I know I am not the first person to spread this wisdom around but what makes me different from the Martha Stewarts and Real Simples of the world is that I have actually made the majority of the mistakes I will be helping you avoid. They say the best way to learn is to learn by experience so I suggest you sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine and learn by mine.
Choosing The Gift
Actually choosing the gift can be the easiest or most difficult part of the gifting process depending on how well you know the recipient. Even for those we know the best, we still might not know what they truly want. Here are some easy ways to make foolproof selections.
1. Ask them what they would like. - This seems like the easiest and most logical but it is tricky. Often when faced with this question the recipient's response goes something like this: "You really don't need to get me anything." or "I'm sure whatever you choose will be great." This brings you back to square one.
2. Look on their Amazon.com "Wish List". - What's an Amazon.com Wish List you ask? Only one of the greatest gift giving inventions of our time. Amazon has pretty much everything under the sun available for sale and the Wish List feature allows you to let generate a list of the items you would like to receive. Have an item you desire that isn't on Amazon? Just download the "Add to Wish List" button and you can add items from all over the internet. The Wish List can be set to a variety of privacy settings so you can add all the "Toddlers & Tiaras" DVDs you want and don't have to worry about the entire world knowing. Personally I update mine all year long as I see a new item that looks interesting. Unfortunately I can't buy everything I want the second I want it so this allows me to "save it for later." So the gift recipient doesn't have an Amazon Wish List? I suggest you lead by example and start one of your own. Then you can share the idea with your family and friends which will eventually eliminate this problem!
3. Buy them something you think they will like. - This is probably what you've been doing all along. As I mentioned above, if you know the recipient well, then this is likely the easiest way to go. I have one friend in particular that always knows what to get me and it's usually something I didn't even know I wanted (though he said that a few years he knew what to get me because I told him earlier in the year - another tip - use your listening skills!). Use your context clues to see what they like and what they already have before shopping. It should give you the inspiration you need.
4. When you are still at a loss.... - As Mr. Birchum says on the KROQ 1996 Christmas Tape (yes, that's right - TAPE), you go for the big three and don't stray - booze, porn or cash (or for him the big four - booze, porn, cash and more porn). Now I'm not suggesting that you buy your friends and family porn. From what I understand that's really more of a personal choice. Booze and cash in the form of champagne and gift cards are another story. If the recipient enjoys alcohol, champagne or wine are always great gifts. If you know that they enjoy a specific spirit or microbrew, that is an option as well. For those with a more robust budget, you can always purchase a wine or beer of the month club for a certain duration of time.
Alcohol not their thing? Gift cards are always a safe option. The best gift cards are to places you already know that they frequent. Two of my favorite gift cards in recent memory were both very practical. The first was to Whole Foods where I pick up an item or two weekly. While I ate everything I bought, I was able to appreciate that gift every week when I went shopping. The second was an online gift certificate to Snapfish which is my preferred photo site. I was able to purchase well over 300 photos and preserve all of those memories in an album. These examples are meant to show you that thinking outside the box can make something as simple as a gift card special.
5. What about regifting? - Regifting is a touchy subject. We've all done it regardless if we admit to it. While a new gift is preferred, sometimes regifting is a viable option. Here are some guidelines to assist you in making sure you regift successfully.
- Make sure the gift is something the recipient will actually want and enjoy. Just because you received two blenders for your wedding does not mean that your sister wants or needs one.
- The gift needs to be in new condition. Don't "try" something and then regift it. That goes for items that are missing pieces or are damaged too.
- Remove all traces of the previous gifting. This includes all wrapping paper, personal notes (personalization on the item itself means it can't be regifted) enclosed in the packaging, gift cards on the gift bag, etc. Just because you don't see these telltale signs of a regift when you quickly glance at the gift, know that the recipient will find them. Go over the item with a fine tooth comb.
- Don't regift within the same circle of friends. This goes without saying - you will get busted.
6. Non-tangible gifts - There are lots of special gifts you can give someone either as a main gift or in addition to the main gift. These don't have to cost a lot of money but are extremely thoughtful. It could be as simple as making a special dinner or making a funny card. Because this type of gift is best when it is personal, it is difficult to give specific examples of things you can do. One recent gift I received that fell into this category was from my last birthday. A friend placed a cupcake and flower vase on an adorable little plate with a sign that said "Eat Me". The items were all great on their own but putting them together with the sign pulled them all together and also went with my party theme.
7. Gifts to Avoid - Clothes, fragrance, bath products, personalized gifts, knock-offs, exercise equipment, and art. This list is far from complete but is somewhere to start. Feel strongly that you know the recipient will love a particular item? See gift receipt below.
Giving the Gift
Once you jump over the first hurdle and have selected the gift, the final step is giving it. Easy as pie right? Nope. This is where a lot of people suffer defeat.
1. Give them a gift receipt. - For those that have been living under a rock, gift receipts allow your recipient to return and/or exchange a gift without the original receipt. We all like to think that our gifts are going to be a slam dunk but unfortunately that is unlikely. Gift receipts sound like a no-brainer but they are often not used. In the past I know I have refrained from providing a gift receipt when I have gotten a particularly good deal on the gift. This is wrong. Trust me when I tell you that if you purchased a sweater that didn't fit the recipient, they are not going to care that you spent $50 or $25 on it. It is an item that they can't enjoy regardless of what you spent. Who loses in that situation? Everyone. You have spent money on something that is likely going to charity (or possibly regifted) when the purpose was to treat the recipient. The gift receipt also works on the flip side of this scenario. Let's say you purchased the sweater at $50 and now it's marked down to $25. Even if the store will exchange it without a receipt, they will only give current value. Your $50 purchase is now only worth $25.
I have a friend who is excellent at providing gift receipts. She always does a great job selecting gifts she knows I will enjoy however there did come an occasion when she purchased an item I already owned. The gift receipt made the exchange simple and painless for all. I have also experienced the flip side and have ended up with two of the same item and been unable to return either. The morale of this story? Gift receipts, gift receipts, gift receipts.
2. Wrapping the gift to perfection. - The art of gift wrapping is a dying art since the invention of the gift bag. I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to gift bags. They are so simple and easy to use (and reuse). If you are willing and able to actually wrap the gift, more power to you. I look forward to receiving a gift from you! If you are like me and sticking with the gift bag option, here are a few helpful hints to make your gift look like a million bucks!
- Keep a variety of bags on hand so you have a variety of options when it comes time to wrap. Think of square peg, round hole. A too large gift jammed into a bag doesn't not look good.
- Match your tissue paper to the bag. It doesn't have to be matchy matchy but complementary. I like to buy a package with a wide selection of colors which requires less storage space than buying a different package for each bag.
- If you are going to reuse a gift bag, make sure it is in pristine condition. No wrinkles, tears, etc. Also, check the bag tag for a personal note. If it's there, remove it. Bags that don't pass this test need to be reused for your personal business or recycled.
- Be sure to fluff up the tissue right before presenting to the recipient. If the gift may be damaged in travel, assemble just before gifting.
Accepting the Gift
So you are the gift recipient? Congrats on your birthday, wedding, etc! Let's say the gift giver didn't follow any of my advice. What should you do?
1. Thank them. - Regardless of how you feel about the gift, you need to thank them. Both when you open it (if they are around) and also with a thank you note. Thank you notes can be hand written or online through a site like Paperless Post.
2. Be honest. - If they ask you how you like a gift and it something you already have, let them know that you love it adding something about how great minds thing alike. They may offer to exchange it for you. Regardless, don't make a big deal about it. You don't want to make the gift giver feel bad about giving the gift.
3. Recommend On The Tart Side. - Have family and friends that can use some of this advice? Suggest that they read this blog!
It is my hope that these tips will help you become a better gift giver and in turn set an example which will result in you receiving amazing gifts for each occasion. Can you think of any good advice I forgot? Comment and let me know!