The Art of Thoughtful Gift Giving

The Art of Thoughtful Gift Giving

You can’t turn on the TV, scroll social media, or drive down the street without being bombarded by advertisements promising the “perfect” thoughtful gift this holiday season. Can I be completely transparent? I hate gifts. Now before you call me Scrooge, let me explain.  The reason I hate gifts is because they stress me out. I have a high level of responsibility and a fear of disappointing people. It’s the perfect storm. Nothing is worse than exchanging gifts with a friend and realizing they hit it out of the park and your gift to them looks like the tree from Charlie Brown. So I did some research to create the essential guide to thoughtful gift giving. I hope it builds your confidence so you can consider yourself a great gift giver. 

#1 Why Are You Giving Them a Gift?

It seems obvious but understanding the reason behind the gift is helpful. Is it their birthday? Anniversary? Make sure to note if it’s a special year as well. A sentimental gift for a friend turning 33 might look different than a gift for a friend turning the “Big 40!” Same goes for anniversaries. Celebrating 20 years might call for something different than year 12. Christmas is always a big time for gift giving. Gallup estimates this year Americans expect to spend an average of $867 on gifts this season. Then there are those other reasons to give. Grief gifts are a special way of letting loved ones know you care and are there for them during times of loss. Or it could be that a friend needs a pick-me-up because of a hard season they are walking through currently. Finally, the just-because gifts can be the most fun because they are so unexpected!   

#2 Lend a Listening Ear

Keep an ear out for what items your loved one might appreciate. Do they always comment on your red coat and tell you how much they love it? Maybe they want one of their own. Have you heard them mention a favorite scent that could be a candle, perfume or room spray? I’m a forgetful person so it helps to keep a running “Gift Ideas” note on my phone. That way I can quickly type an entry if I hear a good idea. I also like to take pictures of magazines or screenshot ads on my phone and keep a photo album I can scroll through to get ideas for gifts I’ve collected throughout the year. A gift will always be more meaningful if the person knows you were listening to them. My mother-in-law (whose love language is definitely receiving gifts! ;) mentioned loving a decorative red truck I had out for the holidays. I made a note and now keep my eyes out for any red truck-themed items that she might like! 

#3 Think About Their Interests 

Take a few minutes and think about what the person likes to do, what his/her interests are, hobbies, and favorite things. What colors do they love (my mom is a sucker for “sunset” colors) or textures do they have around their space? Some people have never met a cozy blanket they didn’t like. Do they love movies or shows and would like a movie pass or even a subscription to a streaming service they don’t already have? Also consider what they do for work. Are they constantly traveling and would appreciate some luxury travel items? Mark and Graham always offer beautiful meaningful gifts that can also be personalized. The National Retail Federation put together a consumer wishlist for 2022 and gift cards topped their list at 54%. Clothing and accessories were next at 49%. 

#4 Consider an Experience Instead of an Item

You don’t have to be Marie Kondo to look around your house and realize we all probably have quite enough “stuff” as it stands. If you are considering going the less-is-more route, choose an experience over an item. Take your relative to a nearby hotel for a “High Tea” and dress up with hats and even throw in a British accent. They might enjoy a certain band or genre of music. If so, think ahead and look for tickets. Have a foodie in your life? Snag a reservation to that new restaurant they’d been wanting to try. Depending on your budget, you could plan a day trip in your own town or splurge and book a trip to somewhere new! One study showed experiential purchases (money spent on doing) usually provided more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having.) So don’t be afraid to book an experience and make some memories

#5 Presentation and How you Give Them the Gift

You’ve followed this list. You’ve listened all year long, thought through their special gift and purchased what you believe is the perfect gift for them. Don’t fumble into the endzone by tossing your beloved item in a generic bag or *gasp* in its original shipping container. Full disclosure, I recently gave my father-in-law a wonderful gift but kept it in its plastic shipping bag. Don’t be me. Be better than me. If you don’t consider yourself a skilled wrapper (not the Eminem kind) check out this tutorial to get some advice on creating a gorgeously-wrapped gift.  

Another fun way to present a gift is to lead the person on a scavenger hunt. I have a vivid memory of receiving a special birthday gift via scavenger hunt as an eight year old. The hunt led to our dryer where my gift was waiting. I may not remember the present - but I certainly remember that journey to find it! If you are gifting an experience, it could be fun to incorporate clues to see if the person can guess the gift. You could even print out a clue or a copy of the paper tickets and make them into a puzzle the recipient has to piece together. It may seem a little silly but it shows you took time to make it special from the very beginning and they’ll appreciate that. 

#6 Presence Over Presents 

Author Silvia Hartmann once wrote “The most precious thing I have to give is my time.” You don’t need to break the bank to show someone you care. A movie night on your couch might be exactly what they want. Quality time is a memorable gift in and of itself.  

Lanna Britt

Lanna Britt was a national news producer in Washington DC for nearly a decade covering politics, breaking news and current events.  She now lives with her husband and three children in Richmond VA. She has two sweet babies she’ll meet again in heaven.