It’s that time of year again. Not even Thanksgiving and we are already being bombarded with Christmas decorations and festive music. While it is a magical time of year, it can also be quite stressful with the mounting pressure to buy presents. Presents for EVERYONE! For your spouse, your kids, your parents, your sibling(s), your friends, your bosses, your coworkers, your mailman… the list goes on.
How do you find the perfect give for that perfect someone? How do you get a gift that is just right without spending too much money? How do you know what another person really wants or needs?
Gift guides are circling the cyberworld faster than holiday gift catalogs, but do they really help us know what to buy?
I’m certainly not going to tell you what to get, but here are some ideas on how to pick out the best presents for everyone on your list:
- START EARLY – By starting shopping early, you can take the pressure off yourself to come up with the perfect gift at the last minute. My mother in law has a great tradition of buying gifts for people throughout the year (starting just after Christmas). This is a great way to take your time and be thoughtful about the presents you purchase along the normal course of time. Don’t worry if you haven’t started yet, read on for more great ideas.
- LISTEN – I mean, really listen to the person you want to buy for. If you pay attention from a giver’s perspective, you can cue on very particular things that the person wants or needs. I am very obvious when it comes to dropping hints about the types of things that I would like to receive (no shame, I know). Some people are not as obvious, but if you try to read between the lines, I am sure you could conjure up an idea or two.
- TAKE NOTES – I keep a running gift note list on my phone all year round. When I come up with an idea, I pop it in there for future birthdays or Christmas.
- PUT YOURSELF ASIDE – This is my most important message to you. When considering a gift for someone else, you must take your likes and dislikes completely out of the equation. No one will have the exact same response to an item that you do. You can certainly get lucky, or even close with your purchase, but I find that I am much better off using the giftee’s tastes and preferences as the basis for my purchasing decision.
Now, for some idea starters…
- CONSIDER COMPLETING A THEME THE PERSON ALREADY STARTED – What is the recipient into right now? What are their hobbies and/or interests? Do they like gardening, photography, traveling, making their own wine/beer? Can you use their hobby as an idea source for gifts to give them?
- THINK ABOUT GADGETS THEY ARE MISSING – Gadgets are awesome. I have received lots of great ones as gifts that I never considered buying for myself. Do you go over to their house a lot? Can you think of any useful gadgets that they are missing for the kitchen, bar, car, etc.?
- GIVE A NON-MONETARY GIFT – Give the gift of your time or support. Offer to watch the kids (best present ever!) or bake them some cookies. Come over and make dinner for them one night, bringing all of the ingredients yourself.
- PLAN EXPERIENCES YOU CAN DO TOGETHER – People in my family are super hard to buy for and I have very limited time these days, raising 3 kids. Offering to do something together with people is a great way to show how much you really care about the relationship, especially when giving your time is a big sacrifice. Some great ideas I’ve enjoyed are tickets to a local play or comedy show, and you can also leave it up to the recipient to bring whoever they choose.
- PURCHASE SOMETHING THAT YOU SHARE AS A COMMON INTEREST – Think books or music or hobbies that you have in common. Is there something that they’ve commented on that you own (see “listen” above)? That is always good for a nice surprise.
- CONSULT GIFT GUIDES AS A LAST RESORT – Gift guides can be very helpful. But the problem with going to them first is that you are skipping doing the real heavy lifting when it comes to buying a gift. First, it is important to really consider the person, then once you’ve narrowed it down, consult a gift guide for unique ideas in that category.
When all else fails, you are still stumped, and your brain is about to explode under the pressure – you can always ask for hints. I do consider it cheating, but hey, some people are really hard to buy for! Especially people like my husband and father, who just buy everything they want as they think of it.
What is your favorite approach to gift giving? What are the best gifts you’ve ever given or received?