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Kids are so excited to turn 21. They’re finally old enough to drink, drive, and do all that glamorous, fascinating adult stuff they’ve been rushing through childhood for.
Many gift guides pack their lists with presents that are all about partying, getting smashed, and having some wild, raucous fun. But reality check: that’s barely what being a grown-up is all about!
This gift guide will help you pick presents that a 21-year-old will appreciate, not just on the nights they can’t remember or the days they will never forget, but on every ordinary, run-of-the-mill day in between that makes up actual adulthood.
How to choose gifts for the 21st birthday
Don’t you wish someone read a gift guide when they bought presents for your 21st birthday? Here are some high-yield tips for giving presents for a 21st birthday that are sure to give the celebrant a rocking (but totally responsible) initiation into adulthood!
1 – Useful
For all our toil and trouble to get an education, there are still all these unspoken expectations about adult stuff no class prepares us for. That’s why we turn to the Internet for life hacks and advice! How do I file my taxes? How do I manage traveling alone? How do I throw a dinner party? What do I give someone for their 21st birthday? (See what we mean?)
Pro-tip: the wisest gift you can give for a 21st birthday are presents that help make the minutiae of daily living easier to navigate.
2 – Timeless
Trends for presents go in and out of fashion, but that kind of fast, wasteful turnover is better suited for the younger set – not responsible, 21-year-old adults! Tastes change, but good taste is timeless.
Give gifts that withstand the test of time, regarding function, durability, and style presents that won’t be thrown out or banished to storage next season.
Not only will long-lasting gifts be well-appreciated and well-used, but they will also be kinder to the environment in the long run. Gift responsibly!
3 – Fun
For all the sensibility and responsibility, that doesn’t mean being a grown-up won’t be the absolute time of your life! Adulthood is when you’re given the independence to make own choices, when you experiment with what works for you, and when you discover who you are – which should, for the most part, be an enjoyable experience.
For a 21st birthday, choose presents that encourage your newly-minted adult to smile after a long day, laugh at the lemons life throws at them, and find the joy in small things. Don’t let stress make them age too quickly!
Your Guide to Responsible But Still Totally Cool Gifts for a 21st Birthday
Here are ten responsible yet still trés cool 21st birthday gifts that scream “Welcome to the wonderful world of adulthood!”
For a fancy-schmancy night in
Stemless Monogrammed Wine Glass Set
Available from Gifts.com for $44.99
Sure, beer pong sets are great for Friday night hangouts, but for grown-up occasions, every adult should have a respectable set of dinner glasses.
(Of course, a proper adult would also know that formal purpose of stemmed wine glasses is to give the drinker something to hold on to without warming up the wine. But for intimate dinners at home, stemless wine glasses like these will work just fine.)
Personalize the glasses with the 21st birthday celebrant’s initial, which will be sandblasted in an elegant font on each of the four glasses in the set.
Give your 21-year-old this present to make every dinner from momentous affairs to Netflix-and-popcorn nights on the couch feel luxurious, sophisticated, and very grown up.
- Material: Glass
- Monogrammed initial is sandblasted onto the glass
- Comes in a set of 4
- Dishwasher safe
- Volume 17 oz
- Dimensions: 3.12 in (diameter) x 4 in (height)
- Clear glass, classy sandblasted initial
- Prompt delivery service
- The glass looks lovely but feels very light
For those who can’t be tied down
Nomad Bi-fold Charging Wallet
Available from Nomad for $99.95
No adult on the go – your 21st birthday celebrant included – loves carrying around bulky power banks and phone charger cords that inexplicably tangle themselves into everything in their bag.
This charging wallet from Nomad will be the perfect travel companion! It’s compatible with iPhone 5 to iPhone X and will be good for one full charge.
The wallet itself is handsomely made from vegetable-tanned Horween leather. It’s not treated with synthetic sealant so it will develop a distinct, unique patina over time (you can maintain this with leather conditioner because real adults take the time to look after their stuff!).
The wallet features a full-sized cash slot, big enough for to fit large bills like euros, and it has pockets for up to 8 credit cards. There’s also a slim version for non-cash carriers. Choose this gift to make your newly-minted adult feel neat and put together, aside from being just plain cool.
- Material: Vegetable-tanned Horween leather
- Lithium-Ion battery
- High strength aluminum chasing
- Polycarbonate end caps
- Technical specifications
- Compatible with iPhone 5 through iPhone X
- Designed and tested to pass airport security checks
- 100% compliant with world battery standards for carry-on batteries
- Capacity: 2400mAh (8.88 wh)
- Input: Micro USB 5V/1.5 A (cable included)
- Output: Apple Lightning 5V/1.5 A
- Certifications: Apple MFi, USB 2.0, CE, FCC, UN38.3 RoHS
- Discreet and convenient, perfect for minimalist travelers
- Exclusively for iPhones, no available models for Android phones
For cooking real grown-up meals
Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Warmer, and Yogurt Maker)
Available from Amazon for $79.99
They’re an adult now, and they deserve to eat real, healthy, adult meals. No, heating up frozen pizza does not count as a real meal!
If they’re just getting the hang of cooking for themselves in their first home or apartment, the Instant Pot Duo Mini makes an outstanding 21st birthday gift.
This ingenious little kitchen appliance allows you to cook multiple items without an oven or stovetop. It’s a powerful but compact multi-cooker that combines seven different tools in one: a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a steamer, a sauté pan, a yogurt maker and a warmer.
The Instant Pot Duo Mini uses advanced microprocessor technology to monitor pressure, temperature, heat, and duration of cooking.
It has 11 Smart Programs with preset settings depending on what you’re attempting to cook, and it automatically stops when the food is done, so you don’t have to babysit the cooker anymore.
This way, the Instant Pot Duo Mini reduces cooking time by 70%. It also saves on power because it’s just one appliance doing the work for seven, and spares you a lengthy cleanup too, as it’s only got the one pot!
To top it all off, the Instant Pot Duo Mini boasts a 24-hour delayed start timer for delayed cooking. Just put the ingredients in before you head out for work, set the timer, and come back in the evening to find your food all ready for you when you walk in the door.
The automatic warmer keeps the food hot while waiting for you to get home. It’s precisely the thing a 21-year-old who’s too busy to be bothered with heavy kitchen duty (yet still needs to eat the filling and nutritious meals!) will thank you for.
- Material: Stainless steel (18/8) inner cooking pot, food grade 304, no chemical coating, 3-ply bottom
- Max capacity: 6 cups uncooked rice (based on included rice measuring cup)
- 11 Smart Programmable digital controls: Rice, Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Sauté, Porridge, Steam, Slow Cook, Yogurt, Keep Warm, and Pressure Cook
- Up to 24-hour delayed start, automatic Keep Warm up to 10 hours
- Safety Mechanisms – UL and ULC certified
- Dishwasher safe
- Voltage: 110v (requires adaptor for 220-240v territories; not included)
- Rice measuring cup
- Stainless steel steam rack (no handles)
- Rice paddle
- Soup spoon
- Condensation collector
- Recipe booklet
- Note: To maximize performance, use only genuine Instant Pot accessories.
- Dimensions: 11.8 x 10.5 x 11 in
- Weight: 65 lbs
- Incredibly safe, convenient, and efficient: can cook two or three dishes at once, saves time and consumes less electricity
- May have a slight learning curve – read the manuals, research recipes thoroughly, and be patient with yourself as you get used to the features and settings!
For the important stuff
SentrySafe P008EBL 0.08 Cubic Foot Electronic Compact Safe
Available from Amazon for $36.56
Adulthood means being entrusted with essential things like cash, gadgets, and jewelry, or things you want to keep out of reach, like medications and sensitive documents. A substantial 21st birthday gift would be someplace safe to keep all of these valuables – like this literal electronic safe from SentrySafe!
This electronic safe is protected by a digital lock with a personalized eight-digit code (although it also comes with keys to manually override the lock in case you forget your combination).
The safe is built with solid steel on the outside to stand up to bumps and bangs, while the interior is padded to keep delicate valuables unharmed inside.
The safe is small and compact for secure storage. Don’t worry about it simply being carried off – it also has a steel tethering cable to attach it to stationary anchors for added security.
It also features a carrying handle for travel, making the safe ideal for use in your dorm, hotel rooms or your car. As SentrySafe says, bring it, lock it, leave it!
- Color: Blue
- Material: Solid steel
- Digital lock with a programmable code up to 8 digits, automatic 20-second time delay after three incorrect entry attempts
- Soft interior lining
- Carrying handle
- Steel tethering cable
- Gentle-closing hinges
- Includes 2 override keys
- Requires 4 AA batteries (not included).
- 1-year warranty
- Dimensions: 9 x 10 x 7.9 in
- Interior compartment :9 x 9.8 x 7.1 in
- Weight: 7 lbs
- Sturdy and durable
- Does the job for your low-security safety needs
- Keypad beeps may be too loud
- Remember that this isn’t a heavy-duty safe! Look elsewhere for sensitive, high-security needs.
For the most adult gift of all
Sock Subscription by The London Sock Exchange
Available from Not on the High Street for $52.20
The London Sock Exchange prides itself on creating humorous yet tasteful socks made from premium raw materials, with super-high thread counts and hand-linked toe seams.
When you subscribe, the London Sock Exchange will immediately send on three brand-new pairs of comfortable and stylish socks. They even come with styling notes to advise you how best to wear each pair to avoid a fashion faux pas! After that, you get three new pairs at the beginning of every quarter.
The socks come in an equally stylish box, and you can pop your old, stiff, holey socks in it and send it back to The London Sock Exchange (for free!) to be recycled. Here’s to cool fashion choices for you, and responsible decisions for the environment!
One last thing – we know the socks are marketed towards men, but the great thing about socks is that they’re wonderful presents for boys AND girls AND everyone in between! Sign anyone up for cool socks for their 21st birthday – fancy footwear is so not gender-exclusive.
- Materials: 80% cotton, 17% polyamide and 3% elastane.
- Size: UK 7-12
- Care instructions: Machine wash at 30 degrees
- 6-month subscription: 3 pairs of socks every 3 months for a total of 6 pairs
- 9-month subscription: 3 pairs of socks every 3 months for a total of 9 pairs
- 12-month subscription: 3 pairs of socks every 3 months for a total of 12 pairs
- The first box of 3 pairs is sent out as soon as you order; subscription boxes are sent out at the beginning of each quarter (January, April, July, and October)
- Tasteful designs
- Promotes environmentally-friendly living by allowing you to exchange your old socks for new ones instead of them contributing to textile waste
- A whole quarter of a year between sock deliveries is quite a long interval for some
For when push comes to sip!
Motivational Water Bottle
Available from Uncommon Goods for $19.99
A responsible adult knows they should drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day, but who even drinks out of glasses on the go anymore?
Our generation’s breakneck lifestyle turns out so many reasons to skip drinking water: I’m too busy, I forgot, water tastes weird, and I’d instead drink coffee anyway.
Skipping water is a terrible habit that can go out the door on their 21st birthday, courtesy of this motivational water bottle!
The glass body has markings for time on it, spanning both AM and PM. Not only does it remind you to drink two tumblerfuls of water a day, but it also cheers you on with motivational messages to keep you sipping to your goal.
It’s a simple yet effective way to avoid dehydration and its many adverse effects (bad breath, dry skin, and elimination problems to name a few).
And if the water tastes weird, here’s a life hack: pop lemon wedges in it! Not only will it improve the water’s flavor, but it’ll also give your 21-year-old a vitamin C boost so they can keep being responsible and cool for longer.
- Materials: Glass and stainless steel
- Care instructions: Hand washing suggested
- Volume: 16 oz
- Dimensions: 5 in diameter x 9.5 in
- The reminders on the bottle work and are perfect for users with dehydration or fluid balance health issues
- Environmentally-friendly, as it is made of glass and eliminates the need for single-use plastic bottles
- Responsive customer service if you drop or break your bottle
- As it is made of glass, the bottle may be cumbersome and heavy to bring around
- Will break if dropped!
For sound sleepers
CozyPhones Sleep Headphones with Travel Bag
Available from Amazon for $14.97
The creator of CozyPhones knew how hard it was to sleep with either bulky band headphones or stiff little earbuds. Anyone who has insomnia, noisy roommates or a habit of listening to podcasts or music before bed can relate!
And if you’re a side sleeper like more than 70% of us out there, you know that absolutely nothing stuck in your ear will make lying down comfortable for you.
Hence CozyPhones! These genius sleep headphones are made of tiny speakers inserted in a soft fleece headband. The speakers line up with your ears and play your music or white noise without making you lie down on something hard and uncomfortable.
They also use volume-limiting technology to keep your sounds at a safe level, so you’re not risking hearing damage even if you sleep with your CozyPhones every night.
The stretchy fleece band is also broad enough to pull over your eyes and doubles as a sleep mask for a maximum blackout when it’s time for bed.
Give the gift of restful slumber for their 21st birthday with these CozyPhones. It won’t be long until they find that the older they get, the more precious comfortable and quality sleep will be.
- Headband material: Soft fleece
- Sleep headband doubles as a sleep mask when pulled down over the eyes
- Color: Black
- Ultra-slim 1/8″ cushioned, removable speakers
- Volume-limiting technology keeps the sound at 90 dB max to prevent hearing loss over long-term use
- 52-inch braided cable
- 5 mm stereo plug
- Compatible with Apple, Android, and other phones or devices
- Dimensions: 5 x 3.5 x 1 inches
- Weight: 1.76 ounces
- Decent sound and cord quality
- Stretchable but not adjustable – which means if your head is wider than average, the CozyPhones will stretch to fit, but they might be tight and uncomfortable
- Not one-size-fits-all – speakers may not line up perfectly with your ears
Auto Survival Kit
Available from Sharper Image for $59.99
No one ever knows when disaster will strike, but a responsible adult will always be prepared!
The Auto Survival Kit was an innovation by a New York City paramedic, so it’s professionally designed to cover your needs during a calamity.
The Auto Survival Kit is compact but packed with essentials: a tactical survival knife with LED lights, a serrated blade, seatbelt cutter and spring-loaded window breaker, an eco-friendly reusable glow stick, emergency drinking water, two instant ice packs; bandages, medical gloves, and other first aid supplies.
The small case attaches to the sun visor on the passenger side, comfortably within the driver or the navigator’s reach during an emergency. The contents are neatly sorted in the case, and organized with elastic straps so they won’t fall out even in a high-pressure situation.
Give the Auto Survival Kit as a 21st birthday present to any car owner or designated driver, for their peace of mind – and yours.
- Tactical survival knife with a stainless steel half-serrated blade, stainless steel seatbelt cutter, spring-loaded and steel-tipped window breaker, and 5-lumen LED light
- Reusable eco-glow stick
- 4-oz. bag of emergency drinking water
- 2 instant ice packs
- 1 pair of blue nitrile medical gloves
- Bandages, gauze pads, alcohol prep pads, tweezers and medical tape
- Dimensions:75 x 6.75 x 2.75 in
- Weight: 3 lbs
- Well-stocked and very proactive! Brings many users peace of mind
- May not fit all sun visors; you might have to store this in the glove compartment or under the seat
For lessons on language, geography, and love
A World of I Love You Map
Available from Uncommon Goods for $24.97
Encourage your 21-year-old to spread their wings – and spread the love with this A World of I Love You Map by Tim and Aurelia Sanders!
Now that they’re an adult, your 21-year-old’s potential for travel increases exponentially. They’ll soon be off to many different countries, meeting people and immersing themselves in diverse cultures. Let them study this map at home, so they’ll always have something to say to a romantic prospect or a new friend!
The A World of I Love You Map teaches you how to say “I love you” in 50 different languages, each phrase numbered and pinned to the country where you’d hear it spoken.
With the A World of I Love You Map, they might not know entire languages when they set out to explore the globe, but at least they’ll know what is perhaps the most important thing to say.
- Materials: archival ink on 100 lb FSC certified archival paper
- Dimensions: 18 x 24 in
- Informative and useful
- Delivered in a tube to keep it from wrinkling
- Some countries are excluded
- Doesn’t come with hanging apparatus
For paying the gift of love forwards
Acts of Good Journal
Available from Uncommon Goods for $34.90
Adam Benton’s Acts of Good Journal begins with the question: “What will you do with it?” Give this journal as a 21st birthday present, and show your beloved new adult that life’s real meaning is continuously striving to make the world a kinder, gentler place.
Kick off the journal by writing a little about yourself in it, and registering it online so it can be traced. Then, choose someone to perform a random act of kindness for – a friend who’s been going through a rough patch, a family member you’ve been on the outs with, or perhaps a complete stranger that you just felt compelled to do a good deed for.
Pass the journal on to them to pay the act of kindness forward. The cycle of doing an act of kindness plus passing on the journal repeats until all twelve acts have been carried out.
The last person to receive the journal will use the enclosed return envelope to mail the Acts of Good Journal back to the original owner. It’s tangible proof of stories unfolded, people touched, and lives changed.
- Materials: fabric, paper, foil
- 96 pages
- Dimensions: 10x8x0.75 in
- An inspiring piece of work that leaves you wanting to do good long after the journal leaves your hands
- You can track your journal’s journey on the Inspire Good website using its serial number
- Of course, there’s always the chance that the journal won’t make it back to you – but learning to have faith in other people, or recognizing when to give kindness without expecting anything in return is part of the process!
Time to glow up!
This gift guide features presents for a 21st birthday that is useful, timeless, and fun.
We hope that when you shop for your brand-new adult that you choose your presents with wisdom and love, always keeping in sight the responsibility of adulthood that lies ahead, but also reminding them to seek the joy the journey continuously.