I love giving gifts.
It really isn’t that I LOVE spending my money or hours shopping. Well, okay, that second part may be a lie. Realistically, there are many times of the year where I find gift-giving to be a groan—specifically when it feels obligatory. What I love about giving gifts, though, is the personal thought that goes into it.
“Courtesy gifts,” as I like to call the type of gifts that have no “character” and are more perfunctory than anything—while sometimes seeming necessary for that stranger you barely know—are by far NOT my favorite. When I choose a gift for someone, I want them to genuinely enjoy it.
Here is my #1 goal when deciding what to buy someone for a gift: MAKE SURE IT DOESN’T END UP AT THE BOTTOM OF A DRAWER.
Because who needs more clutter?!
Watching someone open a gift and witnessing a great reaction, whether that be shock (the good kind, of course!), tears, a huge smile, or a “Heck yeah, I’ve really been wanting this!” is an awesome feeling.
It is just as much a gift to yourself as it is to them.
But wanting to buy someone a memorable gift is the easy part. Executing it is more challenging.
Below I’m listing some strategies when it comes to buying the perfect gift for a select someone in your life. Hopefully, some of these tips and thoughts bring about new ideas for you and allow the fun of gift-giving to re-emerge in your life.
A calming reminder to everyone: you don’t need to buy people presents on every occasion. There are far too many to make that feasible, especially if you are on a tight budget or strict schedule—Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day/Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, special events like graduations, baby showers, wedding showers, etc.
If the person you are buying a gift for is someone who loves you and wants you to be happy, they won’t expect you to put yourself in a tight position just to buy them something. Gratitude is expressed in a multitude of other ways than through presents.
1. Keep a Running List Throughout the Year
This method has been the MOST useful for me. Time and time again it has proven to work.
You can make a running list on paper or on your phone. I find my phone to be easier (typical young adult nowadays) because I can update it more inconspicuously. Plus, paper is more often lost, and if you don’t carry a suitcase for a purse like I do—everyone’s words, not mine—you may not have it on you.
Basically, what you do is create lists for people in your life of items they may want. The best way to find out what they want is to be an observer. When you go walking around the mall with them, what items do they stop to point out?
“That’s cute!” they may say.
“Huh, I’ve never seen that. Cool.”
“I could really use this right now,” they say as they walk away from the item.
Maybe you are watching TV and a commercial pops up with a cool vacation they want to take, or an amusement park they want to go to. Maybe the radio announces an upcoming concert they would like to go to. Maybe, while just getting to know them, they talk about things they like and are passionate about.
Did someone say they LOVE cookie dough (who doesn’t?). Add that to the list!
My favorite thing about this idea is that, in most circumstances, the person will forget they ever even mentioned it. In fact, I would forget they mentioned it if I hadn’t jotted it down.
For example, that cookie dough one is real. Under one of my friend’s names, I have “cookie dough lol” written down, yet no recollection of them saying they like it. Buttttt, I trust that I had it right otherwise I wouldn’t have written it down!)
This way, you ensure it is something they actually like, as they verbally said they did at some point in time, and you still might manage to surprise them because time washed away the remembrance of it from their minds.
Just make sure that they never ended up actually getting this item for themselves, or for some reason decided they wouldn’t want it. The latter is more applicable to kids who go through phases and grow out of them quickly.
2. Analyze What Kind of Person You Are Shopping For
There are different types or people with varying preferences in life:
Material Objects: Some may like material objects that they can wear or use, like scarves and pens and knives. Or if there is something specific they need, like a new vacuum cleaner.
Experiences and Gestures: Some like experiences, such as movie or amusement park tickets. Video games provide experiences too. Gestures include making someone breakfast in bed, doing something private in the bed (oo la la), writing someone a letter about why they are important to you, or posting about them on their special day.
Heartfelt Sentiments / Handmade Items: Some like sentiments from the heart—extra personalized gifts. Love coupons, memory books/photo albums, personalized board games, etc. Similarly, people like homemade items, even if they don’t NEED them—simply because the items took time and effort to make. DIY bath bombs, pieces of art, and handmade knit pieces are examples.
Perishables: Some like perishables: foods, flowers.
Certain age groups tend to prefer distinct categories. For example...
Kids and young teens who cannot afford to buy their own items would probably like material things.
Parents might like sentiments from the heart and homemade items because it shows that their children took the time to be thoughtful and appreciate all that they do for them.
People who don’t really NEED much or already HAVE whatever they want might like perishables or experiences because they can “use” them without having to hold onto them.
Ultimately, you need to base these decisions on the specific person you are giving a gift to. Just because someone is in their 50’s and can afford most things doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like a new jacket they eyed at Macy’s.
What I tend to do is hop around from category to category. This generally keeps things fun and unexpected, and that way you don’t have to assume someone likes any one particular kind of thing.
So if I were shopping for my mom, for instance, I might get her a painting that matches her decor for one event. Then at a different time, I might make her some DIY photo coasters. At yet another time, I might buy her a movie pass to the local theater.
3. Determine Quantity
Let’s say you set the spending limit to $150 with someone. Would they prefer…
One large gift that you know they need or would use, like a cappuccino machine?
Or a number of smaller gifts?
There are pros and cons to both. Consider quantity vs quality. Sometimes, just because you are buying someone 5 gifts instead of 1, it doesn’t mean they will appreciate it more or get more use out of them.
Again, gifts are meaningless (granted, aside from the good intention that goes into it!) if they never get used or get to see the daylight from inside a junk drawer. So don’t assume many is better than few.
Another approach to it, though, is that more gifts give the person 1) a longer experience of opening and testing the items, like on Christmas Day, 2) the possibility of the total amount of usage combined being higher than with one single item, and 3) gifts that account for many different aspects of the person’s life (something for working out, something to eat, something to do with a boyfriend).
Ponder the questions “What do they want?” and “What do they need?” to figure out which approach is best for someone.
Don’t forget, you can always try the other approach on a different occasion.
BONUS List of Questions to Ask Yourself to Inspire Gift Ideas:
Is there anything that this person has very recently gotten into? A new TV show? A new singing artist? A new clothing style?
What is something tried and true that this person has loved for as long as I can remember? Be careful not to overdo this one. Just because someone loves birds doesn’t mean every gift he/she gets from every person in her life needs to be bird-themed.**
Is there something from MY world that I would like to show this person? Sometimes the sweetest ideas are when you want to share something in your own life with someone who matters to you. Make sure this person would appreciate you incorporating your own interests into their gift. After all, you aren’t buying a gift for yourself.
Does this person like to read? If so, what genre do they like? Fictional? Non-fiction? Instructional? Cook books?
Last Christmas, I got my friend a book that teaches how to make macarons for beginners since I knew she wanted to dabble in this fine delicacy and loves baking.
What did this person get me for gifts in the past?
What did they give ME last time? Sometimes, the best reflection of the types of gifts a person likes to receive can be found in the type of gifts they give.
Does this person already have a wish list, like on Amazon? After all, they made it for a reason…
Thank you all for swinging by!
I’m excited to post my take on gift-giving because, frankly, I have not found many of the gift-giving guides out there to be too impressive. I find most of them too generic and not personalized enough. Then again, that is for my own tastes.
I don’t want to jinx myself—maybe in the future I’ll post a gift guide and people will find it too generic. It’s all really a matter of perspective. But at the very least, hopefully this post got your cognitive wheels churning.
Wishing you all happy days and happy seasons!!
What is the coolest gift you’ve ever received? What is a gift you were proud to give? What is your preferred method and/or mindset to gift-giving?
Let me know below!
Until next time...