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Generation Y Gift Buying Guide

by Stephanie Petersen
Published April 29, 2010 | Updated February 3, 2015

Generation Y -- people who were born between 1980 and 2000 -- is one of the largest age groups around. They may all be grouped together and labeled as millennials, but it's an incredibly diverse group. Because they aren't all into the same things, shopping for them can be tricky, especially when you want to surprise them with gifts. Choosing presents for the millennials in your life may seem like a mystery, but chances are they have left clues for you to determine what they want. Once you decipher the clues, you can zero in on the perfect gift. So, which Gen Y-er are you shopping for?

The Video Gamer:

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  • How to spot a video gamer:

    Generation Y is the first to grow up with video games, and some millennials have embraced video gaming as a lifestyle. Video gamers are often guys, but female video gamers are increasingly common. You're shopping for a gamer if he or she:

    Has camped out in line to buy a certain video game when it is released at midnight.

    Wears T-shirts with images of video game characters.

    Still has all of his or her old video game consoles, even if they no longer work.

    Talks about a video game character they've developed like it's a real person.

  • Gifts for the gamer:

    Support their hobby with gifts that will improve the gaming experience.

    Video game magazines: Subscriptions to video game magazines will give them the cheats and codes they crave as well as the inside scoop on upcoming games.

    Gaming chairs: Video gamers who prefer televisions over computers need a good place to sit. Comfortable gaming chairs will give them the support they need to keep the fun going.

    The latest video game console: If they don't already have the most advanced console, you'll want to give one. The Playstation 4 is especially popular with this group.

    Watches: A video gamer needs a bit of technology to carry around, so they won't have withdrawals when away from their computers. Look for watches with lots of cool features.

    Computer hardware: PC gamers know that their computers could always go a little faster or have a slightly sharper image. Give them a better gaming experience with hardware upgrades for their computers.

The Music Lover

  • How to spot a music lover:

    Today's music scene is incredibly diverse, and many millennials enjoy listening to everything they can. These audiophiles are usually easy to spot because they are surrounded by loud music whenever possible. Your gift recipients are music lovers if they:

    Know the bands you used to listen to as well as the bands with an album that just came out last Tuesday.

    Think wearing a band T-shirt is dressing up.

    Have been mistaken for a rock star on the street because of their hair, tattoos, or clothes.

    Plan vacations around music festivals or locations where their favorite bands are playing.

  • Gifts for the music lover:

    Give them more ways to indulge in their passion.

    iPods and MP3 players: Music lovers want their music around all the time, and MP3 players that let them carry around their entire music library are important. Accessories like docks and skins are also appreciated.

    Vinyl: You can't go wrong by adding to a music lover's record collection. If you aren't sure which new music they prefer, try giving something you loved "back in the day." A true music lover will like the history lesson.

    Books: Biographies of musicians, histories of popular culture, and essay collections by music critics give your music lover the brain food he or she needs.

    Art: A music lover is an appreciator of creativity, so wall art would make a perfect gift.

    Car audio: Let your music lover hit the road with their music by upgrading their factory car audio to something that will let them enjoy their tunes.

The All-Star Athlete

  • How to spot an all-star:

    For athletes in Generation Y, sports are their lives. These millennials are easy to spot because they're often competing in front of a crowd. Your gift recipients are all-star athletes if they:

    Received a college scholarship for playing sports.

    Are "carb-loading" when you are shunning carbohydrates.

    Know which professional athletes have namesake sneakers.

    Have a fantasy football team, a fantasy baseball team, and a fantasy basketball team.

  • Gifts for the all-star athlete:

    Look for gifts that will support their physical lifestyles.

    Collectibles: Give them sports memorabilia to remember the teams that helped inspire them.

    Sports movies: They know how exciting it is to overcome an obstacle and win a big game, so they will love movies with stories about athletes that do the same.

    Nintendo Wii U: Generation Y athletes don't like to sit still, so they'll love games that let them move around the living room.

    Loungewear: After the game, meet, or match, your all-star needs comfortable clothes to relax in. Loungewear in their school colors is even better.

    Home gym equipment: Your athlete would love to work out in their home. Give them fitness equipment, so they can work on their muscles whenever they want.

The Extreme Sports Athlete

  • How to spot an extreme sports athlete:

    Extreme sports aren't just for beach and snow bums anymore. Your gift recipients are extreme sports athletes if they:

    Believe that sports require wheels or some sort of board.

    Will accept any dare that involves jumping off something.

    Prefer energy drinks over any other beverage.

    Applied to colleges based on their proximity to the beach or the slopes.

  • Gifts for the extreme sports athlete:

    Millennials take their adrenaline rushes very seriously, and so should the gifts you give them.

    Snowboard gear: A new board, new boots, and new bindings will make the ride even more epic this year.

    Luggage: An extreme sports enthusiast wants to travel to the next place where it's snowing or where the waves are high. Duffel bags are a good choice for this group.

    GPS navigation: Finding the right mountain or beach is easy when your extreme sports athlete has directions from a GPS navigation device.

    Sneakers: Even when worn casually, an extreme sports athlete's sneakers need to be able to commandeer a skateboard.

    Digital camcorders: Capturing a big trick on camera is important for Generation Y extreme sports athletes. How else are they going to show it off on the internet? Helmet cameras are especially popular for documenting adventures.

The Scholarly Student

  • How to spot a scholarly student:

    Everyone in Generation Y has one thing in common: It's harder to pay for college now than ever. A serious student takes this as a challenge and wants to do as well as possible -- hopefully earning a few scholarships along the way. Your gift recipients are scholarly students if they:

    Have had their top five colleges picked out since fifth grade.

    Participate in math or trivia competitions.

    Successfully debated their curfews to one hour later.

    Gladly study over summer break, so they won't get rusty.

  • Gifts ideas for scholarly students:

    Help this millennial achieve his or her goals throughout school and as they enter the workforce with gifts that support success.

    Test prep books: Whether studying for the SAT, the GRE, or the MCAT, a scholarly student will appreciate all the help he or she can find in test prep books.

    Laptops and laptop bags: Studying doesn't end when the library closes. Your scholar can write papers wherever inspiration strikes with a laptop and a bag to carry it in.

    Messenger bags and backpacks: Those textbooks aren't going to carry themselves to class! Give your student a hand with a quality bag that can take the weight.

    Snack gift baskets: Treats -- especially caffeinated treats -- are welcome provisions when your scholar is cramming for finals.

    Dorm decor: Personalizing a dorm room will make it feel less like a cell and more like a sanctuary. Give your student dorm decor pieces that will soften the space.

The Conscientious Activist

  • How to spot a conscientious activist:

    Generation Y knows it's their responsibility to take care of the earth, and a conscientious activist takes this role very seriously. Your gift recipients are conscientious activists if they:

    Answer "Paper or plastic?" with "I brought my own."

    Have chosen to spend a Saturday picking up trash in the park.

    Sent a petition around to ask their high school to use wind power.

    Check your cupboards to see if any of your products were tested on animals.

  • Gifts ideas for conscientious activists:

    Support their enthusiasm for the environment with gifts that help them tread lightly on Mother Earth.

    It's not just good for animals and for the environment! Your activist knows that it also tastes delicious.

    Fairly traded and handcrafted jewelry will appeal to an activist's sense of style.

    If your activist's concerns lean toward animals, he or she may love their own companion animal. Give dog beds, cat scratching posts, or cute pet collars.

    Your activist wants to get in touch with nature, so give him or her gear to get out there.

    If your activist is boycotting cars, give the gift of a bicycle or new cycling gear.

The Style Star

  • How to spot style stars:

    You can attribute it to reality television or music videos, but many millennials like to live and look like celebrities. Your gift recipient is a style star if he or she:

    Gets the "news" from fashion magazines and gossip blogs.

    Managed to talk you into a huge sweet sixteen party.

    Chose an art college, so they could study fashion.

    Considers shopping to be a form of exercise -- but they'll gladly try out the latest Hollywood fitness trend, too.

  • Gifts ideas for style stars:

    Indulge your style star with some trend-setting gifts.

    Jewelry: Your style star -- male or female -- knows that a little sparkle goes a long way, so these gifts in small packages are a welcome sight.

    Watches: Nothing says status like a quality watch, so find one with high-impact glamour for your style star.

    Designer handbags and wallets: Your style star knows designer handbags and wallets are investment pieces they'll use for many years.

    Mobile video: A nice car is one thing, but tricking it out with mobile video gives it a stylish edge that your star will love.

    Golf equipment: Style stars are starting out on the golf course at younger and younger ages. Make sure they have the golf clubs and other gear to keep it up.