How to Not Suck at Gift Giving

They say it’s better to give than to receive. I love giving gifts, it’s fun, enjoyable for me, and I like to show people I think and care about them.

Receiving gifts though? Not so much.

It’s not that I don’t like getting gifts (who doesn’t?) but I am terrible at containing my awkward “why did you think this would be something I wanted?” face and it’s all downhill from there. I try and tell them how much I like it but in the end I can only think of all the better uses for the money spent on this model boat or ugly sweater, namely feeding African children, saving the rainforest, or lots and lots of booze.

So here I am, the day before Christmas Eve, to give you a couple of guidelines for the upcoming Christmas season. Though I wouldn’t say I have a 100% track record, I am positive I’m within the upper echelon of gift givers. And it’s because I follow these rules:

1) Get something useful.
A gift that is useful is a gift that keeps on giving. Every time they pick up or use the gift you got them, they will be reminded of you and how thoughtful you were. I like to give gifts that sit out in the open, or are used frequently. I can also tell you from experience that someone will be a lot more excited about something that they can actually use (and presumably need) than taking a shot in the dark with something else.

2) Listen.
Most people don’t even mean to drop hints about what they want, but if you just listen to them, getting a gift that someone actually wants is incredibly easy. People complain about things all the time, “God, I wish I had a better corkscrew,” “Man, the batteries for my xBox controller dies in less than an hour,” or “Ugh, I can NEVER find my keys!” All you have to do is listen to them, and know that what they really NEED is a cool new corkscrew, rechargeable batteries, or a key finder. Easy.

3) Take a look around.
Are you ever in their personal space, either home, work, or car? Take a look around and see if anything needs to be replaced or upgraded. Do they open beers with the kitchen counter? Get them a bottle opener. Do they have a ton of paperwork on their desk? Get them a file organizer. Does their car smell? Get them Febreeze. Kidding! But how about a interior car wash certificate at a nearby car wash or a decorative car freshener? Finding the perfect gift is like looking for clues about people. It’s all out in the open, all you have to do is spot the clues.

4) Exploit the guilty pleasure.
Everyone has a guilty pleasure. They like a band that no one else does, or loves to watch Disney movies, or loves reading Twilight. They like it, but would never be caught dead buying something that feeds their minor obsession with vampires and werewolves. I, for one, love this piece of graphic art that is a map of Seattle. Never would I have spent money to buy it, but a good friend bought it for me and I love it! It’s about reading people and understanding what they actually want, and nobody wants anything more than their guilty pleasure. Massages, professional cleaning services, and car detailing gifts work particularly well.

5) Run the idea by someone who knows what they’re doing.
Not sure if the porcelain hummingbird is a good anniversary gift? Ask someone! (It’s not). You can easily take a picture of it and send it to someone, or if you can wrangle someone into it, ask them to come shopping with you. It’s much better to get a second opinion before making any big decisions, and gifts convey a lot of meaning, depending on what you get them. Just as you think before speaking, you should run a gift idea by someone before buying. Of course, the final choice will always be yours, but it is always a good idea to get a second opinion on things.

6) Wrap the present.
I’ve been kinda shitty about it this year, but make sure to wrap your presents! Part of the allure of getting a present is holding it in your hands and not knowing what’s inside. Don’t skimp on the final (and possibly most important) part of giving a present this year by not wrapping it. A shitty gift can be masked (at least, until it’s opened) by some sweet wrapping.

So that’s that. Follow these rules and you will become the next gift savant, guaranteed! (And of course, it doesn’t need to be said, NEVER BUY SOMEONE A GIFT CARD!)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Yu Live, Yu Learn

Photo from here.


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