Gift Giving Strategies

Some people are amazing gift givers and others could use a little help in choosing the perfect gift for that special someone. Some people give you what they want or they partially listen to what you said you wanted or needed. I used to keep a file of gift ideas and would give my hubby a few hints with pages from catalogues or magazines. Sometimes that worked, sometimes not. Sometimes I picked out my own gift, which is effective but no big surprise on the special day (or occasion) and in the end, definitely not the same as when someone gives you a really fantastic gift!

Dot and Bob AllenOne of the best gift givers I’ve ever known was my mom’s best friend, Dot. She was an amazing gift giver. She always managed to find the perfect gift (usually something you wouldn’t get for yourself). I think she had a few gift giving secrets that she followed religiously. She listened to people and genuinely cared about them. She listened to what they liked, what they wanted, what they collected, what they needed. Then she went to work, throughout the year, not just during the holidays, on finding the perfect gift for her friends and family! Dot passed away a few years ago and one of the most oft mentioned qualities about her at her celebration of life was her gift giving prowess. I wasn’t the only one who felt that she was the ultimate gift giver. So, what were her secrets?

Listen, and then be creative.
Dot truly listened to people and what they said. She kept them in mind and when she found something, no matter where she was shopping, whether it was in Paris or at a flea market down the street, she would pick up her find and keep it for the right moment. One of the things I loved about Dot was that she would always find the most amazing Cal paraphernalia for me (even though she was a Stanfurd grad)! She truly kept the recipient in mind when she was giving gifts.

What they like…
Dot would give gifts of what people liked whether it was related to a hobby or one of the person’s favorite things. My brother always brings me chocolate, from wherever his job takes him around the world! One of the favorite gifts I received was a subscription to magazines and other things.  I really liked the monthly/quarterly flower subscription that work colleagues gave us after getting married and my in-laws always sent us Sunset magazine and my Aunt sent me Cosmo as a gift for a long time. Giving a gift related to a friend’s hobby is a great idea, like yarn or knitting supplies (hint, hint)!

What they need…
Sure, giving socks and undies as a gift may seem unglamorous but it may be exactly what the person needs. An outing for a bra fitting and a new bra may be just what Santa ordered for one of your friends (and you know who you are!) Add in lunch and make it an afternoon outing! If you are shopping for a gift for a new parent, the perfect thing may be a coupon for a break or time alone – an evening of babysitting or taking them to see a movie. Giving someone something they need may seem too easy or boring, but it is often the most appreciate type of gift!

What they collect…
Most people collect something – whether it is bells, teddy bears, postcards, spoons from vacations, dishes, golf towels or something more exotic. Knowing what people collect and keeping this in mind can lead to some interesting gifts. I have Teddy Bears from around the world (quite a few of them are from Dot who found them during her extensive world travel). I have received gifts of yarn from all over the world that my family or friends picked up during their travels. It’s great to receive a gift that is meaningful and can be added to a collection.

What they would never buy for themselves… but love to receive…
What does the gift recipient consider a splurge? What would they love, but never buy for themselves? My in-laws invited us to the Highlands Inn in Carmel Valley for Thanksgiving one year. It was an amazing place and experience. My brother gave me spa finder gift certificates one year – definitely a winner! Take a look at what they need, what they like and see if it is something they would do for themselves or not. Another way to look at this gift giving secret is to determine if they consider it a luxury… All kinds of things come to mind for this one when I stop to think about what my friends consider a luxury or would never do for themselves – like the spa certificates, a day of organizing, a cleaning service, a vacation rental, or tickets to a show. Be creative with this one!

What they talk about…
When your friend says, “I wish I could take a class in cooking” (or flower arranging or photography or whatever), take note. … giving them a gift certificate to take a class or (better yet) signing up together would be a lot of fun! One of my favorite gifts was flight lessons. I was considering getting a pilots license and received a gift certificate for a few lessons. It was great because I probably wouldn’t have done that on my own!

What is your favorite gift giving secret or strategy?

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