44 best 21st birthday gift ideas for those celebrating in 2023

We asked our staffers in their twenties for a list of the best 21st birthday gift ideas that they would like to receive and compiled the ultimate gift inspiration list to help you choose a present your recipient will always cherish

A composite image of three of the best 21st birthday gift ideas, on a cream background with pink floral graphics.
(Image credit: Future)

Browse our pick of the best 21st birthday gift ideas, whether you're buying for a daughter, son, best friend or sibling.

From thoughtful 21st birthday gifts, personalized to make the perfect present, to unique items sure to surprise and delight even the most difficult-to-buy-for loved ones, we’ve rounded up the best gift ideas for soon-to-be 21-year-olds that every young adult will love and enjoy.

Where to find the best 21st birthday gift ideas in the US

Our pick of the best 21st birthday gifts to buy in 2023

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1. Milk Bar Birthday Cake 

It's a high chance your 21-year-old giftee has seen this delicious confetti birthday treat on their social media, whether it was the beautiful three-tier cake itself or the cute white and pink Milk Bar box it comes in. This gorgeous vanilla birthday cake is the perfect treat and gift to celebrate a major milestone. You can schedule your delivery date and order up to 30 days in advance. They can have their birthday cake delivered right to their front door just in time or on their special day.


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2. Skims Cotton Fleece Zip Up Hoodie

No one will turn down a comfy zip-up hoodie they can lounge around in or throw on with any casual outfit. And if it's Skims, even better. This gray fleece hoodie will be the perfect addition to any minimalist capsule wardrobe. Its soft material will keep them warm during the winter and cozy during early spring. They'll be surprised when they open their gift to find a hoodie from one of the most popular lounge brands of the moment. 


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3. Papier Zodiac Wellness Journal

"As a Gen-Zer myself, I can tell you we're all about mental health and wellness," says Kenedee. This Papier Wellness journal is a perfect 21st birthday gift from its zodiac cover to its pages filled with self-care reflection questions and a space to jot down their goals as they embark on their new chapter.  


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4. Chanel Chance Eau Tendre de Parfum

Kickstart their designer perfume collection with one of the best Chanel perfumes - the Chanel Chance perfume. A sweet floral fragrance with notes of grapefruit, rose accord, white musk, and quince. Any young adult will love to open this on their birthday. It's definitely on my birthday wishlist! 


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5. Stanley 40oz Quencher H2.0 Flowstate Tumbler 

You might not see the significance in gifting a 21-year-old this insulated reusable water bottle replacement, but if your 20-year-old is on TikTok, they've definitely seen this cult-favorite tumbler on their feed - and it's most likely on their wishlist. This 40oz tumbler has soared in popularity this year with its wide range of colors, cuteness, and comfort-grip handle. It's double-wall insulated and can keep beverages cold for 11 hours or hot for seven. 

And if your giftee is eco-conscious, they'll appreciate this gift a little more. 


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6. The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook

Trader Joe's is known for their affordable prices, unique food items and delicious snacks. It's the grocery store just about every young person loves. This book features mouthwatering recipes your giftee can make with their favorite Trader Joe's food items. This is an excellent option if you're looking for a budget-friendly, one-of-a-kind gift and one of the best cookbooks to start their collection. 


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7. Birthdate Candle 

Custom gifts are always great, especially when it's a scented candle to match your birthday. Whether they're big on astrological signs and would enjoy a candle that represents their zodiac sign or a candle created for the day they were born, there's a hand-poured candle with a personalized scent for each birthdate as the perfect zodiac-inspired gift


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8. Nespresso VertuoPlus Coffee and Espresso Machine

"I recently got this Nespresso machine as a gift, and it's safe to say I might be obsessed," says Kenedee. If they're an espresso lover and always talking about the newest Starbucks latte, receiving one of the best Nespresso machines will be the highlight of their birthday. With endless fancy Nespresso recipe drinks on TikTok, they'll be able to channel their inner barista and make their Starbucks from home. The quality of the Nespresso pods is like no other. And as a young adult who's always looking to save money and stay away from Starbucks, this machine has helped a lot.


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9. Urban Decay Moondust Eyeshadow (Spaced Cowboy)

Whether they've just mastered their go-to makeup look or are just now adding to their cosmetic bag, this easy-to-use gorgeous eyeshadow pigment is the perfect amount of shimmer to add to your eyelids. For mornings when they're pressed for time but still want a subtle effortless makeup look, they can easily apply this eyeshadow using their finger.

And if you want to make this a full beauty gift, you can throw in one of the best long lasting lipsticks and a set of the best press on nails from our carefully curated guides, too.


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10. Birth Month Flower Wine Bottle Stopper 

How cute and unique is this wine bottle stopper? This vino stopper is handcrafted with real petals, leaves, and stems. That alone will impress your giftee. And it's the perfect gift for a 21st birthday. This will be the year they discover their favorite wine, and what better birthday present to give than a personalized wine bottle stopper that represents their birth month and keeps their wine fresh? 


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11. Hatch Restore Alarm Clock 

Say goodbye to the jarring alarm clock on your phone and hello to the start of a healthy and relaxing sleep experience. The Hatch Restore Alarm Clock will give them a gentle and soothing wake-up experience with its sunrise light. And when it's time for bed, they can fall asleep to a beautiful sunset light and a calming white noise. They'll feel refreshed, ready for classes and to start their day. 


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12. The Sill Peperomia Obtusifolia House Plant 

If they're a plant lover or even a green thumb in training, a house plant is a simple yet thoughtful gift they'll love. The Sill's Peperomia Obtusifolia is great because it's easy to care for, only requiring to be watered every one to two weeks, and can thrive in indirect light. So if your giftee stays in a dorm that doesn't get the best sunlight or is someone who is always busy but loves to keep their room filled with greenery, this is an excellent plant option.


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13. Astrid & Miyu Birthstone Huggies Earring 

Jewelry is always a good gift option, especially when it's personalized and holds sentimental value. The Astrid & Miyu Birthstone Huggies Earring is a dainty, pretty accessory they can add to their jewelry box and outfit as a pop of color. The small hoop earrings are made from recycled sterling silver, making it an even better present for the eco-conscious 21-year-old. 


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14. Barbie x Dragon Glassware Stemless Martini Glasses

What better gift to give a 21-year-old than a pink martini glass set they can cheer to a new year of life with? This two-piece set comes in two shades; magenta and a lighter pink and is perfect for anyone buying into this year's Barbiecore trend. The glasses are not only beautiful and eye-catching, but they're also durable. I personally have two Barbie x Dragon Glassware stemmed wine glasses and love them. 


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15. Coach Pillow Tabby Shoulder Bag 18

How cute is this Coach shoulder bag? This soft leather purse is the perfect size to hold all your important things, including the best powder foundation for a mid-day makeup retouch of course. This purse comes in gorgeous vibrant colors as well as black. And if your giftee is a crossbody kind of person, the bag comes with a long detachable strap. 


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16. Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker

For the person who loves everything music, a Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker is all they're missing. They can ask Google to play whatever song their heart desires and jam out to their favorite albums. Nest Audio will be like their own personal assistant. You can ask Google for the day's forecast, make phone calls, and much more. This smart speaker is a useful gift anyone would love and appreciate. 


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17. The Ordinary Skinimalist Set 

The Ordinary products are known for their affordable skincare and small ingredient lists. With tons of products to help target your specific skin's needs, finding the best Ordinary products can be challenging. But this three-piece set features everyday products that work well with all skin types by providing hydration, reducing redness and dark circles, and giving you healthy-looking skin. So if your giftee is all about beauty, why not give them something they can add to their skincare routine


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18. Instant Birthday Celebration Drink Kit 

Help them turn their birthday cake into a sweet birthday cocktail. This delicious and fun drink kit comes with three different packs of six sugar cake cubes for them to drop into their booze of choice and celebrate another year. To top off the drink and make it 'instaworthy,' they can add the included sprinkles for an extra treat. 


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19. 3-in-1 Wireless Charging Station

If they have just about every Apple product known to exist, they'll definitely love this 3-in-1 wireless charging station. They can charge their Apple Watch, iPhone, and AirPods simultaneously by simply placing them on the base. With over 35,000 five-star reviews, we're confident they'll appreciate this useful gift.


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20. Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera 

The timeless Polaroid camera is always a great option for any giftee. They will capture their favorite life moments, including their 21st birthday. The Now I-Type Instant Camera is double the exposure and autofocus, so you won't have to worry about blurry photos and wasting film. 

Where to buy the best 21st birthday gifts in the UK

Our pick of the best 21st birthday gifts in the UK

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1. Lexi Vegan Bucket Bag

Crossbody bags can often be frustratingly small, with barely enough space to fit a purse, phone and keys, let alone the other essentials that your 21-year-old likely needs to carry such as a book, headphones, a reusable water bottle and makeup bag.

This vegan leather option is large enough to double as a great bag to take to work or school/university, and even comes with a matching interior pouch, making it that bit easier to organize all manner of paraphernalia that can get lost in a bag. The interior lining is made from 100% recycled water bottles, making this a handy sustainable gift, too.


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2. Letter Necklace

Personalized jewelry gifts are always a safe bet for a 21st birthday present. Made from sterling silver and finished with 18-karat gold plating, this letter pendant features tiger eye, mother of pearl and peridot amongst other unique stones. Simple yet vibrant, this is a truly grown-up gift that they’ll treasure for years to come.


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3. Dusty Pink Collage Kit

The soon-to-be 21-year-old in your life may have recently flown the nest and moved out of their family home, but if they are still restricted to only being able to decorate their bedroom, this collage kit from Cai & Jo is the perfect way to make a customizable feature wall their own.

Made up of 50 individual prints that can be attached to the wall with low-commitment adhesives like command strips, masking tape or blu-tac, the kit is endlessly adaptable. There are several themes to choose from, but we love this Gen-Z-approved floral-and-pink vibe.


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4. HOFF City Seoul Trainers

Inspired by different cities around the world, Hoff trainers feature block colors and soft suede, with visible stitching detail and comfortable soles. The colorway on this pair will go with lots of outfits while also making your 21-year-old’s feet stand out, and are the perfect shoe for year-round wear.


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5. Golden Hour Midi Skirt

Sometimes less is more, and this midi skirt from Free People is a simple yet stylish and highly versatile item for any minimalist capsule wardrobe. Pair it with boots, jumpers, crop tops, shirts, trainers… the list goes on. The mid-rise fit is super on-trend, and the soft knit fabric makes it perfect for every season.


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6. Miista Inne Boots

Speaking of boots… Miista is one of the most coveted footwear brands of the moment, with lines of hopeful shoppers at the brand’s sample sales often curling around the block. 21-year-olds aren’t always easy to buy for, which is why simple, fail-safe staples are always best. 

These chunky boots are available in chocolate brown or a striking blue, with a smaller heel making these accessible for any occasion. Miista’s quality is known for being unmatched - this is a gift your recipient will cherish for years.


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7. Vaisselle Ceramic Vase

If your 21-year-old giftee has recently moved into their own living space - even if it is the slightly less liberating student halls flat with shared kitchen - this gorgeous vase will instantly make their new home look more classy. Handmade and handpainted in Spain, it’s sure to spark a new ritual of buying weekly flowers just to show off in the striking design of this vase.


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8. The Hungry Student Vegan Cookbook by Hannah Kaminsky

Whether your 21-year-old has decided to switch to a plant-based diet or just wants to learn some more easy, quick and healthy recipes for their busy lifestyle, this cookbook features a range of different recipes for on-the-go meals to dinner-party essentials. The recipes are all simple and inexpensive, proving you don't need a gamut of niche ingredients or a state-of-the-art kitchen to create impressive plant-based meals.


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9. 'Chill Vibes' Slogan Candle

We love the ‘70s vibe of this vibrant candle from ASOS, which would work well as a stocking filler or an unexpected gift for a stylish 21-year-old. The candle burns for up to 50 hours, and is lightly scented with coconut and mango.


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10. The Morning Journal

Journaling for the first few minutes of your day (and/or in the evening) is a great way to practice mindfulness and gratitude and can set you up for a positive day just by writing down a few lines. If your 21-year-old isn’t already using one of the best apps for journaling, this physical option encourages you to reflect on your to-do’s, self-care actions and anything you’re feeling grateful for. 


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11. Holga UO Exclusive Lilac 135BC Plastic 35mm Camera

Much like old-school records and vinyl players did, film cameras are having a revival with the younger generation. Polaroid and Instax cameras are often popular gifting options due to their instant gratification, but this ‘90s-style film camera will pay off even more once your recipient has waited patiently to see how their pictures turn out. 


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12. Le Creuset Salt and Pepper Shakers

The perfect gift for 21-year-olds who have recently discovered their love of hosting dinner parties, these Le Creuset salt and pepper shakers look super grown-up and expensive, but considering the price tag of the brand’s pots and dishes, are still fairly reasonable. Popping these on their dinner table will immediately make your 21-year-old’s space feel adult, and they’re available in various colors, too.


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13. Nespresso Pod Coffee Machine

Your own coffee machine is an undisputed essential, especially if you’re sharing kitchen facilities. But what’s less than ideal is being gifted a giant coffee machine which is heavy to move, takes up too much space in a small kitchen and is tricky to clean. This Nespresso option couldn’t be simpler to use and clean, and its slim shape means it can be transported easily while slotting nicely into a cupboard, too. If you’re looking for a great gift for a coffee lover, this is it.


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14. Chanel Coco Eau de Parfum

Scents can be tricky to choose when buying perfume for someone else - they’re super personal, after all. So why not go for a safe option with a designer classic? Understated yet instantly recognizable, Chanel Coco is a popular scent for a reason, with notes of peach, jasmine, mandarin and clover.


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15. Sunshine Town Book Nook

Looking for a unique gift that will delight a book-lover? These sweet ‘book nooks’ feature everything you need to build, paint and design your own mini town, to fit snugly between books on your shelf (the mirror at the back of the ‘street’ creates the illusion of a larger space). Alongside being a conversation starter that will please for years once it’s built, the intricate building of the nook is part of the fun. 


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16. Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick

This TikTok sensation often goes out of stock due to its popularity, so gifting this to your 21-year-old will make her day. Designed to adapt to individual skin tones, the rich-looking lip color will look different on everyone’s lips, is easy to apply, and hydrating.


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17. Bunny by Mona Awad

Dark Academia books are having their moment right now, and this darkly funny social satire definitely fits the bill. It's more than just a dissection of class, art and academia though; the narrative follows plenty of unexpected (to put it lightly) twists and turns. Your 21-year-old will definitely have seen this debut on BookTok (the literary-obsessed side of TikTok), and the bestseller is the perfect gift for fiction lovers.


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18. Siren Muse Ripple Small Hoop Earrings

Hoop earrings are a staple that will never go out of style. This chunky style can be stacked alongside other hoops and/or studs, or worn alone for a classic look. Made from recycled 18-karat gold vermeil and sterling silver, this sustainable option makes for a timeless piece that can be worn with any outfit.


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19. Elizabeth Scarlett x Anthropologie Sun Pouch

This summery pouch would be perfect for carrying makeup, stationary or any other bits and bobs, and is a great size for traveling or simply keeping on display around the house.