If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s being a good gift giver. I’ve never given a generic gift basket in my life—even when I worked at a lotion shop in the mall and gift baskets were all around me. And I don’t plan on starting anytime soon.
For me, finding the perfect gift for every person on my list is the best part about the holidays. I start early, do my research, shop around for good prices and always ask myself a series of questions before I purchase: Would they buy this for themselves? Will they actually use this? Will it make them happy? Will it show them that I “get” them? If the answer is “yes” to any (or hopefully all) of these questions, then it’s probably a pretty good gift.
I also believe that anyone can become a good gift giver—with just a little initiative and creativity. Even people like my boyfriend who swear up and down that shopping freaks them out and they just don’t know how to do it. So before you punt and buy socks or that cheese ball (again), you should at least try and do a little better. Here are some tips from my personal arsenal that will hopefully help you step up your gift giving game.
Seems easy enough, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. Most of us give away hints about what we want—some on purpose, some not—in everyday conversations. “No, I haven’t read that book yet, but I want to.” “I love that store!” “You know what I could really use…”
Mo Money, Mo Problems
“He’s spending $100 on me, so I have to spend at least $100 on him, right?” Wrong. It should be about the quality of the gift, not the price tag. Don’t get caught up on price matching or you might miss out on a truly great gift. If you happen upon a never-been-opened copy of their favorite record at yard sale for $2 and you know they don’t have it on vinyl, that trumps most things you’d spend more on. Trust me.
That Extra Mile (Or in this Case—Dollar)
Even the most generic gifts can become great if you’re willing to go an extra step. Personalizing things like tote bags, wine glasses, even football jerseys, take them from “just a gift” to “just for you.” A lot of stores—like Pizzaz in Gulf Breeze—offer monogramming in store, so you don’t even have to go very far out of your way.
Don’t be afraid to give vintage finds as gifts—if they are really good. Nobody wants to unwrap a random used t-shirt Christmas morning. But most people would be more than happy to unwrap a vintage ‘80s tour t-shirt from their favorite pop star. Or a used first edition copy of their favorite book found on eBay. If it’s a great gift, nobody will care if you had to knock a little dust off of it.
Technology Is Your Friend
Don’t be scared to snoop around online and see if anybody on your list has an Amazon Wish List or Pinterest board dedicated to things they want. I’ve heard some people call this “cheating,” but I think it’s just smart. They wouldn’t take the time to “pin” it if they didn’t really like it, so why not take a peek? Whether you shop directly from these lists or just use it as “research” is up to you. It’s really no different from a wedding gift registry if you think about it.
Sometimes the best gifts can’t be bought, they have to be made. If your mom has always hinted about wanting a scrapbook of your school photos, you should make her one. There’s probably nothing you can buy her that will top it. And in a lot of cases—it really is the thought that counts and nothing shows thoughtfulness more than handmade gifts. So don’t be shy about busting out your hot glue gun or knitting skills.
A few small gifts can have a bigger impact than one larger ticket item—especially if you can’t afford a big, pricey gift. For example a set of stationery, a nice pen and a book of stamps make a perfect gift if you’ve got a paper lover on your list. Random items thrown together just to fill up a gift bag, often give themselves away; so just make sure if you’re thinking small you’re actually thinking. A coffee mug and bottle of wine is weird, but a coffee mug and bag of decent coffee works.
Don’t Give To Get
I hate when I hear people say things like “She didn’t get me anything last year, so I’m not getting her anything this year.” Thinking about gift giving that way completely misses the point. You should give gifts because you want to, not because you want something back in return. So if you see something that’s just perfect for someone in your life, just get it. The fact that you made them happy can be your gift—so cliché, I know. But it’s still true.