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Gift Guide: How to be a Good Gift Giver

I love giving gifts.  I love finding something that I know will be perfect and I definitely love when someone opens a gift I’ve given them and are excited about it. I am consistently told by friends that I am a good gift giver and told how difficult they find it to be.  So I decided to think about my gift giving process and share some of the things that I feel are the most important.


Giving isn’t just for special occasions

I give gifts throughout the year and for no special occasion; this is something I learned from my mom.  She taught me that gifts aren’t just about birthdays or holidays; that the point of a gift is to let the person know that you’re thinking about them and you wanted to give them a little joy.  These gifts usually aren’t large or expensive but are something that they might need or just something that you thought would make them smile.  For example, my husband got a new car, which he will work out of, so I went out and got him accessories for his car like a charging cord, microfiber cloths (for cleaning his hands) and other small things.  Sure, he could buy all these things himself but its nice to get a little something and also to create a mini-celebration.

Another aspect of this is that you can find something but want to give it for a specific occasion that may be a ways off ; BUY IT ANYWAY if you’re sure because you don’t want to be kicking yourself later when its sold out.  All of us know the feeling!  I usually don’t buy things for an occasion that is outside of a return window just in case  I find something better; but, these days, most stores have at least 90-day return windows (except for special items like electronics) so its not usually a problem.

Listen + Keep a List

People give you clues all the time about things that they are interested in.  Use that information to get ideas for good gifts.  They might tell you outright that they want/need something or they might not even be intentionally talking about a gift.  Usually the things they are mentioning in passing are the smaller gifts that I give randomly and the ones they actually talk about are bigger items that I save for special occasions.  I mentally keep a gift list but my husband told me that he keeps a physical list so that he can easily refer back to it when he needs. He actually uses his ‘notes’ app to keep his gift lists in so he always has them with him.

Having a gift list is a great idea because you can write down general interests to use for inspiration or for actual gift ideas.  Its also helpful because sometimes you get a great idea for a gift but its not near a birthday or holiday and it may be too big a gift just to spring on someone.  I know I said I give gifts throughout the year but giving bigger gifts that often can get a little expensive!

make a list!

Don’t procrastinate

The likelihood of you finding a great gift at the last minute is pretty low.  Sometimes you luck out and find the absolute perfect thing by chance but those times are few and far between!   I usually decide what I want to get at least 3 weeks in advance and then give myself that time to go out and purchase it because finding exactly what I want can sometimes prove to be a little difficult.  This all depends on who I’m purchasing for; kids are usually pretty easy and I don’t need that much time.  But if I’m making a gift basket or looking for something specific, I give myself more time.  Also, if its something that I’m not sure they may already have or that it might not fit, I always include a gift receipt.

think about what you would want …

… if you had the same interests as who you’re buying for.  Let me explain.

I have a friend who’s super into working out.  So first I think about all the things I could possibly need if I shared the same interest – workout clothes, a gym bag, toiletry bag, moisture absorbent towel, water bottle, after-workout snacks, meal prep items or fitness equipment.  Then I start marking off things that would be too difficult to buy or that she probably has plenty of – work out clothes, gym bag, workout towel, water bottle.  Clothes are difficult unless its something that doesn’t need to fit perfectly or is a very distinct/trendy piece.  You also don’t want to add clutter to their house (who else has a million water bottles?) so unless they’ve specifically mentioned that they need a new item like that – steer clear.
 
gift item illimination

That leaves me with toiletry bag, after-workout snacks, fitness equipment and meal prep items.  I also know she loves beauty products so I might get a cute toiletry bag and fill it with some travel-sized products that she could use after her workout.  As for meal prep items, I could get her a cool travel bag that’s specifically made for meal prepping, a snack tube to stash in her gym bag or some cool travel containers.

My friend is a mother of three crazy children, works a full-time job and is also going back to school – so getting to the gym might become difficult for her and getting something that would enable her to get a good workout in at home might be a good idea!  Food is alway a good option but I would also have to consider what her nutrition goals are – for example, I always thought she was on a keto/high fat diet but just the other day she told me she was focusing on protein to build muscle.  This is super important and so if I were going to go the food route – I might pay for a few months of a cool food delivery service and let her choose what she wants.  That way its still a gift but its tailored to her needs.  Which leads me to ….

food is always good!

Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, appreciates not having to cook!  Food is the perfect gift to bring to someone who’s been sick, had a baby or as a hostess gift.  Baked goods, jams, fresh pastas, and alcohol are some of my favorite ideas for food gifting.

Sharing something that you find delicious is fun because it is gifting an experience as well.  Just make sure to consider any diet restrictions they might have and their tastes – you don’t want to give peanut brittle to someone with an allergy or wine to someone who doesn’t care for it.

Its always fun to create a little basket of things that go together.  A hot cocoa basket, a get well basket, and a mixed drink basket are all fun ideas that you can quickly throw together.   

get well basket

Gifting experiences

I am a big fan of gifting experiences.  Giving massages to a local day spa is my favorite for expectant mothers and friends of mine that have been having a rough time.  Fancy mani/pedis, blow-outs and facials are also good ideas for those who like beauty treatments.  Wine tasting tours, fishing trips, baking/cooking and crafts classes and horse-backing riding adventures are are great ideas that I’ve given or received.  Obviously this kind of gift has to be planned, so it might not be a surprise but it’ll still be fun!  Just make sure to do your research and insure that the place isn’t shady or dangerous.

Homemade gifts are great

To be clear, homemade doesn’t mean that everything is made from scratch; it can also mean that, instead of buying a pre-made gift basket, you buy all the components separately and then put them together yourself.  I did this for a good friend who helped me out with my wedding.  I wanted to get her spa gift basket but didn’t like how most of them looked or what was in them.  So I made my own.  I didn’t hand make bath products, I bought a bath scrub and transferred it into a pretty jar with a scoop, added a dry brush and natural sponge and some hand and foot lotions and then put them in a cool basket and wrapped them up.  This way I had control of the aesthetic of the gift and also gave her products from different sources instead of just one brand.
spa basket product mix

Wrapping matters

Very seldom do I hand someone a gift in a bag that’s from the store I bought it at.  I’m all for gift bags because sometimes an item is just too big or irregularly shaped to be wrapped.  As for wrapping gifts, I like to stick to plain brown or white butcher’s paper tied up with strings.  Hell, in a pinch I’ve even used a brown paper market bag that I cut up and used as wrapping.  It keeps it simple but can easily be elevated by inserting a flower or decorative tag or bow.
brown paper packages tied up with strings

Don’t fear the gift card

A lot of people think that giving a gift card means you’re lazy or that you didn’t put any thought into the gift but I disagree.  Sure it can mean those things but as a person that’s been told I’m hard to buy for – a gift card is always welcomed.  As long as you put thought into where you’re giving them a card to – if they’re not into sports and you give them a gift card to a sporting goods store, what’s the point?? They’ll never use it.  If they’re super into beauty products a gift card to a beauty store is going to be perfect.  These days you can get gift cards for just about everything (most large markets have a gift card kiosk) but my favorite stores to give gift cards to are Target, Sephora, Amazon, iTunes, Starbucks and the Visa gift card that can be used like a debit card.
favorite gift cards

Be a good gift receiver

Send ‘Thank You’ notes or call the person after you’ve had a chance to use the gift you received!  Of course we all say thank you when we initially receive a gift but saying thank you once you’ve used it reminds the person that they made you happy.  Gift giving is a two-way street; the receiver gets joy from the gift and the giver gets joy from the receiver’s enjoyment of the gift.  So don’t deny them their joy in your enjoyment!  I keep a stash of blank ‘thank you’ cards in my desk for this very reason.  When writing a ‘thank you’ note, let them know how you enjoyed the gift.  This is especially true when you receive a gift card; let them know what you got with the card. I think that will help us all get over the negative stigma of giving gift cards.
gartner studios thank you card


So I guess that’s it. I could go on and on about this but those are the main things that I consider when buying gifts.  I hope they help you next time you go to give someone a gift or remind you to send out a thank you and complete the gift giving circle.

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Comments (1)

  1. Great post! Nothing is more nerve wrecking than being a bad gift giver and scouring Target for a halfway decent gift to bring to the party.