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Choosing the proper gift for friends and family

Updated on July 29, 2017

Great gift giving.

As with most of my hubs this hub was inspired by an event in my life. In 1997, my mother’s aunt passed away. My great aunt did not have a lot of personal possessions. However, she did have a carnival glass pitcher that was in the window of her home throughout my mother’s childhood. My grandfather brought the pitcher all the way from Mississippi to give it to my mom. Somehow during the trip the pitcher cracked in half. My husband and I were in an antique store when I saw the exact same carnival glass pitcher. Obviously, I bought the pitcher and gave it to my mother for Christmas that year. She was overwhelmed with emotion; it took her twenty minutes to get through the tears. While we do not always have the opportunity to give to someone in a meaningful way, we should put more thought into our gifts. With that in mind let us think about our gift giving.

Make a list of your gift recipients. After each person’s name write a short list of what that person likes. The list might include:




Favorite sports team

What events do they attend? Movies, concerts, dinner

What does the person complain about? Lack of sleep, always losing things, the dog

How is the person’s house decorated?

Finally is the person practical or frivolous?

Now you have your short list, we are going to cross some things off. When giving a meaningful gift try not to get the person something they already have in multitude. By that I mean, if a person likes Koala bears, do not rush out to buy any Koala bear. My favorite animal is the dolphin and when people learned this they would buy me dolphins. I didn’t want a dolphin collection; I wanted to swim with them. That said, there are people who collect something and they will enjoy getting another Koala figurine, you need to know which type of koala person in which you are dealing. If you think you might have the person who doesn’t need one more of something, cross off the collection.

Sports teams, die-hard fans can always use another t-shirt. I’m careful not to buy weird sports gifts that commit a person in weird ways. Skip the Seahawks pot holder, it doesn't go with the kitchen.

Music, this can be a tricky one. I like the idea of concert tickets, but your person may be content with a CD/digital download or concert video. If the person is a true groupie then a t-shirt is a great option.

Movies: dvds are becoming a thing of the past. Digital download or a maybe a Netflix subscription might be a better option.

Gift cards: well here is a mixed bag review of gift cards. I like gift cards, however lots of people seem to take issue with getting a gift card that limits the place they can spend. If you are mailing a gift card make sure the store is local to the person otherwise you gift card can seem ridiculous.

Solving the problem: who wouldn’t like to have a problem magically dissolved by a gift? One year my husband bought me an organizer for my beads; I still have it and use it. I’m sure not everyone feels this way, but how many of us enjoy the pampered bath gifts that ease aches and pains (I’m raising my hand); or perhaps a training session for that oh so unruly pet. If you can solve a problem reasonably, do so.

Home décor: if you are going to buy something a person would have to display in their home, be aware of their home décor. Is the item you are considering going to clash with their home? This is important because there really isn’t a point in giving someone a gift they can’t enjoy.

Symbolically adopting a kid or an animal? Aside from the recent shady revelations concerning charities, should you do something charitable in another persons name as a gift? I'm going to say no. If you want to do something charitable, do something local and on your own. Don't make it a gift. Most people will fake excitement and then later think "what the hell". Unless the person is in some way connected to PETA I would skip this gift.

That also goes for naming stars after someone. It sounds romantic but, in reality it's not a gift. Save yourself $34.99 and just print off the certificate. There isn't anyone in China looking at the sky saying "that star is named Bob Henry" you are basically the only one who will think that star is names after you.

Now that you have considered all these things, ask yourself is the person practical or frivolous? I don’t mean their personality, I mean in what they buy for others. I am a very practical person; I buy PJ’s, clothes, perfumes etc. My frivolous gifts are few and far between. If you are dealing with a frivolous giver, choose things that the person would find fun. My best example is a friend I had that liked to give little baubles like crystal bracelets, charming decorative bells, and cute holiday decorations. For this person you are looking for something that lights up, sings, sparkles, and delights.

Appropriate gift giving: Years ago a guy I dated tried to give me a $500 fish tank for my two carnival gold fish (I won the fish tossing a ball at my high school carnival). I didn’t accept the gift because 1. Carp grow to the size of the tank (who needs whale sized carp) and 2. Our relationship did not warrant this type of purchase. The entire situation was uncomfortable. Ask yourself, why are you getting the gift in the first place? Is it out of love or obligation? Gifts given out of love are the most meaningful and if you love someone you should know them. If you want to be a little sneaky, follow your family and friends on Pinterest. Look for patterns in what that person pins. If you see five wine racks on their Pinterest it’s probably a safe bet she will like a wine rack in a similar style.

People you know casually should get thoughtful gifts. You can tell a lot about a coworker by their cubicle décor. In some situations it is appropriate to bring baked goods for the “team” to share. This rules out favoritism and keeps you from having to buy weird Hal a gift (which he will misinterpret and use as a conversation starter for the rest of your life).

That doesn’t change the fact that you can’t always find something that means as much as you would like. Consider looking in odd places, go into convenience stores, sporting goods/sports stores, Thrift/antique stores (you knew I was going to sneak that in), specialty shops (wine shops, comic stores). I once bought a gift in a magic shop.

Gifts to avoid: anything workout related (unless that person actually hangs out at the gym), gifts related to housework unless requested (I once dreamed about a vacuum), foot spa’s (they don’t work), pets (it’s cute now but that kids not ready for a dog, or bunny), gift certificates to restaurants (unless you know that person wants it), and car parts (unless he is restoring something and will appreciate it).

Now that we have gotten through that entirely, let me say that holiday expectations are way too high. People are facing all manner of hardship in this economy. We should all be thankful for any gift we get. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to read this, and not every person is going to know what that exact perfect gift is for you. Be appreciative and understand the heart behind the gift.

Specialty gift items
Specialty gift items | Source
No pets!
No pets! | Source

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