11 Steps To Make You The Best Gift Giver [For Any Occasion]

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If this time of year creates stress when you think about finding gifts for the loved ones and friends on your list, we are here to help. A bit of record-keeping, a little creativity and some advance planning throughout the year will go a long way in upping your gift-giving skills.

Here are eleven steps you can take to ease the process and please all the recipients on your list and become a better gift giver.

Be Organized

One of the best gift-giving helpers is an excel file or a spiral notebook!  Use this to create a multi-year, multi-person list. This is extremely helpful for looking back and remembering when you last gave a particular item, which will also trigger your memory about what gifts were exceptionally well-received.

Use your file to jot down gift ideas throughout the year for each person. Let your interactions trigger gift ideas, such as when the person compliments an item at the store or something you’ve purchased yourself. You may find yourself jotting things down months in advance, and even if the idea doesn’t hold throughout the year, it will help you come up with more good ideas!

Once you’ve created your list, work it by noting what gifts you’ve purchased, if they’ve been received, wrapped and shipped to the recipient. Even if you only have a handful of people on your list, recording what’s been done is a helpful step in easing your holiday stress.

In order to further personalize your gift-giving, if time allows, ship your purchases to yourself so that you can wrap them and send them to the recipient instead of mailing them directly from the merchant.

This personal touch helps avoid vendor shipping mistakes that might reveal your purchase price or fail to include your gift message and gives you a chance to examine your chosen gift to assure it is exactly what you expected when you paid for it.

Make Purchases Throughout the Year

Take advantage of after-season sales, outlet shopping and special offers by making holiday purchases throughout the year. Be sure to record these on your list!  Believe it or not, once you make and pay for the item and hide it away, you might forget about it!

It’s also a good idea to pick up some neutral, oft-used items as gifts if you spy an exceptional deal or opportunity. Things that fit this category may include handbags, picture frames, kitchen or tabletop items. You have a lot of time to take advantage of holiday sales well before Christmas if you are on the lookout!

This approach is also a great way to shop local and support your neighborhood shops. In addition, explore some not-so-traditional places for gifts by browsing antique stores and estate sales. They are a great source for unique items.

Related: The 25 Best Holiday Gifts For College Students

Start Your Own Gift-Giving Traditions

Consider adding a favorite item to your gift list for individual recipients. Special socks, a favorite perfume, a unique candle, a type of book are all things that you can give each year and still come up with a special surprise. Choosing an item that is not expensive will allow you to continue the tradition year after year and allow you room in your budget to also purchase a contemporary item for your loved one.

If your recipient has a particular hobby, love or interest, consider starting a collection that you can add to each year. If the person is a writer, consider a unique old book. If the person likes handcrafted items, a glass paperweight might be something they’d be interested in collecting. A person who enjoys cooking might enjoy receiving a special knife each year.

Handcrafted or homemade items are perfect for creating gift-giving traditions. Homemade candy and holiday cookies fit the bill here, but also sharing favorite family recipes, a collection of photos or a personalized calendar are all items that can be given in a unique manner year over year. Thankfully, there are also lots of handcrafted types of gifts on Etsy that result in a unique, one-of-a-kind present.

Creating a gift-giving tradition is also an opportunity to take a traditional gift and ramp it up a notch either in uniqueness or quality. If it’s a tradition to give practical items like pajamas, then increase the gift factor by purchasing it at a favorite store or buying a special designer brand.

Be a Joyful Giver

Take some time to consider your personal gifting style. Is it more important to you to provide lots of smaller gifts for someone to open, or would you rather focus on a single luxe gift? Do you get joy out of providing your recipient with practical gifts that will make everyday life easier?  Do you like creating a theme approach for your gifts, such as focusing on the person’s hobbies, interests, or work/school life?

By determining your personal style, it will assist you in filling out your gift list and focusing on not only gifts your recipient will enjoy, but the type of gifts you will enjoy giving!  If it feels good to give a particular gift, your recipient will feel your enthusiasm and thoughtfulness, which will be greatly appreciated.

Related: ChatterSource Gift Guides 

Be a Good Listener

A great way to come up with the perfect gift for someone is to hone your listening skills!

In casual conversation, you will learn about any new interests, new favorite authors, travel plans and new Netflix favorites. All of this can lead you to gifts that sync well with your recipient’s current focus.

Also, take note of your recipients’ likes and dislikes throughout the year and note anything pertinent on that spreadsheet or notebook. If you are hearing a person speak about wanting to try a new restaurant or explore a new hobby, those are great hints for a gift such as a gift certificate for the new place or a gift of an introductory lesson for the hobby.

Even if it is a small gift, you know you won’t be giving them an unwanted gift!

Consider Experiences Instead of Material Items

Be sensitive to the opportunity to give an experience instead of a traditional item. Older individuals who have a house full of belongings will appreciate something more unique, such as a gift certificate to the theater, concert tickets or a sporting event in a post-COVID world. Under today’s social distancing restrictions, these gift opportunities are more limited, but future gifts could include memberships to local museums, galleries or botanical gardens.

Another valued gift is committing your own time as a part of the gift, especially for individuals you traditionally don’t get to see often. Providing an opportunity to spend personal time with a parent or adult child and share a gift together, such as a wine-tasting night out, special restaurant, craft project or gardening together will create a memorable gift.

Be Complete!

The extra steps you take with your gift can take it from good to great!  If you are buying a personal electronic item, add the engraving, the case or a music subscription. If you purchase an Alexa, add the Prime membership; if you purchase a book about a favorite sports team, add a logo item. If you are giving a gift card, consider purchasing a leather cardholder to hold the card.

Include what’s needed to get full enjoyment out of the gift!

Related: The 25 Best Christmas Gifts for Toddlers [That They’ll Love]

Know Your Recipient

You may have heard the advice to give something that you would like to receive yourself. This may work fine if the recipient is in your age group and shares your interests. The advice certainly doesn’t work well when you are providing gifts to younger and older friends and family. Remember to focus on the recipient’s wants and needs, not what you necessarily think they should have or like.

Better guidance would be to give something the person would not buy for themselves, but you know they would use. Many people hold back when it comes to treating themselves to something special, and this is where your personal knowledge of the person comes into play.

If you are purchasing clothing or shoes as a gift, make an effort to get the sizes correct. Not only does it save the inconvenience of a return, but it also avoids hurt feelings if you purchase something too large or too small, as we are all sensitive to sizing!

For those on your list that are younger or whose resources are limited, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them directly for some gift suggestions.

Consider Professional Services as a Gift

Professional and personal services create a fun giving opportunity. Not only do gifts allow someone to try a new service risk-free, but they have the added benefit of making life easier. Gifts can consist of housekeeping services by purchasing a gift certificate through a local firm or franchise, laundry services by getting a gift certificate at the local dry cleaners or laundromat, food or meal preparation services through a food vendor such as Omaha Steaks, Blue Apron or the local grocery store. Investigate diaper services too as a gift for new parents.

Personal services such as pedicures, haircuts, manicures, massages and spa treatments can be arranged through a local salon. You can also give club memberships along with items such as shaving supplies and electric toothbrushes. These memberships send replacements on a routine basis, so you are giving a gift that arrives all year! Plus, you can save on wrapping paper!

Another approach is to make the presentation of a gift card to a clothing store extra special by arranging for a personal shopper experience along with it. This can be done through many high-end department stores, such as Nordstrom, or by arranging for the individual to meet with a stylist. This can be a great gift for a milestone event.

Budget Guidelines

Most of us do not have the luxury of purchasing gifts without regard for expense; however, the best guidance for giving is to focus on value, not cost. If you consider what the value is to the recipient and feel secure in that, it will help you determine if that is the right gift and the right amount to spend.

Remember that many gifts have great sentimental value, even if the price tag is small. These can be something from a shared memory or a legacy gift such as a jewelry item from a family member.

In general, a great guideline to follow when choosing gifts is to do what feels good!

Be Sensitive to Family Dynamics

As many of us have experienced, families have complicated relationships, and friendships have their ups and downs. When choosing your gifts, consider the settings in which they will be opened. If within a group, it is natural for comparisons to occur, especially among siblings during the teenage years. This applies to your extended family too, it’s not the time to let your nephews learn your niece is really your favorite!


Even among adults, packages get counted. If your family goes around opening presents one at a time, it’s not much fun to be the person that has two gifts to open, and everyone else has 5 or 6!  If you’re giving gifts to siblings or children, try and have the present count approach equity.

When giving to young people especially, it’s important to be in tune to the age appropriateness of your gifts. As kids age, their interests rapidly change and what was a great gift last year could be wildly inappropriate the next. If you’re unsure, make sure you check in with the parents or siblings.

Whether it’s for Christmas, the holiday season or a birthday, gift-giving should be a heartfelt experience and not a burden or obligation. These tips are designed to help you show your friends and family you understand them, care about them and want to shower them with a few unique items to demonstrate how special they are to you.

Keep the joy in giving this year, next year and years to come, and you can’t go wrong!

You might also be interested in: The 20 Best Gifts for Your Mother in Law [That She Will Actually Like]

Patrice Devereaux

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