and gets very repetitive, so here are some suggestions for different types of crafts/hobbies.
For the scrapbooker in your life pick out stickers/embellishments, pens, stamps, and fun paper for everyday gifts. You can print photos to give every few days. Get a photo album for a one-time calendar gift or Christmas gift.
Get needles and different colors of embroidery floss for everyday gifts. Give embroidery hoops, fabric, and patterns (for beginners) as bigger gifts.
For the painter in your life, you could purchase a multipack of brushes and paints to give as everyday gifts and canvas as an every few day gifts. Just make sure to get things for their skill level (an experienced artist is not gonna want to use $0.50 paint).
For some who is passionate about sketching and drawing, get pens, sharpies, pencils, and colored pencils as an everyday gift. Give erasers, tutorial books (beginners only) and a fancy sketchbook for big gift ideas.
That’s it for crafts/hobbies/art. Obviously there are a lot more out there, but hopefully, this helps you brainstorm.
For excited expecting parents, get small items that will only add up to about $50 but are real essentials. I don’t really have an everyday gift for this, but hopefully, you can get enough small items to fill the calendar. Here are some small and inexpensive baby must-haves (and a few bigger ones too): binkies, washcloths, nose bulb for boogers, socks, hair accessories, outfits, sunglasses, bibs, spoons.
For the sweet tooth in your life that cruddy waxy chocolate just won’t do. Pick out something more than basic chocolate for an everyday treat like specialty chocolates and truffles (check your local chocolate shop!). You can also give some homemade treats for something more meaningful.
A Romantic Based Calendar
If you are making an advent calendar for a significant other, try some of these ideas to up the romance!
- Give chocolates. For an easy everyday gift idea pick out some specialty chocolates, truffles, and treats.
- Add in some candles. Give some sensual and small candles that could be used on the next date night.
- Write out some coupons. Give some lovey-dovey coupons or spice it up for a sexier gift. For example, you would say, this coupon is good for one movie night, massage, etc.
- Give a gift certificate for dinner and a date night. Give this as a big gift or a Christmas gift that’s redeemable after the holidays.
- Add in mini bottles of wine for two! You can usually find this in most liquor stores. Call around to make it easier to find. You can also just do large bottles and make it a scavenger hunt.
- Add some sentimental value. Add in some old pictures (printed off) or other date night souveniers ad memories to make the holiday season extra special.
- If you want to spice up the bedroom… Give lingerie, edible items, and other toys for a sexy spin.
That’s it! If you have other hobbies, passions, or ideas I may have missed, please share them in the comments below. I would also love to hear what you like to put in your advent calendars! 🙂
Check out some of my holiday recipes:
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!
*All main images used in this post are free to use images from Canva*