Gift advice for finding that almost mythical "perfect gift" is what everyone wants yet the answer is often elusive.
Maybe you have had that moment, at sometime in your life, when you received a totally perfect, unexpected and memorable gift.
It was unexpected as it wasn't something you even know you wanted - until it was their in your hands.
If you have had such a moment you will remember it. Such moments are rare and special.
Many of us attempt to give gifts that will create just such a moment for the person we are giving to. But to achieve this is not easy and is not generally a realistic goal when buying people gifts.
So the real question is how to get something that’s appropriate, and, hopefully, will be gratefully received.
Gift advice for when you wonder, "What on earth can I get them?"
I doubt there is anyone reading this who has never had this dilemma, possibly more than once each Christmas season as well as at other times during the year. You know how it goes…
You make a list of people you need to get a gift for
For some you know exactly what they’ll like, so you get their gifts first, and tick their names off your list. These are usually children or family members who have made wish lists.
Next you get gifts for others you know well because they tend to like the same things as you.
Then there are those names which get left until last every time because you have no idea what to get them. Very often these are also men.
Realistic gift advice is hard to find. There are various online sites which profess to offer the perfect gifts for him, for her, for teens... etc but all they are really doing is re-categorising what they are selling.
In reality the gift that's appropriate for one person's boyfriend wouldn't suit the next one. Gift advice has to be focused at a more personal level to be useful.
Wish Lists as gift advice
Wish lists at times such as Christmas can be a mine of useful information.
Those letters we wrote to Santa as children were wish lists - gift advice for our parents to find out what we’d like for Christmas.
It has long been acceptable to create such a list for wedding gifts for decades. It has only really become acceptable for other occasions if done within families.
Some families create wish lists for special occasions. There are now several online sites where these can be kept so that others can access them.
These can make gift buying so much simpler and at least you can be sure the gift will be appreciated. Yet all too often those who make wish lists aren't the most difficult to buy for. It's the people who never get around to making such a list who give we gift buyers headaches!
These days it seems that many children will make a list of wants often by flicking through a toy catalogue - mine used to. That’s not to say I always approved of their choices but they made their wishes clear.
But not all families use wish lists. Also, even if they have a wish list you don’t have to choose to give them something that’s on it! A wish list isn’t a list of demands but a guide for those who don’t know what else to get or who choose to use it.
Gift Advice on money or gift vouchers?
Very often teenagers only ever want money. This often feels an impersonal gift to give so why not find an original way to package it such as in a special box.
Although adults and small children usually like the surprise of opening gifts, to a teen cash is about as exciting as it gets - unless of course you are wealthy enough to buy them the car they dream of!
The same applies if you buy a gift card for a close friend. Use your inventiveness to package it in an unusual way.
WARNING - Less is more
Something which I have been in the habit of doing in the past is to carefully equalise what I spend on certain family members.
For instance, I might buy each of my brothers a sweater. I manage to buy one sweater at a discount so feel I have spent more on one brother than the other and that’s not fair. So, in order to treat them equally, I buy a small gift voucher to go with the discounted sweater making the value of my brothers' gifts the same.
BUT market research has shown that we need to be careful if adding little top-up gifts to the main one. Adding small items often actually reduces the perceived value of the item.
In the research subjects were told that fines were to be handed out to people for littering. One group were to be given $750 fines. A second group were to be given $750 fines plus 2 hours community service.
The results showed that the $750 fines plus 2 hours community service were regarded as less severe than the $750 fines alone!
With only a figure of $750 to focus on, the subjects in the experiment considered this to be a hefty fine.
Those who were told the punishment was 2 hours community service plus the $750 fine focused on the fact that the community service was only a mere two hours and so easily doable. They then failed to pay much attention to the $750 part of the fine.
Most of us find the men in our lives the most difficult to buy for. This is often because they have disposable income and tend to buy themselves the things they really need or want as they go along.
On the other hand, men are often not as bothered about receiving gifts as women. They may be quite happy to receive clothing such as socks, shirts, underwear - provided they are given by family members and such gifts are appropriate. Often they are reluctant to shop for such items for themselves.
Giving someone the same gift every year is not necessarily a bad thing. My mother used to give my husband the latest Dick Francis novel every Christmas and he would have been disappointed not to have received it.
Some suggestive gift advice
Make mental notes throughout the year if they mention things they’d like. Get to know their interests.
NOTE if someone has a specialised hobby - let’s take the example of coin collecting - they have probably reached an advanced stage in their knowledge. Therefore giving them something like “The Beginners Guide to Coin Collecting” isn’t very appropriate. Only get something relating to a hobby if you know there’s something in particular they need that relates to it.
Give them tickets for something you know they’d enjoy - the cinema, an experience, etc.
Book or music vouchers
Give a voucher for a beauty treatment - manicure, massage, reflexology session, Indian head massage etc. provided these are things you know they’d like. Or maybe a garden centre voucher if they are keen gardeners.
If you have no money you can always give close family or friends gifts of your time by creating a book of special vouchers. This site has many suggestions for homemade printed gifts such as these.
If you are good at making a particular item such as cookies or sweets then you could give them, beautifully packaged of course. Part of the value of the gift is in the time and trouble you took creating it.
Such gifts are ideal for those you don’t know very well such as the boss.
Gifts of special foods they wouldn't normally buy for everyday yet you know they'll enjoy or bottles of drink (as long as they're not teetotal) are always a good idea if you haven't been able to come up with anything else. You can be sure that food and drink items will be used. By special foods I mean things such as whisky marmalade, luxury pates, chocolate panettone and so on.
Please note that in the case of all the above suggestions you need to be certain that they would enjoy using any gift experience. There's no point giving great granny a spa experience if she has never been near one and has never expressed a wish to go!
How much should I spend?
Apart from parents and grandparents giving to their children, it is usual to give gifts to people of roughly the same value as those they give you.
For example, unless you have just won big on the lottery, you wouldn’t go out of your way to give someone (maybe other than family) a gift that costs far more than the one they give you. To do so creates embarrassment and discomfort.
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