3 Ways to Give Better Gifts

With Christmas around the corner, a lot of people stress about trying to find the "perfect" gift for their loved ones.  In retail, I see the panic on our shopper's faces when December 23rd rolls around.  They're in a tizzy, blindly grabbing items off the shelf (not even caring WHAT the item is) just to "have something" to give on Christmas morning... it's not pretty.  And I think it kind of defeats the purpose of giving a gift at all. I've always enjoyed gift-giving, so I thought I might share some  ideas for setting yourself up to give better gifts (and not just at Christmas time). Rustic Christmas Gift on wooden background 1.  Listen and Take Notes.  Literally. Has the person you're buying for mentioned "needing a (fill in the blank)"?  Have they admired a sweater in the department store window?  Once you REALLY start paying attention and listening to those around you, you'll be bombarded with great clues for gift ideas to use year-round!  It seems that the *trick* is actually remembering those clues when the time comes to buy a gift.  I think the easiest solution is to write them down as they happen.  You can keep a mini notebook in your car or purse, or you can use the "memo" app on your phone to keep a running list for each person you regularly buy for.  I like to make note of any information that might be helpful later as I discover it - clothing/shoe sizes, favorite color or candy, etc.  If they mention in passing that they hate their old blender, that goes on the list.  You never know when you will stumble upon a gift idea and need to know right away if it will fit (or be the right color or style).  If you really listen and take notes for even a short period of time, you'll easily have a list of ideas to start with. 2.  Brainstorm. Since meticulous note-taking isn't for everyone, there's another way you can come up with ideas based on the gift recipient's interests.  Grab a sheet of paper and write down the name of who you are buying for.  Next to it, quickly jot down that person's likes and hobbies - cooking, photography, biking, sewing, etc.  Once you have a few ideas listed, you can narrow down an area of interest in which you might find a suitable gift.  If one area of interest is snow skiing, and you live in Arizona, you might want to cross that one off and try another area.  If the person enjoys cooking, perhaps you buy a great cookbook, apron, or kitchen gadget they could use.  If they enjoy biking, maybe they would like a fancy new water bottle or GPS gadget that tracks their rides.  Focusing on what TYPE of gift you want to get might help relieve the stress of finding a "perfect" one.  Focus on an area of interest and start with a specialty shop that sells those items.  A gift boutique staff member can make suggestions for new products available and items that are most popular or dependable.  {Some stores also keep track of what customers purchase, so you can get better insight based on your gift recipient's past purchases.   I bought a few shirts for my brother's birthday from Men's Warehouse this year, and their computer system was a pretty handy resource!  They looked up his usual size and made sure he hadn't already purchased what I wanted to get for him.} Don't forget that your personal experience can also be your guide.  If your friend loves wine and you happen to LOVE your wine opener,  your friend might appreciate it too!  A gift with a personal endorsement from you is always a nice choice.  That gesture says, "I think this is pretty cool, and I think you're cool enough to enjoy it too." 3.  Feel it. The truth is, there is no magical "perfect" gift.  The most wonderful gifts are ones with thought behind them - that's what MAKES them perfect.  Sometimes you just have to narrow down your options and go with your gut feeling about it.  But ask yourself a few questions before you decide that your gut likes to buy the first thing it lays eyes on: Can you see the recipient wearing it/putting it in their home/using it? Is it something you'll be proud to give them? Is it in your price range? If you answer "yes" to all three, then it might be a great gift! And remember, not every gift needs to be a physical item - consider giving an experience instead.  An airline gift card, concert tickets, beer of the month club, cooking class or a magazine subscription could all make very thoughtful gifts (for the right person).  If you're crafty, you might also use your talents to create a homemade present - like jam, a needlepoint pillow or a scrapbook. As long as you can answer those three questions with a "yes", you're good to go. Will every gift you give be a home run?  No, but if you put in the effort, I think your friends and loved ones will appreciate it more.  And the more you TRY, the easier gift-giving gets.  I promise.  Just keep pouring your thoughtfulness into it! No gift is better than a gift with no thought.  [tweet this] {Still struggling?  I've got a few ideas to get your started on this downloadable Easy Gift Chart.} Happy giving, friends!