As I’m writing this post, Christmas is just around the corner. From now until then, it’s crunch time for finding the perfect gifts for the people you love, and you may be scrambling to think of good gift ideas.
Even when it’s not near the holiday season, gift-giving is important all year round. There are birthdays, anniversaries, and various other causes for celebration, like graduations, going-away parties, housewarming parties, and retirements.
The need for gifts is consistent, and it can be a point of stress for people trying to find just the right thing. After all, gifts are one major material way that we develop and characterize our relationships.
At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I have been told that I am very good at giving thoughtful gifts. According to my mom, my dad was particularly good at that. She thinks I inherited that from him, which I take as a high compliment. I want to pass along my best tips to those who could use a little help in this department.
Here’s my best advice on how to always have good gift ideas and be known for your amazing gifts:
1. Maintain a Master List.
This one is the foundation of my gift-giving strategy. It’s my secret weapon. It might not seem revolutionary to make a list of gift ideas for people. The KEY is that I said MAINTAIN a list. I have lists categorized by the people in my life that I regularly give gifts to. This includes my mom, my boyfriend, my siblings, and my friends, and it’s ongoing.
I keep them all year round and add to them. If I think of the perfect Christmas gift for someone in July, I add it to the list in July. That way it’s there when I consult the list in December. By maintaining a list year round, I make sure I always capture the best ideas when inspiration strikes me.
2. Pay attention.
My other secret weapon. I know it sounds simple, but most people do not do this. When done in conjunction with the ongoing list, this is the BEST tool for expert gift-giving.
How many times have you asked someone what they want for Christmas or their birthday, only to get the ever-helpful “I don’t know…”? How many times have you been asked and answered that way?
The pressure of the impending occasion or holiday makes it difficult to answer. People often feel uncomfortable voicing what they want when it’s in the context of someone looking to buy them something. They don’t want to ask for too much or be judged on what they want.
Luckily, you can avoid this conversation altogether.
If you start paying attention, you will begin to notice that the people around you will tell you what they want or need all year round.
When they don’t feel awkward because they’re not in the context of asking for gifts or being near a gift-giving holiday, people have no problem mentioning things they’d like to have off the cuff.
If you’re out shopping, they might see some boots and say something like “Wow, these are cool! I really could use a new pair of boots.”
If you’re at home cooking together, they might say something like “Man, I don’t really have any good chopping knives” as they’re chopping veggies.
Or in casual conversation, they might say something like ” Have you seen those new (fill in the blank)? Those are so cool!” Add all of these things to your list for that person as potential gift ideas.
Also, pay attention to things they don’t necessarily SAY they need, but you see the need for them. An easy way to do this is to make a note when you see things they own break, malfunction, or wear out. By replacing things they already have, you ensure they will use what you give them because they’re already using it.
For example, my boyfriend has a habit of breaking his french press carafes, so that’s an easy thing to replace that I KNOW he will love and utilize.
Paying attention is the best advice I can give for good gift giving. I guarantee people will think that you are the most thoughtful gift giver. When you give them something they have been wanting for months, it sends the message that you know them so well you didn’t even have to ask.
Asking what someone wants for whatever the occasion is makes it kinda seem like you don’t know them very well or that you don’t want to take the time to come up with something thoughtful by yourself. You just want the easy route of being told what to give. It ruins the element of surprise, which is one of the most fun aspects of receiving gifts in the first place.
3. Give what they won’t give themselves.
Some of my favorite gifts to receive are things that I want but won’t buy for myself. I may feel like they’re too much of a luxury or I can’t justify spending the money on them over other, higher priority things in my life. It’s such a joy to get something I want and not have to find room in my budget for it. So I try to give people those things too. Try to think about what they would SO ENJOY but are too practical or frugal to indulge in for themselves.
4. Shift Your Mindset.
This one may be tricky for some people. To be the best gift giver, I invite you to shift your mindset and operate from a place of authenticity, rather than obligation.
When it comes to gifts, most people feel obligated to always get something for the people close to them at Christmas, birthdays, and a handful of other holidays or occasions where gifts are typically given.
I understand the impulse. There’s social pressure to give SOMETHING and you run the risk of looking like an a**hole if you don’t.
What typically results from this pressure is a whole lot of last-minute gifts being given without any thought put into them. The recipient usually will not be very thrilled about these. Over the last few years, I have shifted to a habit of giving gifts when I think of a great gift to give for someone specific that I know they will love and use.
I have detached the giving of gifts from the traditional occasions that call for them. I give the gifts whenever I find them or think of them, not when I’m “supposed to”. Removing the social expectation from gift giving makes it way more fun and authentic to give and receive, and people are more surprised when I give them gifts “for no reason”.
Now, if you like giving gifts on the appropriate occasions and don’t want to follow my method of separating the two, I’ve gotcha covered. That’s where the Master List comes in and needs to be something being added to all year. When you think of a good gift for someone, or you hear them mention something they want or you see a need for something, put it on the list.
When their birthday rolls around, you don’t have to do much hard thinking at all. You don’t have to awkwardly ask them what they want. Just consult your list of good gift ideas, which will have several amazing options to choose from that you thought of 6 months ago.
Choose on by asking yourself a few questions. Which one are you most excited about? What project is the most feasible if you’re making it by hand? Which is the most appropriate due to the season or what’s going on in their life? Which do you have the room in your budget for? Boom. Easy as pie.
5. Add a Handmade Touch.
Whenever I can, I try to make my gifts by hand (or at least a portion of it). This fits my personality because I love crafts and DIY projects and creating things. Giving gifts that I’ve handmade is one of my love languages. Something made by hand has more sentimental value. It shows that you put more thought and time into their gift than just buying something on Amazon and wrapping it.
There’s nothing wrong with buying something on Amazon and wrapping it. Sometimes the thing you know someone wants or needs is not something you can make (like a french press or an iPod). But even when you gift something you bought, you can add a personal touch.
If it’s an iPod, you can preload it with a playlist you made for an upcoming road trip you will go on with that person. If it’s a french press, you can write a witty note alluding to the fact that it’s the third one in a year. You can wrap it with homemade wrapping paper. Let them know that you noticed they needed this gift a few months back when they mentioned x, y, or z. Find a way to connect the gift to you so that it becomes more about your feelings toward the recipient or your relationship with them, and not just stuff.
Those are all my secrets for being the best gift giver EVER! Now take those secrets and WOW your friends and family!
Think I missed something? Let me know how you think of good gift ideas in the comments section below! Tried these methods out and have a story to share? I want to hear about it!
P.S. If money is tight, you may be interested in my post, 10 Ways to Save Money Right Now.
Planning a holiday party? Check out my post on How to Prepare for Entertaining Guests.