9 ways to be boss at gift giving

Yikes! Time is running out to get that perfect gift for your loved ones–and… likable ones? Tolerable ones? Whether you’re shopping for your sister, significant other, best friend, dog, co-worker, that sweet crossing guard who’s always in a good mood, or the big boss, the season of gift giving will be a whole lot less stressful and a whole lot more meaningful if you got the perfect present for each person without loitering too long at a store to the point the security guard gets fidgety.

As someone who absolutely loves gift giving, even more than gift receiving (but…guys, I still like receiving them), I decided to share some of my secrets when it comes to picking out the best of the best to win over that radiant smile come Christmas morning–or eight mornings of Hanukkah (apparently for Kwanzaa, the gift giving is more symbolic, which seems pretty awesome, and you can read more about it here). These tips also apply to other special occasions like birthdays!

Let’s get on it so that you can become the star of the holiday season with your top-notch gift giving! (Not… that… that’s what it’s all about, of course, Santa.)


(Additionally, I would like to disclose that some points include specific gift ideas with affiliated links to Amazon. I will get a small commission for any purchases, but of course, this is completely voluntary on your part. There is no hypnosis or unexpected blurb catered specifically to each reader in the act of coercion or blackmail involved in this post. Any other links are not affiliated. Proceed!)

9 – Always make a mental note when someone says they want something

taking notes

And I mean way before it’s time for gift giving, because this amps up the surprise. Right now, everyone is talking nonstop about what they want and handing out wish lists, so this tip is pretty much common sense. The real secret is to do this year-round. This is my favorite tip ever for getting the perfect present! Whenever someone says they like this or that in passing, I make a mental note of it–so pay attention throughout the year. When the time to bestow a thoughtful gift nears, I usually check in with the person discreetly or someone close to that person to make sure the item hasn’t already been purchased personally in the meantime–because quite a lot of time can elapse. A present like this always ends up being a delightful surprise for the gift recipient! And as a plus, it’s touching to them that you listened and remembered something they said even a few months back–something even they might not remember! This has been a real winner for me–my pride and joy as a self-claimed gift giving genius, so jot this one down for sure. (Now I’m expecting my friends to always drop hints like this on me throughout the year…I got you guys.)

8 – Stalk their Instagram account and likes

social media stalking

Ok… time to get real creepy… After all, that’s what social media is for, right? I was a bit unnerved when I found out that my friends on Instagram could check out what I liked from my account; I had thought for a while that my likes were totally private. Thank goodness I didn’t like anything really embarrassing or shocking… (no, really!) But I did realize that this was a great way to investigate what someone might want for a birthday or at the end of the year.

If you really have no idea what someone might like, head over to Instagram and visit the section where you can check the likes, follows, and comments you’ve received. Now stop reveling in your Insta-fame or crying over lack of interest, and switch the tab at the top over to “Following.” There, you can see what the people you follow have been up to. Perfect time to snoop, so get out that magnifying glass, Nancy Drew! These days, lots of brands have great Instagram accounts, so if a picture of one of their products gets liked by your target, you know what to do! You could also scroll through their account; they may mention wanting something or enjoying an experience they would love to have again. Don’t accidentally like a picture from five years ago, though… That-that’ll be awkward. This could work with other social media accounts, too.

7 – Take note of their hobbies, interests, or pastimes


This is one of the easier things to do. While it’s not the most innovative method for gift giving, it is quite a fool-proof and classic move. For example, if your friend really loves to scrapbook, you should definitely get her a bunch of really cute supplies. But this tip is not limited to hobbies. My friend really adores Sailor Moon and cats, so I combined the best of both worlds and got her this adorable Luna cell phone case for her birthday. She loved it! As for pastimes, I know someone who greatly enjoys taking bath. These days, bath bombs are extremely popular, so that’s one idea. However, the person I know does not take particularly soapy or foamy baths, preferring to keep things simple, so I got something more practical. I purchased this bath pillow, because I personally feel uncomfortable in the tub with no support around my neck and back area. There is one downside to this, though. For example, your friend could be known to like Pusheen, so literally everyone gifts her something Pusheen-related. Try to find something more special.

6 – Think back to great gifts you’ve received in the past


When I was a maid of honor for a really close friend, I got a bunch of great gifts. My favorite was this stunning pearl necklace. I never even liked pearl jewelry until I got this. It was a very pretty lavender-rose color, and so I decided that this would be a perfect gift idea to recycle. The whole bridal party wore this at the wedding and loved it. If I were to get married soon, for example–wait, sorry I need a laugh break. That quickly turned into a cry break. Anyway, if I were, then I would love to also purchase a round of these pearl necklaces for my own bridesmaids! This goes with anything you’ve ever received in the past that you liked so much you thought you could buy it for other people in your life in the future. Honestly, this also made me understand why cheating men buy all their girlfriends the same necklace, or something like that. That is definitely not what I’m advocating, but if you liked the gift, surely someone else will, too. Which goes in hand with…

5 – Consider gifts you want that they might also like

what do you want

You may not have received the gift you want quite yet, but you likely have a wish list of yours that might overlap with somebody else’s, especially if it’s something kind of generic but still nice. For example, I suddenly grew very interested in jewelry with engravings on a bar. I added this to my wish list, but thought, “Hey, if I like this, maybe my sister will, too.” It’s a thoughtful gift, especially great in that it can be customized for more significance. I found what I wanted, a slim bar bracelet with personalized engraving, on Etsy (what the heck, it’s way cheaper right now!). To make things classy, I opted to put in her birth date in Roman numerals rather than her name as the engraving, and she really liked it–as much as I would have if I had gotten it. So, once again, if you would like something, someone else might, as well. Of course, keep in mind that this works better with slightly simpler gifts and it all depends on the other person. If you really want a special robot vacuum in bright blue, this doesn’t guarantee your slob of a brother who hates blue is interested in the same crumb-eating machine.

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4 – Get them something they want but would never get themselves

on a budget

Based a bit on previous points, consider this: a lot of times, people want something, quite badly, but they would “never purchase it themselves.” Why? We don’t know… Because it seems like a waste of money or they don’t want it enough to buy it but would like to have it? Either way, it definitely happens a lot, and this is the perfect time to jump in and do the purchasing for them. For example, let’s say your friend is interested in practicing the application of eyeshadow. Since she isn’t an expert yet, she worries it’d be a waste of money to buy a palette and that she’ll end up not using it, so she would definitely never buy one for herself. This is where you step in! You decide to buy her the perfect eyeshadow palette for a beginner. If she ends up not using it, just like she worried she would, then it’s not a big waste of money on her end because she didn’t buy it for herself. She’ll appreciate the gesture, though, and she might even push herself to use it more because a thoughtful friend got the palette for her! Win-win.

3 – Purchase something practical but luxurious

If all else fails, it is time to combine logic and point number 4. This point is pretty similar to the previous one, except it goes a step further by asking, “What would be useful?” An eyeshadow palette is simply luxurious, so a perfect gift in this tip would be something both practical and luxurious. A few weeks ago, I slept over at a friends’ place and I got to cuddle with this amazing heated blanket they just got. I loved it. It was both practical, but it was more luxurious than a simple blanket. I mean, do I really need a heated blanket when any cozy blanket can keep me warm enough? But it’s a freaking heated blanket. I want it. But I might not be as inclined to purchase it because it’s useful but not necessary. A non-heated blanket will do the job just fine, after all. And they’re surprisingly pricey! I’m linking the cheapest heated blanket I could find that still has good reviews (and of course added it to my wish list). It’s the same with a robot vacuum cleaner. Your parents might be telling themselves it’s fine to use their old Hoover once a week or so, but you know it’s cumbersome and they could use an upgrade–and so voila, you get them a convenient, mechanical, dust-devouring pet!

2 – Go for a more hands-on gift giving experience


If purchasing things isn’t your thing or you want to save money, you might want to go for a more hands-on option. Gift giving doesn’t mean gift buying! You could go this route if you are more sentimental and want something that is extra meaningful for a special someone. If so, then I definitely recommend taking on a project. This will take more time, but it will be worth it. For the bride I mentioned before, I gathered special messages, pictures, and more from the other bridesmaids and crafted a scrapbook I knew she would love! I knew she would appreciate a thoughtful gesture like this more, and it would be something she could keep forever. Plus, she’s an artist!

I purchased this adorable Up scrapbook (adventure is out there!) and bought a few cheap supplies like Washi tape and picture corner holders. You don’t have to do that, though. You could make your own or just get extra creative. You could even print out a nice big picture of the two of you and put it in a beautiful frame if scrapbooking isn’t your thing. Other options include knitting scarves, making a mini-book, customizing a calendar for the new year, building a bird house, hand-lettering a thoughtful card, and more! I always thought coupon books were a really cute idea. Bring out your artistic side!

1 – Circulate the money back to working hands to help others

nail salon

This was an excellent point by an amazing blogger whom you must follow, DGGYST (Damn, girl). She pointed out in her own blog post about presents that an excellent way to gift someone while helping out the economy and others is to circulate your money back into working hands. You could also help out small businesses! Instead of screaming, “CONSUMERISM!” while you run into stores on Black Friday with an ax or scrolling through all the gifts on Amazon until you’re left in skeletal form, you could get special spa packages or gift cards to nail or hair salons. This is a win for everybody involved! Your friend gets a nice gel manicure, your mom gets a much-needed massage, and a hard-working civilian gets extra compensation around the holidays. You can also help out small businesses by purchasing on Etsy (like in the unaffiliated link above), visiting a local family-owned store, or signing up for dance lessons by a sole proprietor. Spread the love around!

And that’s it for my 9 tips on gift giving! Good luck with the scramble for last-minute holiday shopping! I hope these tips help you out in the future until you become more beloved than Santa himself. Ho, ho, ho!

Once you’re done with gift giving, it’s time to seriously start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. I also have a handy guide for that, which you can check out here.

Happy early holidays, my gallant pals!




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