Top 12 tips for great gift giving

I aim to be a great gift-giver. I hate resorting to vouchers or stock standard presents that require zero thought or effort. I don’t mean to sound preachy, or materialistic for that matter, but I really see giving gifts as a way of showing someone how much I care about them.

My Aunt’s cousin’s partner, who I can’t remember meeting, but have somehow drawn in a Kris Kringle – he would be lucky to receive more than beer, chocolates and an action DVD from me. But my Mum? Well she deserves something well thought out. I firmly believe it’s the thought that counts.

Now, I don’t want to claim I’m an expert, but the feedback I received last year was pretty good. So I’m sharing my top tips for being the best gift giver this Christmas and for every occasion after.

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  1. Don’t leave it to the last minute.

    Sounds boring, but you can’t just hit the shops at 10pm on Christmas Eve and expect to walk out of the centre by midnight with awesome presents for each and every one of family members and friends in tow. Starting any earlier than November isn’t really realistic and you may miss out on the best sales, so aim to begin your present shopping by mid-November, early December by the latest.

  2. Plan ahead.

    Before you reach the shopping centre it will help to have a rough idea of what you want to get each person. Inspiration may strike of course, but failing to have even one idea of what to each person is a recipe for panic, impulse purchases and over-spending. Arming yourself with a list of each person you need to buy for and the gift ideas you have will ensure you don’t miss anyone.

  3. Brainstorm ideas.

    If you can, talk each present idea over with someone before you go out and get them. They might be able to add something, improve your idea or even stop you from buying an ill-thought present (wine for a teetotaller, anyone?)

  4. Shop a little at a time.

    While a big shopping day is a good way to get the majority of your Christmas shopping done in one hit, it is very unlikely you’ll be able to get every thing you need for everyone from the same shopping centre or store – so don’t try. Breaking it up over a few days ensures you won’t get fatigued, stop caring and start buying rubbish. Because the shops are open later this time of year, it’s not hard to buy some things after work a couple of days of the week. You’ll be surprised how many names you’ve ticked off before it comes to a Big Shopping Day.

  5. Keep your ears out.

    Some people will drop hints, others will gush about a new product, whine about something they don’t like or complain about what they don’t have. Sure, you could come right out and ask them – ‘what do you want for Christmas?’ but I’m a big fan of surprises and I don’t want the recipients of my gifts to know exactly what’s in the box before the open it. The key is to listen to people throughout the year and make a note on your phone when you think of a potential gift.

  6. Think about events.

    Do they have a holiday coming up? Travel wallet, toiletries bag, foreign cash, a travel diary or even luggage could all be welcome gifts. Have they just move house or are about to? Decorative items like vases, photo frames, wall hangings and wall clocks could all be ideal gifts if you know their taste. If you don’t really trust yourself to pick out something that decorative, there is a great chance they will not have enough glasses, mugs, plates, bowls or wine glasses. Even if they already have some, one set is often not enough.

  7. What are their interests?

    This sounds basic, but gift-giving doesn’t have to be hard. If you’ve got a starting point, for instance, they like gardening, then you can think about what kind of plants or tools they might need or at least go to a gardening store and get some help from an assistant to pick out a present. If they’re a fashion-lover, then bags, scarves or a high-quality basic top from a store they like (ie, this navy and white striped tee from Country Road) is a simple idea. Keep the receipt and if the fit isn’t quite right they can return it, but it’s way more personal than a gift voucher to the same store.

  8. Go in with people.

    Group presents are great for so many reasons: only one of you has to come up with an idea, the recipient gets something they probably couldn’t (easily) afford to buy on their own and you save money on wrapping and a card. For my sister’s birthday last year my parents, aunty and I put in for a good-quality camera.

  9. Create your own packs and sets.

    The amount, pulled out of the air, that I spend on each person is about $60. (This excludes my boyfriend, Ben, whose presents have ranged wildly from $70 to $700 in our five years together) Not many things cost exactly $60 and, despite Ben’s protests, I cannot spend $70 on one parent and $40 on another just because that’s how much the things I wanted to get them cost. I will find something that costs $20-$30 for that other parent. So I normally end up getting each person 2 to 3 things, normally centred around a theme. ie. pyjama set and slippers, stationery pieces, DVDS and books.

  10. Photos make great gifts.

    This is how I’ve used photos for presents over the past few years – a multiple photo frame filled with old family shots for Ben’s mum (from the both of us, obviously) a personalised calendar using a website for Ben’s mum the following year, a framed photo of my sister and I with Santa Clause for my Mum (a throwback to when she used to take us to Myer in the city when were little). Anyone of these photo sites has keyrings, mugs, canvas prints and other ideas to create meaningful and valued gifts.

  11. Go for home-made gifts.

    But not at the cost of your sanity! Home-made gifts can be a thoughtful (and inexpensive) option, but it’s best not to go against your uncreative inclinations and experiment. If you are not a baker, now is not the time to pick up the oven mitts.

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    I made this home-made spiced muesli as part of a hamper for my parents.
  12. And if all else fails…

    These are some standard gifts your family and friends are bound to like, even if they are a tad cliche. I’m staying away from kids, because I haven’t had to buy for them in quite a while.
    Women – BodyShop, Lush or Aesop products, perfume, scented candles, jewellery, romantic comedy movies.
    Men Action, sports or wartime documentary DVDs, Sports biographies, war-related novels, beer.

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