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Giving Great Gifts

Updated on February 18, 2010

Birthdays, Showers, Christmas, and Any Occasion Gift Recommendations for Everyone

There are people you know well enough to shop for. And there are people that are naturally good gift givers.

But what about every one else?

What does your gift really say to them? What would really make somebody happy?

Here's some general gift giving tips that should help.

Don't attempt a collectible you know nothing about.

Does your girlfriend collect Wedgwood? Vintage dolls? Does your boyfriend collect hockey memorabilia? Antique maps? Other than observing their collection, do you know anything about that collectible?

If not, don't buy a piece. As an amateur you stand a good chance of choosing poorly or getting ripped off. Maybe you never actually noticed every hockey item he's collected is from an Original 6 team. That means Philly doesn't count. Maybe you've never noticed every doll in her collection is a brunette. So that cute little blonde one you're sure she'll love, is not so perfect after all.

Also, half the fun of collecting is the hunt. Unless you have been given clear instructions, stay away from this idea.

Buy back a memory

A person doesn't have to be a collector to appreciate one good piece of nostalgia that shows you pay attention to them. You listened to them. You noticed something. You remembered. And spent more than 4 seconds on the gift.

Is your boss' home town Cincinnati? Search Ebay for memorabilia from the 1975 World Series. A vintage pennant or a reprinted copy of the program could take him right back to that summer.

Did your parents go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon? How about looking for vintage Niagra Falls postcards, preferably postmarked the year they wed. A newspaper from the day they were married, or the Life Magazine that was out at the time will spark a lot of conversation.

Here's a tip though. If your gift is going to celebrate a year, stay away from "year of birth" items. Whoever you're buying for will not remember being born. They don't remember what commercials were around, or what team won the world series, or what song was number one.  The point of a special gift is to give them a trip down memory lane. The year they were married, graduated, had a child, or were deployed are actually memorable.And any year you shared with them is perfect: the years when you were roommates is a great example.

Trying to impress me? Find me an old autographed 8x10 of Matt Dillon circa 1982. Or a vintage metal Snoopy lunchbox. Anyone can send flowers. It takes a special person to pay attention to little things and memorialize them in a gift.

Be creative. Was his first car a 1979 Thunderbird? Does he still talk about it? Surely you can collect 12 photos of '79 T-Birds and make a calendar for him. The little Matchbox version of the car wouldn't hurt, either. Add that in. Hey if you decoupage you can make him a serving tray out of old hotrod magazine clippings.

My grandmother worked at Woolworths. Remember Woolworths? I found her an old counter menu from 1959. Egg Creams were 20 cents.

Don't call someone unhealthy or overweight.

Just like you wouldn't give someone with bad breath a bottle of Scope, it is not actually a good idea to give someone a gym membership, gym equipment, or Weight Watchers' Gift Certificate. Unless this person has specifically asked for this item, these things have a possible insult attached to them. Your good intentions of wanting to promote a healthy fit lifestyle could be very mistaken on an especially PMS day, and you could really hurt someone's feelings.

I will never forget the Christmas my father bought my mother a treadmill. She cried for 3 days. Maybe he meant to show he cared about her well being, but she took it as his calling her fat.

Obviously if your wife is a professional basketballer and you give her a new stairmaster, she'll probably be very into it. But in general, weight and physical fitness can be very sensitive self-esteem shaking issues for both men and women. If you aren't 110% sure, just stay away from this type of gift.

Women don't usually want household Items

Be careful of buying a gift for her that is really a household purchase.

My friend bought his wife a blender for Christmas. She wore the cord around her neck to his office Christmas party and told everyone about her gift. The following year she got pearls and never received another household item disguised as a gift for her again.

There are exceptions. When you two agree you'd rather have the roof repaired than exchange personal gifts this year, then by all means stick to that. Many of us can't afford all the things we'd like to buy for ourselves, our lovers, and our houses. Sometimes we have to compromise, and that's fine. But trust me on this - buy a card and a little box o' chocolates anyway.

Another exception is when her household is not your household. And if that is the case then it either has to be a luxury item like a psycho-gorgeous cappuccino maker, or a big ticket item. My husband and I were still only dating when our first Christmas together rolled around. He bought me a dishwasher. And I cried with joy because I knew this was not a temporary girlfriend gift. This was a wife to be gift. And I was right.

For the record, he was always the kind of guy to send flowers or buy me jewelry for no reason. They weren't all wife-to-be gifts. (wink)

Which leads me to my point here. Most women, most of the time, would like a gift from their significant other that is personal to them. A silk Hermes scarf or a Prada handbag, a special perfume or a first edition printing of her favorite book. Concert tickets for her favorite band. A day of pampering at a spa. The Ipod she wants, not the one you think is best. Anything that comes in a little blue box from Tiffany's.

If you wrap a spaghetti pot or a diaper bag and give it to her for her birthday, don't forget to duck.

The same does not go for men and power tools

While you may think a power drill is a household purchase, and technically it is, to your guy it isn't. And don't everybody get all sexist on me. Guy, girl, whatever. I'm just rounding to the nearest tenth.

If you notice on the computer he saved to favorites a Home Depot link of a table saw, odds are really good he will love it wrapped up under the tree.

Donating to Charity

Charities are a personal thing. This is a wonderful gesture as a gift, but only if you are sure this person supports the given charity in a big way.

We are charitable people. We serve out local humane society in a very big way. I would prefer someone give to those homeless dogs than to give to us. We are also big supporters of Lambda Legal. A gift made in our name to that wonderful organization would mean the world to us.

But my in-laws, several times now have chosen as our Christmas gift, to give to charities we do not support. Giving to a church that we do not attend or agree with is not a gift to us. It goes a little beyond "not knowing" us; it's self imposing and judgmental. 

It doesn't have to be that extreme for the charity donation gift not to work. Even if it's a charity that the person is just neutral on, it's a bust. It's supposed to be their gift. It's supposed to be something that will make this person smile and feel good. Giving to a charity they whole heartedly support accomplishes that end. Giving to a charity they don't care about defeats the purpose.

Another thing to remember about charities is that they are not all good. The American Cancer Society is often in the news for how highly paid their board of directors are, for not sharing their findings with other like-minded charities, for only funding research that makes money for the companies their board of directors work for, for animal testing, and for many other things.  Don't confuse the cause with the organization. If you want to donate in someone's honor to cancer research, that's beautiful But if you're going to give your hard earned money away, take some time to do some research. Make sure your money actually goes to the cause and not to someone's pocket. And if you're going to give the gift of supporting a charity, make sure it's one they support.

Can't think big? Think theme.

Lots of great little connected things can add up to a great gift.

Here's some examples. Do a basket for your sister and her family for an evening out. Fill it with things that represent that theme. Tickets to a show, a gift card to their favorite restaurant, a voucher for a limo, a bottle of wine. Also include a Blockbuster gift card for the kids, microwave popcorn, a $20 toward the babysitter or better yet, a homemade coupon that says you'll come over and do it. Add a gift card for a home delivered pizza and maybe something else the kids would enjoy that'll keep them busy while their folks are out, like art supplies.

One year I gave a good friend of mine a "Snow Day Kit." It had ziplock bags filled with what they would need to build snowmen, like charcoal and a big old hat. I included plenty of Campbell's Soup, hot chocolate mix, supplies to make home made cookies complete with cookie cutters and colored sprinkles, and a DVD I knew they wanted. I also added a fifth of Jack and a bottle of Tylenol. She loved it.

It may sound corny, but never underestimate the power of a romantic gesture. Can't think of one big one? That's OK. A bag filled with little ones is damn effective. Candles from Yankee Candle, new lingerie from Victoria's Secret, champagne, a DVD she loves, bath beads from the Body Shop, candy hearts that say "Be Mine", a framed photo of the two of you, etc.

Here's 3 tricks to pulling this off:

1 - Don't get everything at one store. Show that you cared enough to run around town a bit to get the right things.

2 - Make sure you use some observation when picking things out. Pay attention to her favorite colors, flavors and scents. You can do this! Ask yourself: Is her key chain Louis Vuitton or Hello Kitty? You've seen her panties, is she a cotton bikini or a silk thong? When she rents a flick, is it Happy Feet? Terms of Endearment? Hostel? or Bel Ami: Frisky Summer? She's probably not an enigma. She's probably giving you signs all the time as to whether she'd like the pink bubble bath, or the edible massage oil. Don't forget, the occasion gift is for her, it's not the time to try to get her to try something new. That kind of gift is a "no reason at all" gift, NOT a birthday gift. (Translation- if she's got a Hello Kitty key chain, give her Happy Feet for her birthday. Wait for some random Friday night to give her porn.)

3 - The wrapping matters. Buy a gift bag and matching tissue paper. Do something that puts it all together. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to show you took a minute to try.

If you like this HUB please click the “Thumbs-Up” below just before the comments.


All text is original content by Veronica.

All photos are used with permission.

All videos are used courtesy of Youtube.


Submit a Comment

  • Eileen Hughes profile image

    Eileen Hughes 

    10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

    Great ideas. I know what u mean about wives receiving household items. My girlfriend and I both received Mens tools I got an oxy welding kit and my friend received pop rivet gun and rivets. Very helpful for the husbands. But dont worry we bought them perfume.. ha hah

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    ok, lol at the chick wearing the appliance cord around her neck! What a way to give a hint!

    I like the idea to buy back a memory. My sister used to collect these blinky eye dolls when she was little. I am sure they are all long gone. I bet I could find one on ebay though. she'd get a kick out of that! Thanks for the idea!

  • Goodwitch profile image


    11 years ago

    What excellent ideas!!!! Thanks!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    11 years ago from NY

    Thank you Isabella!

  • Isabella Snow profile image

    Isabella Snow 

    11 years ago

    "they don't remember being born" LOL! Classic! Great hub!!


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