How to buy the perfect gift
WORDS // KATEY LEE
While gifts aren’t the “true meaning” of Christmas, they are certainly an integral part of our Christmas traditions and I personally believe that they are a special, unique way to show people that you love and care about them. Getting a gift for someone that they truly love and appreciate gives me unspeakable joy, and I'm actually pretty darn good at it. This has a lot to do with the fact that one of my main love languages is gifts; it’s just how my brain and heart are wired. So I thought I could channel some of my love for gift giving into a helpful guide for those who are less adept and/or excited about it.
It seems like most people are stressed out by the mere thought of buying Christmas gifts because they don’t know what to get people, they don’t know what they like, or they’re “just bad at giving gifts.” Well, I don’t buy it (ha). You know the people you love, don’t you? You spend time with them, you talk to them, and you know about the their lives. I am absolutely certain that if you take a minute to really think about it, you will be able to come up with a perfect gift for any person in your life.
Gifts can be broken down into to two categories: Practical and Personal.
These two categories are not mutually exclusive - a gift can certainly be both practical and personal - and one type is not better or worse than the other. These categories simply provide a framework for narrowing down your options and helping you choose what kind of gift your recipient is better suited for. Depending on your relationship with the person and their interests, tastes, and preferences, you may be better off with one type of gift over the other.
Some people will feel more loved if you give them something they can use, and others don’t really care if they “need” the gift as long as it has a special meaning. So step one in the gift-giving process is to figure out which is more important to the gift recipient. If you don’t know, ask them! You won’t ruin any surprises and I promise the entire process of choosing, giving, and receiving will be much easier and much more enjoyable for all parties involved.
Practical gifts are a combination of “what does this person like?” and “what does this person need?” Pause for five minutes and write down some simple facts about whomever you’re trying to buy a gift for and you will instantly have ideas on the paper right there in front of you. Start by thinking about where that person is at in their life and the types of things that anyone might need where they are.
Are they in school? Did they just graduate? Are they a newlywed? Are they in a mental/emotional/spiritual valley or are they on a mountaintop? Did they just move into a new apartment? Are they starting a new job or having a baby?
Then consider who they are, what they are like, and what they enjoy. Are they messy or organized? Are they a writer or a photographer or an artist? Are they a barista or a businessman? Do they hike or camp a lot? Do they like puzzles and word games? Do they play any sports or participate in any extracurricular activities?
Specific gifts will obviously vary from person to person (that’s kind of the point), but you may have an easier time shopping if you opt for a more practical gift as they typically have a broader appeal. Here are a few examples from my own gift-giving experiences:
- My friend knew that I needed a new journal, so she got me the exact one I had mentioned that I wanted and a wrote a very encouraging note in the front (a practical gift made very personal; See? It can be both!)
- One of my friends knew I needed lighting equipment for some video projects I was working on, so he got me a light setup for my camera.
- My mom kept mentioning how old our silverware is and how many forks we had lost over the years (sorry mom!), so we got her a new silverware set.
Practical gifts are definitely still personal, but they may be less sentimental and more useful than, say, a photo album of you and your significant other or a vinyl copy of your best friend’s favorite album. Again, it is up to you to figure out what will be best!
Personal gifts are 100% dependent upon the person for whom you are buying them. In order for a personal gift to be successful, you need to know the person you’re buying it for very, very well or at least pay close attention to what they enjoy and what is important to them. They don’t need to be pricey or impressive because the whole point is for it to be perfect for that individual person. You can even use the same questions about what a person likes as you used for the practical gifts to start generating ideas of what to get. Here are a few examples from my own gift-giving experience:
- I have a photographer friend who also loves surfing, so I got him a photo book that a group of photographers made on a surf trip up the West Coast.
- Last year a friend and I were binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, so I got her a Luke’s Diner mug.
- My cousin gave me a set of Lipsmackers chapstick in the exact flavors that were our favorites when we were growing up (we all know those things barely work, so it's definitely more personal than practical)
None of those gifts cost more than $20, but the people who received them absolutely loved them and appreciated the thought that went into getting something so specifically special to each of them. Personal gifts don’t need to have much of a practical purpose; their strength lies in their sentiment rather than their usefulness.
Gifts are an inescapable part of our Christmas traditions, but I don't think they actually need to be escaped from. Instead of being stressed out by gift-buying, choose to be encouraged by gift-giving. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to encourage each other daily, and just like verbal affirmation or a warm hug, gifts are a way to do that even beyond the holiday season. Find out which of your friends and family feel most loved by gifts and make sure they don’t have to wait until Christmas or their birthday to feel like you care for them. It doesn’t need to be expensive or flashy - you could even make it yourself - just a small token to let them know you’re thinking about them.
One way to cheat the system is to be on gift alert all year. If you’re out shopping with a pal and they find something they like but don’t buy it, come back the next day and get it. Pay attention to conversations, they may drop hints, even if they don't realize it. Even if Christmas or their birthday is nowhere near, you can save it in your closet; I promise you’ll thank yourself when the time comes, and you have a guarantee that they’ll love their gift.
GRAPHIC // SAM PALENCIA