gifts they might actually want

A Gift for Every Type of Mother-in-Law

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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Like shopping for your actual mom, choosing a gift for your mother-in-law can be a tricky balancing act: You want to get her something she hasn’t already bought for herself (though it might be on her wish list), and you want something that’s tasteful — you’re going for an impressed “ah!” But if the word impressed makes you panic, don’t.

Below, we’ve rounded up dozens of gifts for mother-in-laws for any occasion (from a birthday to Mother’s Day)whether she’s the type to scroll through TikTok before bed, does yoga every morning, or is never late to anything (even in retirement). To curate this list, we dug deep into our archives to find all sorts of “won’t-returnables” — including celebrity favorites (like a steamer used by Uma Thurman’s stylist), expert-recommended devices (like the most statusy blender), and just-plain-delightful items we’ve heard about over the years (there’s a book light here that was a big hit during the Strategist’s annual Secret Santa exchange). So you can rest easy knowing that every potential present has been vetted in some way, meeting our very strict standards. And every item is sorted by price point, to make your shopping as easy and budget-friendly as possible. (If you’re in a rush, check out our guide to the best e-gift cards, which will blissfully transcend the whims of the post office.)

Under $25

For the mother-in-law who doesn’t let her hair down

In contrast to the standard claw clip, a “yoga” clip has a flatter profile, so you can “lie down and not get poked,” explains Strategist writer Lauren Ro, who collects them. One of her favorites is this pretty blush-pink one from Parcelona, which is made in France.

For the mother-in-law who’s a card shark


Strategist contributor Steven John raves about this probability-based game, which he says is one of the best to play with kids while traveling. Though it’s meant for kids, John and his wife play it at night with a glass of wine by themselves (especially since the kids tend to slow them down). It’ll be perfect for the competitive-minded mother-in-law.

For the mother-in-law who knows all the Bravo lore

Scandoval is tame compared to everything else she’s seen onscreen. So she’ll get a giggle out of this pasta, which reminds Vanderpump Rules star James Kennedy of the penne Siciliano he would eat at SUR.

For the mother-in-law who will pull an all-nighter for a page-turner

Hooga Book Light

Or a bodice ripper. Writer (and late-night reader) Molly McGhee turned us onto this small-but-mighty light, which has an ambient amber glow that “keeps the blue-light blues at bay.” And Strategist senior editor (and book-club member) Simone Kitchens gifted it to me during a Secret Santa exchange — the gadget’s sunset glow gives an especially eerie effect when reading horror novels.

For the mother-in-law who has perfected her at-home pedicure

“In about five minutes, the roughest of feet can be transformed into buttery-soft morsels,” says the Cut’s former senior beauty editor, Ashley Weatherford, of this callus remover.

For the mother-in-law who multitasks in the shower

If she’s the type to brush her teeth while her hair mask sinks in, these toothbrush holders — which come in a set of four and can also hold a razor — can be stuck right onto the tile. Some Things newsletter writer Ngaio Parr recommended them to us and notes that as long as the walls are clean and dry when you install them, the silicone suckers will stick securely.

For the mother-in-law who’s working her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking

A sleek, minimalist cookbook stand to keep her place while she makes coq au vin.

For the mother-in-law who hates to see good food go to waste

These restaurant-grade food-storage containers are a favorite of Strategist kitchen-and-dining writer Emma Wartzman, whose freezer is full of them (stocked with pasta sauces and stews). Each is “cheap enough that I never mind doling out leftovers to friends and saying, ‘Keep the container,’ as they leave,” she says.

For the mother-in-law who values precision

If she’s a baker who likes to weigh her ingredients, the Escali Primo topped our list of best food scales. “Escali is tried and true from my culinary school days, and I have yet to find a reason to replace it,” says Food52 food editor Emily Ziemski. It comes in a rainbowlike selection of colors, but Strategist writer Erin Schwartz is partial to pink. It’s “a perfectly calibrated level of pinkness — kind of Necco wafer–y, like an Italian throat lozenge invented in the 1800s, not Barbie pink,” Schwartz says.

For the mother-in-law who’s a little bit salty

Maldon’s salts have a fan base that includes chef Jonathan Waxman and actress Cameron Diaz, and can top everything from yolky eggs to chocolate-chip cookies.

For the mother-in-law who lives for spontaneous adventures

New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff declared this gingham blanket much more expensive-looking than its $20 price tag. It’ll be easy enough to carry whenever your MIL decides everyone should eat outside instead.

For the mother-in-law who’s still climbing the Peloton leaderboards

Zacro Gel Bike Seat Cover

If she’s usually in a world of pain after a long ride, get her this Peloton-obsessive-approved gel-padded, cushioned seat cover, which is specifically designed to fit on the bike.

For the mother-in-law who’s tangle-prone

If you know, you know: Silk pillowcases are especially well suited for taming frizz. So she’ll probably appreciate this one — which has been a best seller with Strategist readers (it was our most-sold item on Black Friday, for example), and which beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton says makes her feel as if she’s “sleeping in a luxurious hotel every night.”

For the mother-in-law who winters in Florida

“On full blast, it stops a stream of face sweat in its tracks before it even has a chance to get into my eyes,” says Strategist writer Dominique Pariso of this powerful portable fan.

For the mother-in-law with an impeccable sweater game

Instead of a set of mothballs, get her these sweet-smelling lavender sachets that are an affordable alternative to the ones we heard about from textile experts.

For the mother-in-law who hates going to the dry cleaner

Pariso used to dread her annual dry-cleaning bill until she discovered this no-rinse laundry soap: It removed dirt from her sweaters and “got out the lingering smell of cigarette smoke” from others. And she did the math and said “a single bottle of Soak should last me through the next five winters.” A very good deal indeed.

For the mother-in-law who’s tired of Mrs. Meyer’s

New York Times Cooking newsletter editor (and former Strategist staffer) Mia Leimkuhler made the switch to ecoconscious company Attitude, which “soothes and softens hands all on its own.” She adds: “Attitude sort of reminds me of Mrs. Meyer’s — if Mrs. Meyer hailed from the True North and was more concerned with deforestation.”

For the mother-in-law who’s into old-school skin care


If she’s a cold-cream evangelist, upgrade her medicine cabinet with this cleanser that will remove makeup and keep her skin fresh. Dermatologist Heidi A. Waldorf describes it as “if Vaseline petroleum jelly and Pond’s cold cream had a baby.”

For the mother-in-law who needs a reminder to take her vitamins

To bring order to her supply of supplements, take a cue from former Strategist audience-engagement associate Hannah Starke, who uses this pill organizer. It features an easy slide-out function that lets her “put a week’s worth of pills in and forget about them.”

For the mother-in-law who’s always losing her readers

“As a certified four-eyes since the age of 4, I’ve gone through many different styles of glasses,” says Strategist contributor Alyse Whitney, who has been collecting frames ever since she ditched contacts for good. This fold-up organizer keeps them safe during her travels. It holds six pairs but only takes up about the same amount of space as a toiletry kit.

For the mother-in-law whose shoe collection rivals Carrie Bradshaw’s

Two current and former Strategist writers have sung the praises of this shoe rack. The first was Lauren Levy, who says, “When similarly tilted racks sit on the floor, shoes without heels will often slide off, but here, your door will prop up anything (like ballet flats) that can’t grip onto the coated metal bars.” The second is Pariso, who points out how easy the rack is to put together.

For the mother-in-law who won’t leave the house without lipstick on

If she has a cosmetics counter’s worth of makeup filling up a drawer, get her organized with this low-profile box. Your mother-in-law can move the dividers inside however she likes — the organizer is easy to clean, too, which is crucial for “product spills or if pencil shavings accumulate inside,” explains former makeup artist Trae Bodge.

Under $50

For the mother-in-law who’s always double-booked

The right planner might be what she needs. The Hobonichi Techo has a storied history at the Strategist with three staffers relying on it for their planning needs. Swerdloff in particular likes the weight of it, which she describes as “substantial (unlike a Moleskine) while still being incredibly compact.”

For the mother-in-law who’s a magazine hoarder

Your mother-in-law can finally organize her back issues of Vogue between these Deco-inspired bookends — they even fixed Strategist writer Erin Schwartz’s “zine problem.”

For the mother-in-law who’s knotty

This swirly massage tool is a favorite of Daniel Kwan, co-director of Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Strategist writer Kitty Guo. Kwan has had back pain since high school, but this gadget helps him manage it. “You can hear the muscles breaking down. I literally cannot live without it,” he says. And Guo says that after months of using it, she feels less tense and more flexible.

For the mother-in-law who’s making gains

This protein powder is a favorite of trainer Taj Felix, who points out that it mixes smoothly and doesn’t have a chalky flavor.

For the mother-in-law who never says no to a cocktail

Featured in our guide to the best drinking glasses, this set is a real “bang for your buck at just over $2 per glass,” according to Tracie Battle, a former senior designer at online interior-design service Havenly. Your mother-in-law can use them for a variety of drinks — from gin and tonics to Long Island iced teas.

For the mother-in-law with a vendetta against whiskey stones

If she always orders whiskey but rolls her eyes at unnecessary bar accessories, Jason Julier, one of the editors behind whiskey website Malt, says these Glencairn glasses are as classic as they come. They’re actually worth it in a landscape that’s “littered with glassware,” and Julier likes their elegant tulip shape.

For the mother-in-law who wants to master the DIY blowout

A blow-dryer and hairbrush in one, this expert-recommended tool will make it easier for her to get that voluminous salon look without leaving the house.

For the mother-in-law who prefers to air-dry

Even when her hair is sopping wet from the shower, this hair towel promises to absorb ten times its weight in water.

For the mother-in-law with cold feet

These were a big hit with New York senior editor Jessica Silvester’s aunts.

For the mother-in-law who bares it all

It’s our pick for the best backless bra. Undergarments educator Kimmay Caldwell wore the Feather-Lite on her wedding day. “It was 95 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 percent humidity, and that sucker stayed on,” Caldwell mentions.

For the mother-in-law who’s famous for her olive oil cake

For the mother-in-law with a much-requested chocolate-chip-cookie recipe

Kristen Tomlan, the founder and CEO of DŌ cookie-dough confections, recommends this sheet pan, as it “helps make sure sweets are evenly baked.”

For the mother-in-law who’s struggling to find focus

Though the timer is billed for kids (Strategist contributor Sean O’Neal uses it to get his twins to eat their breakfast), Strategist tech writer Jordan McMahon depends on the machine to keep his day on track. “I don’t have to check my phone and its dozens of missed notifications just to start the timer over, and setting another one is as simple as turning a dial,” McMahon praises.

For the mother-in-law who comes on strong

Actress Hilary Duff gets compliments (and questions about what perfume she’s wearing) whenever she rolls on this goddess-inspired fragrance oil. “I know some people are really turned off by vanilla, which I don’t understand — I love vanilla,” she says. “And it’s strong. It stays on all day.”

For the mother-in-law who likes a pop of color — and scent

Our resident candle connoisseur Tembe Denton-Hurst has been burning this candle in her kitchen — it offers an “energizing and mood-lifting effect,” she says. It’s the same one used in SoulCycle studios.

For the mother-in-law who could use a breather

Celebrity stylist Ty Hunter introduced us to the Breather, a device that helps calm him and train his lungs so that “when you do long walks upstairs, you’ll notice a change. Or when you have to work out, it helps you to go longer because you don’t get as short-winded.” He loves his so much, he says he’d do a commercial for it.

For the mother-in-law whose other living room is the backyard

These faux-paper lanterns have a lace pattern that almost looks antique. But don’t let their delicate appearance fool you — the garden lights feature a stainless-steel frame covered in waterproof and UV-resistant fabric. Lauri Kranz, co-author of A Garden Can Be Anywhere, considers them “both useful and beautiful.”

Under $100

For the mother-in-law who’s dealing with dry ends

This hair mask from luxury beauty label Christophe Robin is especially hydrating, explains Dianna Cohen, the founder of Crown Affair, with ingredients like vitamin-E-rich prickly-pear-seed oil. 

For the mother-in-law who still owns a copy of Jane Fonda’s workout video

When former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson investigated the rise of Bala Bangles, she described them as “a far cry from their bulky Jazzercise-era counterparts.” These fit right into our athleisure moment.

For the mother-in-law who goes gaga for garnish

AeroGarden Sprout

The Sprout can grow three plants at a time — and it’s much more low-maintenance than a garden.

For the mother-in-law with near-permanent tan lines

Get her the sun protection she needs with this sunscreen that has a texture so smooth it disappears into the skin, according to cookbook author Claire Saffitz. “I can’t imagine any formula being better than this one,” she says.

For the mother-in-law who snowbirds at the beach

Tommy Bahama Backpack Beach Chair
From $63
From $63

These beach chairs have a “vacationing dad at Margaritaville” vibe that’s just campy enough.

For the mother-in-law who even presses her sheets

It’s the same steamer that Uma Thurman’s stylist uses. In my experience, it’s a breeze to use and leaves clothing and upholstery looking like it’s just come back from the cleaners.

For the mother-in-law who ran her Vera Bradley bag into the ground

When we asked frequent travelers about their favorite duffels, photographer Lucy Rose Laucht called this Paravel bag “the Mary Poppins of duffels.” And your mother-in-law can easily stuff the “ultrapackable,” foldable number into her suitcase as well.

For the mother-in-law who’s an international jetsetter

Food stylist Judy Kim’s DMs blew up after she posted a photo of this handy doodad that makes in-flight movie-watching infinitely more enjoyable. Once plugged into the plane’s headphone jack, Kim can hear the entertainment system wirelessly through her AirPods.

For the mother-in-law who runs 10 degrees colder than everyone else

The Vornado Velocity will (quietly) turn up the heat. Bethany Lyons, the founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, praises the space heater for being durable and aesthetically pleasing.

Under $200

For the mother-in-law who’s glamorous even in her sleep

Eberjey’s piped Gisele pajamas are widely belov