6 Tips for the Gift-Giving Challenged

One of my very favorite things to do in the whole wide world is give gifts to others. I’m no Martha Stewart or *insert the name of any other famous and professional creative person here* but I do take lots of pride in coming up with gift ideas that seem like perfection.

We’re coming up on the holiday season and I am already seeing requests for ideas on Facebook that look something like this…

“What to buy for a 13-14 year old? Anyone?”

…so I think my advice might be useful to some of you out there, during the December holidays and year-round.

Of course, the easy answer for that specific category and most others is “gift cards.” I have no problem with gift cards, mind you: I do buy them for others on occasion and I have certainly had some memorable, post-birthday or post-Hanukkah days on which I create an awesome mall shopping spree for myself by spending a wallet full of gift cards provided by people who love me. Sometimes though, people fall back on gift cards because they really don’t want to buy them but they can’t think of anything else after trying really hard. I’ve got some other ideas to get your wheels turning:

1. LISTEN. This is, by far, my best gift-giving tip. Listen to your friends and family all the time, not only because two-way communication is very important but also because you will get clues that you can use for special occasions. If one of my loved ones mentions something that brings on an idea for a gift, I will either become obsessed and start looking for that thing right away (and possibly store it for months) or make good notes in my phone so when holiday or birthday time comes, I’m prepared. Some folks are onto me, though. I was talking to Momo yesterday and after I mentioned that I was off to my parents’ house to deliver one of the Maui Gold pineapples we had shipped home, she said “Awww…I want a pineapple! Wait! NO I DON’T. NO I DON’T!” She knows me.

That was close, Momo. I ALMOST had one shipped to you.

2. Consider their interests and hobbies. This sounds like a no-brainer but I just keep going back to those general requests for gift ideas for any given demographic and feel like if you want to do more than a gift card, it’s easier than you think to create a gift that is more specialized. Do they like movies? Make them a movie bucket filled with popcorn, candy, and a DVD. Do they like beauty products? Fill a makeup bag with face masques, lotion, body wash, nail files, and other stuff in that category. Do they like to cook? Create a kitchen basket with utensils, food mixes, spices, your favorite recipes, and anything else you can think of. Do they like to read? How about a shoebox filled with a reading light, a bookmark, a mug, headphones, and maybe bookends? Do they like ice cream? How about a set of bowls and spoons with a topping assortment?

3. Shop Etsy. I adore Etsy for many reasons and have found some of the best gifts there. Not only am I supporting someone’s small business when I buy items through that site but I’m also giving a loved one something awesome that’s (usually) made by hand and is often personalized, with either their name or with some other customization that references a special “thing” between us. Another great thing about Etsy is that you can find great stuff at all price points, and I do mean ALL price points.

4. Frame a special picture. A picture really is worth a thousand words (sometimes more!) and I surround myself with photos all over my house to remind me of special people and great memories. A while back Liz and I were on our favorite secret beach and as we walked towards the setting sun, chatting our faces off, her middle daughter snapped one of my favorite pictures of us, ever. Liz put it in a cute frame for me and now it hangs on the wall right in front of my desk. LOVE.

5. Write a letter (or a list). I’m fresh off of my 50th Birthday Letter Writing Project and I can tell you from the response I got that a personal letter of gratitude is a very popular gift. I have also been on the receiving end: when I turned thirty, my sister gathered together an awesome scrapbook of letters from my loved ones and just a couple of weeks ago I received an amazing gift: a group of friends had a print ordered for me that contained fifty things they love about me. I treasure both of these things immensely. The bottom line is, people love to know that they are loved, and even why they are loved. A letter (or something similar!) that is deeply personal is, to me, way better than something from a store and I know I’m not alone.

6. Do onto others what they don’t want to do onto themselves. I know, I know, that is certainly a twisted version of the Golden Rule, but it works for gift-giving. Prime example: I hate gardening, and my friend Jen hates getting ready for Christmas. When I still lived in Chicago she came over and completely renovated the garden outside my front window for me, and I spent Christmas Eve at her house helping her clean and cook for her family celebration. A gift of service, especially if it’s something that you enjoy doing and they don’t, is always appreciated.

I could go on for days but those 6 tips should get your creative juices flowing. Remember, the best gifts are those that consider the interests and personality of the recipient, and when you put forth that effort you’ll see that it really is the thought that counts.

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