Gift-giving can be a stressful endeavor, and being able to give gifts that people love is a surprisingly important talent. It all starts with the person you’re giving the gift to and making sure you’re getting them something they’ll truly love.

Understand Who You’re Giving To

The first step to great gift-giving is thinking about the person you’re giving the gift to. What do they enjoy? What hobbies and activities mean the most to them and how can you give them something meaningful?

Analyze the relationship you have with the person. How close are you? Is it for an occasion? If so, there might be a protocol – for example:

  • Graduates generally need money and housewarming gifts, so think about what a new graduate might need either going into or exiting college. They could probably use furniture, but a thoughtful gift could be a plant for their new home.
  • For weddings, anything from the registry would be appropriate to give. If you’re short on money, you can give something handmade, such as a tree ornament with “Mr. and Mrs.” on it, showing you’re happy for the new couple and support the marriage, or exchange your services as their gift instead of buying something.
  • For moving into new homes, plants can be a great choice. I was once given a bamboo plant when moving into a new apartment, symbolizing good luck and fortune, which meant the world to me. Gifts like this can show the recipient that you care deeply for them and want to see them succeed, all while keeping the cost low.

Some gifts don’t even require an occasion to give, but the gift should still be meaningful in some way to the person receiving the gift. Keep in mind what they like, dislike, and what their specific interests are.

Look at the things they enjoy. Do they like to read? Get them an early edition copy of their favorite book, or any book they might be interested in. Not sure about the genre? Take a look at their bookshelf or ask one of their close friends or family members.

If money is tight, you can always can cook dinner, make them something, or take them out to the park or coffee shop and enjoy the time you spend with that person. Time together can be a gift in itself.

Gifts for Strangers

For someone you might not know as well or don’t know what to get, a gift card to a popular store or restaurant can a great solution. As Cheryl S. Grant of Reader’s Digest said, “in a recent poll of over 7,000 Black Friday shoppers, 39% said the recipient they were shopping for was ‘picky.’ So save yourself the second guess and give a gift card to a favorite store.”

This way you’re not obligated to try and figure out their size, what shirt they would wear the most, or overspend on something they might not like. Giving a gift card can seem non-personalized, but for many people, it’s just as valuable as a physical gift.

For someone with specific interests, you can play off those interests by getting them a gift in that category.

Thought Over Price

Still not sure what to get? Don’t immediately jump for something expensive. The best gifts given are the ones that carry meaning, so consider what you know about a person, your price range, and how crafty you’re willing to be.

Tiffanie Wen of the BBC says “Spending more does not always guarantee a well-received gift.” It’s surprisingly easy to spend money on a gift but put no thought into it. Consider hobbies, favorite sports teams, outdoor activities they enjoy, and what they like in general.

You might just make your gift receiver happier by foregoing the expensive watch and sharing a picture of you and them in a frame.

When buying gifts for people, it really is the thought that counts.


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