Sunday, December 27, 2015

5 Tips for Giving Gifts

I had been planning on writing for the past couple of weeks a small gift-buying guide to help people out. These plans were reaffirmed when I read about my ISFJ personality today at church. It says, “When it comes to gift-giving, ISFJs have no equal, using their imagination and natural sensitivity to express their generosity in ways that touch the hearts of their recipients.”

Just an hour after reading that, a good friend texted me how much she loved her birthday/Christmas present. She said it was “seriously the perfect gift.”

I’ve been complimented many times in my life on my ability to give the best gifts. I don’t know if it can be taught (I don’t say that to toot my own horn; I say it because some people seem to really struggle with it). But I thought I should at least try and share some of my gift-giving strategies in a few simple steps.

1. Listen Carefully

This strategy works especially well when you spend a lot of time with someone or spend a lot of time talking to somebody. It takes a keen ear and a good memory. But you need to be listening all year long. You’ll hear people tell you about what things they like (or don’t like). People love to talk about their favorite stores to shop at, things to eat, and what they’d buy if they had a lot of money.

Not only that, but people will tell you what they need without really saying it. Make it a habit to really listen when your friends and loved ones are with you. For example, perhaps a friend says she really wants to get organized. Or more specifically, she wants to organize a closet. Cool! There’s so many things you can do with that. What kind of organizers can you get them that you like to use? Do they have a filing cabinet? Can you wander around the Container Store when you hang out, and see what things stand out to them? Could you just get them a gift card to the Container Store, or be creative and give them a coupon for “three hours of closet organizing assistance”?

Another example is that my roommate mentioned in passing that she needed more workout tops. I went to Old Navy to find something for her, but the selection wasn’t awesome, and I wasn’t sure what she would like the best. So I got her a gift card and specified that it was for new workout clothes.

Listen to what people like, what’s important to them, and what they need. They’ll tell you more than you could ever come up with.

2. Take Note

Many people have a hard time remembering things others say. Do what I do. Start a new Note on your phone titled, “Gift Ideas.” And keep a list of people!

While I was in my last relationship, I had an ongoing list of gift ideas for him. I have to keep this kind of list because birthdays, Valentine’s, anniversaries, and Christmas. I put a variety of ideas on there, regardless of price, because you never know what kind of financial resources you’ll have. So “Brian Regan tickets” stayed on that list for the day when I’d be able to afford it. Alas, the relationship is over, and I never got him tickets for that. But I had plans to!

My dad is a type 2 diabetic. So when I see people making low-carb recipes online, or using low-carb products, I make a note of it in my phone. I bought him “Carbquik” for Christmas, which is a low carb mix kind of similar to Bisquick. It can be used for waffles, pancakes, pizza crust, biscuits, and more. To me, this is a gift that keeps giving because not only will he get several meals out of it, if he likes it, then he can buy more.


When you see something that reminds you of a friend or loved one, make a note of it. You won’t remember. Seriously. Write it down or type it in your phone.

3. Think About Them

Here are some questions you should answer to help you get the right gifts for people.
1) What are their hobbies?
2) What are their passions?
3) What things do they find beautiful or attractive?
4) What are their goals?
5) What is important to them? (What do they value?)

Answering these can help you focus your energy on getting something that they will use and appreciate. If you know what their hobbies are, you can ask yourself any variety of follow-up questions. If somebody likes reading, what do they like to read? What are their favorite books or authors? If somebody likes to watch movies, do they have a favorite director or type of movie? Do they enjoy going to the movies? If somebody likes working on their house, is there a certain tool or supply they need? If they have pets, would they enjoy something for their pet to use, like a toy or collar or sweater of some kind?

For example, my brother Jake is a total hippie. He is a creative, musical type. He spends his time playing guitar and singing. He likes to collect stones and be in nature. He is drawn to anything “natural” or “organic.” You can bet that if it says “tea tree” on it, he’ll be interested. He also enjoys yoga and is interested in spirituality, particularly Hindu. Now, he may be my brother, but we’re not especially close. I see him only a few times a year, and we don’t talk much in between. But I can answer those questions about him. So this year, I got him a “dream catcher making kit,” and a set of the 7 Chakra Stones. He was super excited about it!



I’m very easy to buy gifts for because I am so vocal about what I enjoy. All my waking moments are focused on fitness and health, reading, writing, or watching movies. How many things could you do with this? Seriously? You could get me a Groupon deal for some kind of gym. You could get me workout bottoms. You could get me a new sweat towel (I’ve had the same one for a decade). Any equipment that’s useful for running, especially in the cold (running gloves, a headband, etc.). With reading, you could get me a book by a favorite author, or a self-help book. If you know I’m trying to grow my business, maybe a book to help with that would be cool. If you know I like movies (and love popcorn and Coke Zero), maybe a refillable cup or popcorn bucket from a local theater would be a continuous, useful gift.

I’m not telling you these things about myself so you know what to get me for my birthday (ok maybe a little). I’m showing you that there are tons of directions you could go with each hobby or passion that somebody has. Just take what they like and break it down.

4. Do a Google Search

You knew this would be on here. If you’re stumped at step 3, you know what someone likes or enjoys but can’t think of a good gift related to those things, Google it! I went on Amazon for my friend’s birthday and searched for “Paul Rudd” because she loves him. It turns out that anything with him on it right now is super pricey. But then I saw an Anchorman channel 4 news mug. Paul Rudd was in that movie, and my friend works for a news network. A simple online search helped me find something very cool and personal for her.



5. Get Gift Cards

I think some people find gift cards impersonal or burdensome. But they’re not, if you get the right ones. My roommate, as I mentioned before, needed workout clothes, but I wanted her to pick her own, so I got her an Old Navy gift card. She also loves books and book stores, but I didn’t know which of her favorite author’s books she had already read. And we go to Kneaders almost every Saturday night for half off goodies. So I got her a gift card for Barnes and for Kneaders. Why not? It’s money for her to spend on something she’d like at these particular stores.

My brother Jared loves video games. I don’t know what games he wants. I’m not around him enough for that. He also likes to go out to eat because he has an aversion to leftovers. So I’m safe getting him a gift card for Game Stop and for any fast food place. Again, he can pick something he wants that he’d like.

I hope that helps! I usually stick with the first four steps and try to avoid step 5. Steps 1 and 2 are habits and things I’ve had for a very long time. But hopefully it’s easy enough for you to at least start to be conscious of and implement over the next year as you prepare for any birthday, celebration, or holiday. Happy gift giving!

What tips do YOU have for giving "the perfect" gift? Comment below!

2 comments:

Danica Holdaway said...

SUCH A GOOD POST. I finally started keeping a list on my phone this past year and it helped so much. I also ask Ryan to send me a list of links of things he would like to receive a few months before each major gifting day, and I make him diversify the list with cheap, medium, and expensive things. It's super helpful especially when his mom or my mom or siblings ask what to get him. I'm saving and sharing this post!

Ashlee Merback said...

This is all great advice! I love the idea to write it down throughout the year. I really hate giving check-the-box-type-gifts so these ideas are helpful! You are so great! To be a good gift giver really just translates as being a good friend: to listen, take note and pay attention to all the things that significant people in your life love. You are good at gifts because you are an amazing friend to those you choose to let in.