How To Give Great Gifts To Just About Anyone

How do you give great gifts? Well, it's not just about giving them something from their gift list! Click through for gift ideas nobody else has thought of and gift-giving tips that will help with anniversaries and birthdays, too!In addition to championship level cheese-eating and Thriller-dancing, I like to think that I know how to give great gifts.

I am totally the friend who makes note of the salt and pepper shakers you liked so much at that restaurant, finds a pair and then gives them to you for your birthday three years later. (And devotedly hopes that you remember that you liked them and aren’t kind of creeped out by my insane memory)

How do you give great gifts?

You give amazing gifts by listening

The truly awesome gift does not come off of Christmas Wish List. It’s the thing that your friend mentioned in passing several times or that you always see them fawning over when you’re out shopping. It’s the sort of thing that they mention liking but can’t justify purchasing when there are bills to be paid and cars that need repairs. It’s the sort of thing that you know will bring them joy.

You buy awesome gifts by shopping year round

But I’m sure you already know this, right? Riiiiight? Waiting to shop until it’s holiday season is wicked stressful. Wading through seas of women in cat sweatshirts? Not how I want to spend my winter weekends.

So if gift giving inspiration strikes you in August, buy the gift then, for Pete’s sake! If you’re on a summer road trip and your friend is coveting some turquoise in New Mexico, buy the necklace and stash it till Christmas. Aren’t you the clever one?

You get personal

Now, I’m not one to sneeze in the face of pillar candles or a basket of scented bath things, buuuuut I also wouldn’t shriek “Wow! You know me so well!” to the giver of these gifts. Give the people in your life something that shows them you know who they are and what they’re about – an aerial map of a city where they used to live or an artist’s sketch of their childhood home.

Or what about one of those custom-made photo albums that have the photos printed on the page? Or Indian cooking classes for your friend who spent a year in Mumbai? Or tickets to a reading with their favorite author?

You resist the urge to give them gifts that you’d like

I know it’s incredibly tempting to give your lovely but fashion-challenged cousin a gift card to Forever 21. Or give your technologically backward grandma a digital camera.

But gift giving isn’t about you and the life you think these people are missing. It’s about giving them something that they want, something that will make them happy. So you best not be buying me a hair straightener or a Williams Sonoma gift card because they will gather dust and lead me to question our friendship.

You give wonderful gifts by embracing the power of the small gift

For her 30th birthday, I gave my BFF a novelty eraser and $5. And she loved it! Really! But before you decide that you don’t ever want to be my friend, you should know that the eraser looked like a delete button (we’re both Internet-obsessed) and the five dollars was
a) brand new from the bank
b) featured a home-made sticker

c) was a payoff on a long held bet/inside joke.

And I’m pretty sure that the BFF was more touched by my $6 worth of presents than the various picture frames/gift cards/novelty socks that she got.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

You consider the gift of non-stuff

If you are attempting to give a gift to someone over the age of 26 who has a ‘real job,’ there’s a pretty good chance that if they want something? They just buy it. And really, who needs another decorative bowl/set of cuff links/DVD?

Non-stuff is more memorable and it doesn’t need dusting. Good non-stuff gifts include airplane tickets, gift certificates for spa services, a night at a Bed and Breakfast, classes or lessons, tickets to a sporting event or concert or donating to a cause that’s important to them. Added bonus: easy to wrap! 

If you don’t know what to get someone, ask their best friend

If you’re an aunt or parent or spouse and you truly have no idea what to get someone for the holidays, just ask their best friend. More likely than not, the BFF knows what your niece/girlfriend/wife has had her eye on! And then you can buy it and delight her with your thoughtfulness!

Now I want to hear from you! What’s your best gift-giving tip?

P.S. 23 life-improving gifts you should just buy for your damn self

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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  1. The Dame Intl

    These are great ideas and I think everyone needs to be reminded that gift giving is personal and should take thought, going to share this everywhere 🙂

  2. shawnblog

    Totally agree on all here. It turns my stomach when a family member insists I tell them what they should get me as a holiday gift. I mean, it's really nice that they're thinking of me. I certainly always want (and sometimes even NEED) stuff. But even those who taught me that "it's the thought that counts" in gift giving seem to be totally sucked into the advertising frenzy that begins the day after Thanksgiving. It's ridiculous and degrading to humanity.

  3. Darcie

    I still have the "delete" eraser, by the way…and I probably still have the $5!! HA!!!

  4. Jessica

    Thoughtful gifts are always very appreciated even if they are small. It shows that you haven't just chosen something at random. I do alot of diy-gifts; jams, candies, baked goods, crafts. It's usually a bigger hit with the recipient than you'd think. Last year I made a, to me, simple jam but added a dab of rum. The gift recipient still talks about that jam. It's the best appreciation you can get.

  5. mlom615

    Also, for friends who have causes very close to their heart, a charitable donation in their name can be a great gift. Especially for those who seem to have it all. (Just make sure it's a cause they're behind… i.e. don't give $100 to the Republican Party for your bleeding heart liberal homegirl.)

  6. Sophie @ Direct flights to Maldives

    I think I was just in time. I was going to buy gifts this weekend and thought of buying them what I like. I’m really glad that I read this blog and I’m going think very deeply on the gifts this time.

  7. Julia H. @ Live Young and Prosper

    Yes to all of these, especially the first two! For the first time this year, I made a point of keeping running gift idea lists for all my friends/family ever since the beginning of the year. Any time they mentioned or I thought of something that could make a good list, I made a note of it…and it made holiday shopping SO much easier!

  8. Izabelle

    I like to think of myself as an awesome gift giver. I was trained well though–my sister is THE BEST. i might say I want something in passing, not realizing she was paying attention. Six months later, Christmas time, BAM IT'S UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE. I try to do the same, I go for the useful/sentimental gifts over generic pretty looking gifts.

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