Research shows that about half of all gifts end up going back to the store. This begs the question, What makes a great gift? You may want to wow people with grand gestures, but maybe something on a smaller scale will work better, and it may not even a physical object at all. Read on for our pro tips on becoming the best gifter in your group so your offerings don’t wind up in the Return to Sender bin.
Christmas isn’t the only time of year you need a good gift idea. There are also birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, and so on. To ensure you don’t forget gifts for grandma or any other important person in your circle, create a master list of names of everyone you’ll need to give a gift to. Keep this list someplace where you’ll see it regularly, such as on the fridge. Another option is to set up monthly alerts on your phone. Messages can read something like ‘Did you get a present for Mom yet?’ When you have more advanced warning, you’ll feel less stressed about shopping, and have more time to find just the right thing.
Stop checking your Instagram feed every two seconds and listen to what your family members and friends are saying. When they mention something they wish they had or are interested in trying out, jot down a quick note so you can use it as a starting point for their next gift.
Snooping is sometimes acceptable, such as when you’re hunting down gift ideas. Check out what the gift recipient has on their Pinterest page and other social media. Take a good look around their pad. Maybe they’ve got a penchant for frog-related décor, or perhaps their welcome mat is looking a little worn. People love it when you notice details, and they’ll appreciate the thought and care that went into a personalized gift.
When you’re out with someone you need to buy a present for, do a little window-shopping along the way. Suss them out on anything that might appeal. Later on, you can return to the shop to pick up one of the items they showed interest in.
You Can Always Ask
All this snooping and nudging is great, but it’s totally fine to ask too. This is especially true if you’re at a loss. Because it can be awkward for the other person, use less pointed phrasing, such as, ‘Hey, I’m out shopping. Wondering if you’re more into cooking, mountain biking or chainsaw carving?’
It’s Not About You
A lot of people think it’s lame or insincere to offer a gift that was explicitly asked for. Wrong. This is about them, not you. Focus on the recipient’s wants and needs, not your own ideas about style. In short, if your uncle Joe loves tacky lawn ornaments, get him one, and watch his face light up.
If the gift is for someone who lives outside of your area, consider an item that is a local specialty, such as driftwood art or New England maple candy. This is especially appealing if the article is something they can’t get where they are.
It Doesn’t Have to Last Forever
Rather than stress over offering something so special and unique, the receiver will definitely keep it for the rest of their life, consider something they’ll use right now. Food, wine, and flowers are all great gifts, and they won’t clutter up their living room shelves forevermore.
Use the Internet
As a last resort, opt for online shopping and check out a couple of Bestseller lists. You can search in specific categories such as electronics or jewelry, and Amazon has a Most Wished For list. It’s not ideal, but at least you have a shot at getting it right.
What Not to Buy
What you don’t want to do is offer anything that’s too personal (underwear) or embarrassing (fake dog poop), or high-maintenance (a Saint Bernard puppy) unless you are utterly, completely, totally certain they will enjoy such a thing. This is especially important to keep in mind if the gift exchange will be happening in front of a crowd.
Adopt the Attitude of the Platitude
Yes, it’s true that ’it’s the thought that counts’ is a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Creativity is what matters, not dollars spent. And the very best gift may not be a physical object at all. It may simply be the gift of your time.
Armed with these tips, you can attend your next gift-giving event with confidence.