How to Give the Perfect Gift This Holiday Season
Gift-giving can be a mildly stressful, sometimes downright chaotic, holiday chore. Whether we are a good gifter or not, we all generally strive to be. We want to feel the joy in our hearts when someone opens their gift and is truly surprised, truly excited, and actually likes their gift.
Here are my top tips to making sure you give the best gifts so that you and everyone on your list this year is satisfied!
1. If someone gave you a list of things they'd like, it's wise to stick to that list. It may not feel very thoughtful, and it may almost feel like a bit of a cheat. But according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, gift givers often believe their off-list gifts will be well-received, when in reality the person receiving the gift always said that they wished the person had just stuck to the list. Conversely, try to listen to any hints these people may drop while they're around you for things they may want or need. The best place to find out what a person wants is from the person themselves.
2. Think that adding a little $10 gift card for Starbucks or iTunes with your bigger gift will make it that much better (especially if it goes well with your bigger gift)? Think again! Studies show that bundling a big, generous present with a little extra “stuffer” actually detracts from the appreciation of your big gift. Researchers discovered that recipients subconsciously “average the values of the individual components when forming an impression of the bundle overall,” says Kimberlee Weaver, associate professor of marketing at Virginia Tech. So they actually value your present less if you bundle something big with several little things. If you're thinking of getting someone something big or expensive, don't try to couple it with something cheap. The same rule doesn't apply when giving several small gifts, such as in a gift basket.
3. Think of yourself! This might sound a little bit strange, but a recent study demonstrated that there was actually more appreciation for a gift when it reflected the giver's "true self", such as mixed tape with all of your favourite songs, or a keepsake that means a lot to you.
4. Give the same gift to several people. If you find a gift that is truly amazing, don't feel as though you can only give it to one of the people on your list. Just because you gave something to Mom and Sis, doesn't mean Dad and Bro wouldn't like it, too, as long as it's appropriate and especially if it is a particularly useful gift.
5. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Sometimes we focus so much on what we think the person will like, but we can also buy good gifts by thinking of what the person would likely buy for themselves. This is especially useful if you know the person well, or you've gone shopping with them in the past. This may not work as well for people you don't know as well, like a boss. Sometimes the gift doesn't need to be as unique as much as it needs to be useful.
6. Ask yourself, will they use it? This is something we often ask when gift-buying, but do we really think they'll use what we get them? This is especially true for any kind of complex device, program, or inconvenient gift. Giving someone a gift card to a restaurant that's an hour away but is very high-class may seem like a good idea, because gift givers tend to strive for extravagance; however, gift receivers prefer simplicity - get them a gift card to a store you know they go to a lot, or a less extravagant restaurant that's close by their house. Also, getting someone an intricate device that they don't know how to use may be a gesture that falls short.
7. Charitable donations are a thoughtful gift, but not always well-received. One study found that gift receivers would prefer a small, basic gift like a ballpoint pen, a travel mug or a USB flash drive than a donation to a charity in their name (speaks to a pretty sad state of our society, doesn't it?). With that being said, parents and close friends are the best people to give charitable donations to, especially if it is a charity they support, or a cause that is important to either them or you. When it comes to distant friends like coworkers, or spouses, it's best to avoid charitable donations, unless you're gifting donations strictly like I do (people have enough stuff, anyway, it's time they think of others!).
8. Be careful when giving money as a gift. To some people, money may send the wrong message, especially if you receive a heartfelt, homemade gift in return. While everyone loves getting cash, it might be misconstrued as a thoughtless gift. If you're going to give money, make sure it's appropriate - giving money to a child is one thing (money is the coolest thing in the world to them because CANDY), but giving money to your boss .. probably not a wise gift choice.
9. Making gifts hasn't gone out the window. One of my favourite gifts to this day was a homemade earring holder made with some lace fabric strung across a gorgeous oval frame. It probably cost a grand total of $10 to make, yet it is beautiful & I cherish it.
10. Gift an experience, rather than a possession. Many people have it all, or so it seems, and we have a hard time buying for these people. What do you get someone who has everything? I was in this situation a few years ago with my former employer. She was very wealthy and had everything she could ever need and more. However, she had been complaining that she hadn't been able to get a pedicure in months, so I got her a certificate for a pedicure/massage, which she used & loved! Other great options are golf memberships or passes, massage or spa days, concert tickets, etc.
11. Time is valuable, and sometimes thoughtful gifts (like the pedicure/massage for my employer) can backfire. She was very busy, which was part of the reason she hadn't gotten a pedicure in so long. The gift card easily could've sat, unused for a long time (thankfully, as a nanny I was able to watch the kids for her so she could take the time for herself). Rather, give them something that won't take much of their time up, or can fill up their dead time. For instance if you know someone who has a long commute, or is on the road a lot - get them an audio book to listen to during their travels. For the nerdy on your list, I loved Carl Sagan's A Pale Blue Dot audio book to listen to while I drove. If they're trying to learn a new language, an audio language course is a great gift idea.
12. If there's a person on your list who is a close friend, a family member or a significant other, why not gift them with an experience you can share together? Get concert tickets to a band you both enjoy, or to a sporting event. Showing an interest in spending more time together can be one of the most valuable gifts you can give, and it's something you can look forward to, together!
13. Last but not least, always include a message with the gift, whether it's in a short letter, or just written on a card. Composing a thoughtful message is an ideal time to bring up memories together, or just to say you appreciate them. Sometimes this message can make the whole gift more meaningful.
Using these tips, you should have no problem becoming an excellent gift giver!