gift guide series: tips for thoughtful gifting

It’s pretty much standard at this point for influencers/bloggers to release gift guides around this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good gift guide and I really love a good gift (regardless of which side of it I’m on), but for some reason the thought of sharing gift guides felt a little icky to me. I took some time to think about why that was and I came up with a couple of reasons.

First, my family has never been big on gifts. We do give them, but we usually do one gift for each person from everyone, and more often than not they are either late and/or unwrapped. It’s not because we’re thoughtless or lazy; we just don’t put a lot of emphasis on them. Holidays for us are definitely more about quality time, and I like it that way (if you’re attending one of our family functions, feel free to come giftless but good luck trying to leave early.) Second, I have an interesting and perhaps unhealthy relationship with stuff. I’m sort of the opposite of a hoarder; I loathe clutter and I often will go on purges that result in me getting rid of things I shouldn’t and then a week later realizing I actually needed or wanted them. Whoops. Third, and related to #2, I hate the idea of giving gifts just for the sake of it. I want to give gifts that are thoughtful and useful to the person, and not something they are going to end up re-gifting or keeping out of obligation for a year before they inevitably throw it out or give it away.

All this to say that yes I will be doing gift guides, but 1) I will do my absolute best to make sure that they will allow you to give thoughtfully and not just to find placeholder gifts, and 2) before I actually get into recommendations, I want to give a few general tips for how you can make sure you are giving your loved ones gifts they actually want or need:

  1. Listen. If you’re listening for it, you’ll notice that people are constantly casually mentioning things they want or need. My future mother-in-law is particularly skilled at this and inspired me to start keeping a list in my phone notes of things people mention they want (year-round, not just at Christmas time). I highly recommend this! It not only results in giving your friend and family great gifts, it also shows you’re listening to them which makes them feel even more special and loved. And isn’t that the point?
  2. Use technology. If they have an Amazon wishlist, you can check to see if it’s public. Are they engaged? Check their registry. If there’s nothing publicly available, I’m not suggesting that you casually hijack your boss’ phone. But when it comes to your close family and significant other, sometimes it’s okay to be sneaky. If you’re on this level with them, sneak a peek in their amazon or liketoknowit app to check their wishlist. Just don’t poke around too much and spoil your own presents!
  3. Think outside the box. Sometimes the best gifts literally don’t fit in a box. Do a quick Google search of their favorite artists, comedians, or even podcasts to see if they have any upcoming shows in the area. Think about what other experiences they might enjoy – skydiving, massage, movie passes, a membership to a museum, etc.
  4. Ask. My fiancé gives fantastic gifts, and it’s not because he’s a mind reader. He always asks my sister what I want, and if she doesn’t know, he asks me (I’ll usually try and give him a couple of options so I don’t totally eliminate the element of surprise). I think there is less and less of a stigma around this, and I personally am all for it. I would one hundred percent rather receive something I want but know what it is than receive a surprise gift that I hate. So consult other people close to your giftee, and if they don’t know, consult the giftee themselves.
  5. Bigger is not always better. Finally, if you have no clue what to get and no way to figure it out, go small. It’s the thought that counts, and spending a lot of money on a gift the recipient ends up not liking benefits no one. I will be doing a gift guide on last-resort generic gifts, but I think a neutral-scented candle, a nice bottle of wine (if they’re a wine drinker) or a classic simple picture frame are all good options, and there’s also no shame in a gift card.

And that’s it! I hope this helps you to give thoughtfully this year. Look out for part two of my gift guide series next week.

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