The Secret to Gift Giving

Are you completely clueless about what to gift your friends and family when Christmases or birthdays come around? You’re not alone.

Many people panic about presents because they believe that the best gifts are expensive or large in size. Not only does this back you into a corner, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

All you really need to do to make someone’s holiday special is by showing them that you are paying attention. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you break out that credit card:


1. It’s the thought that counts

Stay away from impersonal clichés like mugs and candles unless you know absolutely nothing about the recipient or the gift exchange is in less than an hour.

If you notice that your cubicle neighbor only ever uses one brand of pens, then wrap up a box of that brand of pens as your Secret Santa surprise. Most people see stationery as a lame gift, but all that matters is that your office mates appreciate that you give at least a little bit of a hoot about them.

2. People aren’t one-dimensional

People have multiple interests. If everyone in your family knows that one of your aunts adores cats, chances are that every gift she has ever received from them has been cat related.

But maybe that aunt also loves taking care of and painting her nails. Shake things up and give her a quality manicure kit or an aromatic cuticle cream. Be prepared to receive the longest hug when your gift stands out among all the fur and whiskers.

3. Do some reconnaissance

The best gift givers do their homework.

For example, I wanted to get my cousin a gourmet box of truffles for her graduation. About a month before her party, I pulled a Snickers out of my pocket and started up an innocent conversation with her about chocolate preferences. Milk vs. dark vs. white. Nuts vs. fruits. Opinions on nougat? 

When the time came to give her my gift, I had a curated box of chocolates perfectly tailored to her liking.

4. Write down offhand comments

Sometimes, the research is done for you and all you need is the Notes app on your phone. 

One rainy evening in April, my boyfriend and I were playing video games and he casually mentioned that he always wished he could own a copy of “Resident Evil 2” on the Nintendo 64. Guess what he found under his tree that Christmas. He was touched that I remembered a comment that even he had forgotten about.

5. You can’t buy memories

Don’t give your sister another boring trinket that she will put in the closet and forget about. Take her to a concert, a sports game, an amusement park, a dance or cooking class, or put her behind the wheel of a stock car for the afternoon. 

Even the gift of experience, however, requires some insight into the recipient’s favorite music artists, sports teams, foods, etc.

Don’t tie yourself in knots for any upcoming special occasions. Just pay a little attention and your gift-giving-stress will become a thing of Christmas past.

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