The Ultimate Guide To Gifts

The Ultimate Guide To Gifts

Rose MacDowell

If there's one thing everyone loves, it's a gift. Gifts show the people you know, from acquaintances to your nearest and dearest, that you care about them. A present is more than a material object – it is a symbol, a way of showing up in joyful times and difficult moments.

But when it comes time to give, where do you begin? The world of gifts can feel vast and overwhelming. This guide cuts through the confusion to simplify the process and make it more enjoyable. From occasions to recipients to types of gifts and how to give them for maximum effect, everything you need for successful gifting is right here.   

Occasions


Let's get ready to gift! You never need an excuse to dote on friends and loved ones, but there are times when gifts are expected and the pressure is on to find the perfect present. These are the top occasions for gifting:      

Holidays 

If the word "holiday" brings piles of brightly wrapped presents to mind, read on. Holidays are some of the most popular gift-giving occasions, and include religious, federal, and cultural observances. From splashy celebrations to somber remembrances, holidays are important social touchstones that bring us together over shared experiences.  

Let's check out some of the most well-known United States holidays — AKA perfect reasons to give and receive gifts!

  • Christmas. Christmas has the distinction of being both a sacred Christian holiday and the mother of all gifting occasions. Though Christmas is the primary day for exchanging gifts, Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, which falls on the day after Christmas, are popular occasions for exchanging small or meaningful presents. One popular Boxing Day tradition is to give monetary gifts to people who perform services throughout the year, such as mail deliverers and personal trainers.   
  • Hanukkah. Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival that takes place between late November and late December, depending on the Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah traditions include the lighting of the menorah, playing dreidel, and swapping presents with family and friends. But Hanukkah wasn't always about gift-giving! Purim has traditionally been the Jewish holiday for gifts, but because Hanukkah takes place during the gift-obsessed Christmas season, exchanging presents has become more common (and dare we say, welcome!).  
  • New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. If any day was made for going all out, it's New Year's Eve. This holiday pays tribute to the passing of the old and arrival of the new and is observed the world over. Fireworks are de rigueur, and gift-giving is becoming ever more common on both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. From tiny trinkets to bottles of bubbly to new-year-new-you indulgences, gifts for New Year's are fun to give and receive.   
  • Thanksgiving. Jingle Bells may hit the airwaves at 12:01 am on November 1, but Thanksgiving is still the traditional kick-off of the holiday season. Turkey Day is the ideal holiday for gifting homemade treats to hosts, neighbors, and friends, and gearing up for some serious cyber or in-person shopping. Turkey-friendly libations, gift baskets, kitchen linens, and floral arrangements in vibrant fall colors are late-fall gifts that are always on trend. 
  • Easter. Easter is a Christian festival that doubles as a great time to get together with family to feast and socialize. This pastel-hued holiday is a celebration of rebirth, springtime, and cherished customs that hearken back to childhood. Easter baskets, watercolor eggs, chocolate bunnies, Peeps — Easter is a time to pass down beloved religious and gifting traditions.    

Birthdays

A birthday is not just a time to give gifts, but to celebrate who we are and our connections to other people. Birthday gifts can be some of the most personal and meaningful we give, revealing how well we know someone and their value in our lives. Birthday gifts aren't limited by season or budget, and can range from the funny group gift to the puzzling knickknack to the intensely personal token of love and affection.   

Ultimate Guide To Gifts

Anniversaries

Traditional wedding anniversary gifts run the gamut from paper at year one to diamonds at year sixty. But anniversaries and the gifts that accompany them aren't just to commemorate marriage. These occasions can include the founding of a company, the passing of a friend, a sobriety date, a tragic moment in history, or the release of an influential album. From one-month anniversaries to friendiversaries you celebrate with BFFs, anniversaries are about recognizing the past and how far we've come.

Baby Showers

Baby, it's gifting time. Usually thrown around a month before a mom-to-be's due date, baby showers are all about celebrating life (okay, and the decorations). In addition to the classic cupcakes and party games, you'll find colorful presents galore, all intended to welcome the new addition. Baby showers typically earn a 10/10 on the adorable gifts scale, thanks to a plethora of onesies, terrycloth bibs, and tiny frilled socks.   

New Pet Showers

To the list of cutest events you'll attend all year, add a new pet shower. Picture a puppy bounding through the crowd with a dognapped gift bow and you'll get the idea. Once the domain of human parents, showers have been adopted (pun intended) by pet parents to welcome furry new family members. Whether the pet in question is a few months old or a senior rescue, a pet shower is a great way to help new parents stock up on food, toys, and carpet spot remover.

Bridal Showers  

It all started in 16th century Holland, when a town's residents pitched in to help a girl whose disapproving father refused to provide her with a dowry. That spirit of friendship and gift-giving lives on in the modern-day bridal shower. Usually a daytime event, bridal showers are held a few months before the wedding and involve the usual party suspects: decorations, food, drinks, games, and, of course, plenty of presents. Luxe gifts for self-care and creating a home are always popular, but don't be afraid to go rogue with a handmade or DIY gift, particularly if it speaks to your personal relationship with the bride-to-be.    

How to choose a gift

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties

Gag gifts were practically invented for bachelor and bachelorette parties, where phallus-shaped balloons and cheap blow-up dolls reign supreme. These send-offs to marriage-land are the place for gloriously inappropriate presents, beginning with NSFW hats and sashes and ending with NSFW napkins to mop up the spilled bevies. If ever there was a time to splash out on a laugh-inducing gift, this is it. 

Coming Out Parties

Loud and proud or elegant and proud, coming out parties are celebrations of love and identity. Affirmation from friends and family often make the day/evening/weekend particularly special. Coming out parties can be low-key affairs, but are more often jubilant, no-holds-barred bashes. Based on traditional coming out parties for debutantes but with a LGBTQ+ twist, these events are magnets for fun, creative gifts.

Weddings

Wedding season is all about love, praying for good weather, and lots and lots of gifts. Fortunately, wedding registries have made present hunting for the happy couple less stressful, and rules for gifting are easy to follow (hint: you have one year after the big day to give a gift, though the day of to two weeks after is preferable). But wedding presents can go far beyond registries or slipping the groom a check. Handmade or unique, sentimental gifts stand out from the pack and mean a lot to a couple, particularly if they're family or you know them well.     

Divorce Parties

Approximately ten years after wedding season comes divorce season, when perhaps half the married couples you gifted with pricey china divvy up the spoils and go their separate ways. What better way to celebrate one door closing than with a divorce party? These tongue-in-cheek fetes can help banish the blues after a breakup and encourage the newly single to perk up and open some fun gifts. From dating app subscriptions to lingerie to candles (in freshly signed divorce papers scent!), these parties are about supportive friends and silver linings.    

The ultimate gift guide

Graduations

Cue the Pomp and Circumstance March, don your mortarboard hat, and get ready to tear open some gifts! Graduation is a time to celebrate hard-won achievements and look ahead to a bright future. Whether the grad in question is making the leap from elementary to middle school or earning their PhD, the right gift can help them feel recognized for their hard work. Money is a grad gift classic, though surprise presents with meaning (think framing one of their childhood assignments, or gifting a needlepoint version of their diploma) can become a treasured reminder of an important milestone.   

Housewarming Parties

Whether your new domicile is a tiny studio or a mega mansion in the 'burbs, every move is an occasion to celebrate. Housewarming parties maximize the neighborly vibes and help make a house (or dorm room!) feel like a home. Housewarming gifts are great ways to deck out a place with essential items like wall art, plants, wind chimes, and cozy throws. Want to celebrate but your budget's tight after shelling out for first, last, and security? Just string up some lights and call it a combination housewarming and potluck.   

Funerals 

Funerals are occasions to honor people who have passed away and offer support to the grieving. They are practiced in all cultures the world over, and help us understand and accept loss. A condolence gift is a token of support and shared grief, and shows your special connection to the deceased. Homemade meals, gift baskets, and flowers are common gifts at a funeral, as are unique, personalized items that celebrate the life of those we've lost.    

Baptisms, Christenings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs 

These rites of passage bring family and friends together to celebrate important religious traditions. Baptisms, Christenings, and Mitzvahs typically take place in houses of worship and include children of all ages. Gifts signify a coming together of the community in support of the child, and in recognition of the rituals that bind them. Some of the most popular Baptism, Christening, and Bat/Bar Mitzvah gifts include money, clothing, jewelry, flowers, blankets, and religious mementos.   

Welcome Gifts 

A family just moved in next door, or you have a new colleague at the office. How to break the ice and cut through that "new kid on the block" feeling? With a gift, of course! A simple but thoughtful present can help a recent arrival feel welcome and included. Pitch in with the rest of the neighborhood and drop off a box of goodies, deliver a plant and a lunch invite to your cubicle mate, or bring a gift card to a local restaurant to the new building manager. Welcome gifts are about starting relationships with warmth and open arms.  

Recipients


Even more important than the occasion of gift-giving is the person who receives the gift! Though it may be Christmas, you'll choose wildly different options for your mother, your bae, and your dog walker. You'll calculate the type of gift and the budget (along with a host of other key gift features) based on your relationship with the recipient, who they are, and their place in your life.

The most common gift recipients include:  

Mothers 

If she's not first on your list, chances are she's close! Your mother is the queen among the gift recipients in your life, and no wonder. She gave birth to you, adopted you, or became a member of the family through marriage, making her one of the important people you know. The most common days for honoring your mother with gifts include Mother's Day (of course) as well as her birthday, Christmas, and her anniversary. Gifts should reflect who she is and what her passions are, and aren't limited to the usual holidays. Any day that has meaning to her is perfect for a token of appreciation, love, and connection.   

Fathers 

Right up there on your list of People To Gift is your father. From birth dads to adoptive fathers to honorary dads who love you like their own, fathers hold a special place in our lives. Gifts for fathers are essential on Father's Day, his birthday, and during the holiday season, but don't forget him on other important days, too. Is he retiring? Traveling to meet distant relatives for the first time? Did he just adopt a pet? A thoughtful gift at the right time can show how much you support and value him.  

Siblings

Whether they're your best friend or the nemesis you competed with all through childhood, your sibling is another key person on your must-gift list. Your shared history can make present-swapping easier and more meaningful, particularly if you share inside jokes or other had-to-be-there memories. Birthdays, weddings, Christenings, Easter — any day that involves family is perfect for gifting to your siblings.  

How to give a gift

Children

If you're a veteran of kids' birthday parties, Christenings, and baby showers, then you know: children and gifting go hand in hand! It all starts — quite literally — before they're born and pretty much never stops. Children's gifts change as fast as they do, so you'll want to choose according to their stage of development. Not sure what to get the kid in your life? Just remember one four-letter word. Toys. 

Grandparents

The number one rule of grandparents? Your presence is the best gift you can give them. But there are occasions when you'll want to arrive for that long-awaited visit with a gift in hand! Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, Mother's Day and Father's Day — all are perfect times to let grandparents know how much you value their role in your life.  

Significant Others

Whatever you call your significant other — spouse, partner, companion — gifts will almost certainly enter the equation during your relationship. The most common occasions for gifting your beloved include their birthday, your anniversary, the holiday season, and Valentine's Day (though giving them a present just because can be the most romantic of all!). What about the other lovers in your life? You can feel gift-y toward anyone, even if they're not a long-term partner or serious prospect. Semi-significant others on your list can include friends with benefits, exes with whom you're still friendly, on-again off-agains, or someone you've just started dating.   

Friends

From birthdays to banquets to bon voyage parties, you'll be gathering and gifting with your friends for years to come. As a general rule, the closer the friend, the easier the gift purchase because you know them so well. Your presents to friends will evolve over time and reflect career changes, moves, and the people they become. The best gifts to friends are about the experiences you have in common, and the depth of your caring for each other.    

How to pick the perfect present

Neighbors 

They watch your pets, ask you to turn down your music, and invite you for barbecues. Who are we talking about? Your neighbors! Neighbors are often overlooked when it comes to gift-giving, but they deserve special attention, too. Whether it's a kind gesture like bringing over homemade cookies or a portable fire pit for outdoor parties, small gifts show your neighbors you appreciate them. 

Wedding Party

When it comes to wedding season, you can count on three things: romance, trying to love your bridesmaid's dress, and gifts. Gifts at the bridal shower, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the rehearsal dinner — no matter what the wedding-related occasion, gifts are mandatory.  

The bride and groom may receive the lion's share of the spoils, but don't forget the rest of the wedding party! Gifts are common for many of your big day attendees, including:

  • Bridesmaids. They're your squad, your ride or die crew. The gifts you give your bridesmaids should reflect your deep bond and who they are as individuals. Ditch the generic, one-size-fits-all gift and choose something that shows how well you know them, a fun/meaningful/symbolic token of lasting friendship. 
  • Groomsmen. They know you better than anyone, and the memories you share are priceless. The best gifts for groomsmen tap into the experiences you've shared and the trust you've built over time. Monogrammed items that will last years are always a good bet, as are weekend trips as a group and high-end bottles of spirits. 
  • Best man. Of all your friends, your best man stands out. Maybe he's a relative, college buddy, or your classmate from first grade (who just happens to be a woman). Whomever you choose to stand up during your wedding, they deserve a gift that celebrates their loyalty and uncommon friendship.  
  • Maid of honor. You and your maid of honor have a special affinity. She's a queen among friends, someone you can count on in good times and bad. When choosing her gift, look for something that honors key moments in your friendship, the little things that brought you closer and created your unbreakable bond. 
  • Guests. Whether you're inviting 10 people or a thousand, little gifts can make them feel like a valued part of your big day. Think party favors, bags of fun swag, and small, personalized items that will help them remember twisting the night away long after your wedding is over.  

Ultimate Guide to Gift Giving

Colleagues

When you work with colleagues, it's always someone's birthday! Whether you work at the office or over Zoom, Secret Santa, group gifts, and send-offs for departing co-workers are an inescapable part of office culture. Choosing gifts for colleagues doesn't have to be a chore if you go for practical classics like a heated mug, wireless charging pad, or a gift box loaded with fun games or healthy treats.  

Families 

They might be relatives, neighbors, or the people you rented a vacation home from. Giving a gift to a family means choosing something everyone will enjoy, a true token of appreciation. When brainstorming the perfect present, consider an experience the family can enjoy together, such as movie or theater passes, a day at an amusement park, or a kid-friendly game everyone can play as a group. 

Service People

Friends and family aren't the only ones to add to your list of gift recipients! Don't forget the people who provide services to you throughout the year, such as: 

  • Dogwalkers
  • Pet sitters
  • Housecleaners
  • Door attendants
  • Personal trainers
  • Employees and customers

Holiday gifts are common for service people, and you may choose to recognize their birthdays, too. Cash gifts, gift cards, gift baskets, and liquor are popular presents, but feel free to give a more personalized gift to service folks you know well. 

Types of Gifts


Almost anything can be a gift. Anything, you say? If it has meaning or value to the recipient, yes! Whatever you can do, see, or feel can be a gift, as long as it’s chosen with thought and care and given to the right person. Therein lies the challenge (and the fun!) of gift-giving. 

Gifts of all stripes fall under a few main categories, which include:  

Budget

Your gift list may be a mile long, but your bank account isn't! Fear not — budget gifts don't have to be cheap trinkets. If price is an object, get creative and turn your focus to what matters to the recipient in question. Stop stressing about price and go for a low-cost gift that will have personal meaning to them. Think a jigsaw puzzle of a newspaper's front page on their birthdate, or a ceramic spoon rest shaped like the state they live in. Search websites that feature handmade or personalized products, and choose something that speaks to something special about your giftee.  

Luxury

A luxury gift is designed to wow, to stop the recipient in their tracks. These gasp-inducers are typically expensive, top-of-the-line objects or experiences that are designed to be memorable. But remember that luxury is in the eye of the beholder! An antique book that took months to track down may feel like an extraordinary luxury to a collector, even if it only cost a few bucks. Buying a luxury gift takes more than money. It takes knowing what luxury is to the recipient, and gifting with that in mind. 

Meaningful

In a world filled with factory-made, impersonal objects, the meaningful gift stands out. This is an item or experience that shows a deep connection, a shared history, or a true understanding of the person receiving the gift. Meaningful gifts can be expensive or not, old or not, but always go beyond a simple object to touch the heart or conjure a memory.  

DIY gifts

DIY and Handmade

DIY and handmade gifts are having an extended moment for three reasons: effort, effort, and effort. You've heard the term "it’s the thought that counts?" That's just another way of saying effort matters. In fact, some might argue that effort is everything when it comes to gifts that touch the heart. DIY and handmade gifts take time and intention, and can feel especially considerate. They may not always be the most valuable presents under the tree, but they're often the most valued. 

Romantic

Romance means something a little different to everyone, but one thing's for sure: we know it when we see it. Whether your romantic taste runs to the traditional (flowers and jewelry), the amusing (a DVD of your favorite 80s movie and a 6-pack of wine coolers), or the dramatic (velvet anything, opera, and candlelight), romantic gifts are a must for lovers of all ages. You could wait for Valentine's Day, but why? Romantic gifts are perfect for almost any occasion. 

Intimate

From a sex toy to lingerie to you wearing nothing but a big red bow, an intimate gift is as personal as it gets. Intimate items practically have their own holiday on Valentine's Day, but also make great birthday, Christmas, and anniversary gifts for spouses and lovers. No longer taboo, intimate gifts like sex toys and NSFW gag items have gone unabashedly mainstream, and are now common choices for:

  • Bridesmaids
  • Bachelor and bachelorette party guests
  • BFFs
  • Newly divorced friends
  • Close friends interested in self-care and exploring their sexuality
  • Any good friends who appreciate fun or surprise gifts with a little edge 

Intimate gifts have become so popular that even establishment department stores have begun to carry select items. They can be purchased online and are typically delivered in discreet packaging, so nosy neighbors or roomies will be none the wiser.     

Experience 

What do you get for the person who has everything? An experience, of course! When an ordinary gift just won't do, choose something that will help create a memory, new skill, or time with someone they love. From a weekend away to a cooking class to a rock-climbing lesson, experience gifts are perfect for the hard-to-buy-for folks in your life, especially those who value adventures (or adrenaline!) over things. 

Giving the perfect gift

Gift Cards 

Gift cards are more popular than ever, and for good reason. They're the next best thing to asking someone what they want, but they retain that all-important element of surprise. The great thing about gift cards? Choice! You can grab a virtual gift card in a few minutes from thousands of online stores, or have a physical card delivered quickly to your address of choice. Gift cards also take the pressure of you, the gifter, to come up with the perfect gift, and allow your giftee to choose a present that's right up their alley. 

Charitable Donations

Maybe your giftee isn't big on material things but they care a lot about a particular cause. A charitable donation is the perfect way to give them something meaningful that won't add to their pile of unwanted paraphernalia. You can also give as much or as little as you can afford and keep the amount you donated private. Another great perk of donations? They don't add more plastic and packaging to landfills.   

Swag 

Whether you're going to a kid's birthday party or a work seminar, you're likely to encounter a bag of swag. Swag bags are small gift bags or packages filled with items that complement the theme of the event. They're designed to make guests feel welcome and pampered, and in the case of corporate events, do a little more promo. 

Common swag items might include:

  • Hats
  • T-shirts
  • Coasters
  • Candy
  • Key chains
  • Food items like gourmet sea salt or flavored olive oil

Swag will, of course, vary according to the occasion. Logo-branded swag is almost a given at corporate events, while party and wedding swag are usually customized for the occasion. Think a scented travel candle with your name on it or matches stamped with the date Emma and Ben tied the knot. 

Top Rules For Giving Gifts


Gift giving could be called an art. Some people always seem to choose the perfect present, while others, not so much. But in truth, successful gift-giving comes down to one simple thing: observation.

When you notice who your gift recipient is, their likes, habits, and interests, you have all the information you need to choose the perfect gift. Think about who they are. Do they like to make cocktails? Drive a vintage car? Volunteer to walk shelter pups? Meditate? What colors do they typically wear? What did they do last weekend? These are clues that can steer you in the right direction when you shop for a gift. 

Before you start shopping, keep a few guidelines in mind:

Focus on the recipient. Tempting as it may be to see a potential gift through your eyes, use what you know about the person to choose the best gift for them, even if you personally are opposed to purple/animal figurines/vintage jackets. 

Gift experiences instead of objects. The best gifts are about feelings and helping us experience something new or enjoyable. They can transport us back to a meaningful time, excite us, or show us something new about ourselves. Think about what really matters to the person in question and gift accordingly. 

Don't use gifts to send a message. Unless the message is love, happy birthday, or something appropriate for the occasion, avoid using gifts as a hint or nudge. Want to help someone get healthy? Gifting them an exercise bike, book of keto recipes, or gym membership may feel more like an intervention than a thoughtful gesture. Communicate your thoughts and feelings with words and let your gifts spark joy. 

Don't ask what they want. The instinct comes from a good place — you want to get them something they'll love! But asking someone what they want as a gift can feel a bit, well, lazy, and puts the responsibility on the receiver. They may choose a gift based on budget, or to make the process easier for you. Part of the joy of gift-giving is the effort you make, and the caring that effort shows.   

Presentation is key. How you present a gift can make all the difference. A carefully chosen present can look less than stellar if you toss it in a too-large gift bag or hastily wrap it in tissue paper. Make your gift shine by wrapping it in high-quality paper or selecting the right size gift bag for maximum presentation points. 

How To Choose A Gift


If you're baffled when it comes time to choose a gift, you're not alone. There are too many options! Or not enough. Or not enough of the right ones. Or you already gave them that last year. Or it's too expensive. 

No wonder you dread gift-giving! But finding the right present doesn't have to feel like a test with no right answers. Here are some tips and tricks to help you pick the perfect gift for everyone on your list:

Decide on your budget. You may be tempted to go big or go home when it comes to gifts, but great options can be found at all price points! The amount you spend depends on the recipient, the occasion, your disposable income, and how you feel about gifting. Some of us like to go a little wild when it comes to presents, while others prefer to be more restrained. 

If the occasion is a milestone birthday or anniversary, you may want to spend a bit more lavishly. Ditto for someone particularly close to you. Not sure how to break down your gift-giving budget? Get organized! Make a list of gifting occasions throughout the year, recipients, and allot a certain amount per gift. Then add up the total to get your total yearly gift budget.

If the amount seems too high, reduce your estimate for each gift according to the importance of the occasion. Need to stretch your budget even more? Here are some other easy ways to cut gifting costs:

  • Make your own. If you're craft-y or willing to learn a few DIY techniques, you can make gifts that feel personal and cost less than most store-bought options.  
  • Give a group gift. Pitch in with others and give a group gift! This works particularly well for events like office parties and retirements, where a big present from the group is absolutely appropriate.
  • Customize it. Make your giftee feel special without spending a mint! Have a mug customized with their birthdate or a phrase that's unique to them. Monogram a flask or robe, or have a jigsaw puzzle created with a photo that has meaning to both of you.
  • Swap for it. Want to gift something in particular but your budget is tight? Swap for it! Artisans and craftspeople may be open to swapping for something of value in return, including your time, skills, or creative talents. Browse swap websites or check out the Buy Nothing app, which allows you to swap items, find items you need, or give away those you no longer have use for. 

The ultimate guide to gift giving

Ask yourself these 5 questions. Before you hit the stores and start searching, do some quick prep with the following list of questions about your gift recipient:

  • What do they like to do? How they spend their time is a clue to the kind of gift they'll enjoy. Have they recently picked up paddle tennis? Are they wild about baking? Is watercolor painting their thing? Anything that pertains to an interest or hobby can make the ideal gift, from a class on it to a tool for it to a book all about it.  
  • What excites them? What subject makes them animated? Maybe it's politics, knitting, classic blues guitarists. They might be passionate about their family tree or hip hop dancing. Think about conversations you've had with them and which topics fire them up. Cater your gift to something that has meaning to them, that inspires them and gets them talking.   
  • What do they like to eat? Food and bev can make perfect gifts, particularly if your recipient is a foodie, cook, or culinary tour fan. Try putting together a collection of interesting condiments, giving them a subscription to a gourmet gift box, a quality set of kitchen tools, or surprising them with a reservation at a restaurant they've been dying to try.   
  • What's their favorite cause? If you need gift ideas, look no further than what's near and dear to their heart. Do they care about climate change? Rescue pets? Childhood cancer? Find out what moves them and then contribute, volunteer, or join a charity run as a true gift from the heart. 
  • What problem do they want to solve? One often-overlooked secret to gift giving is to consider what your recipient needs. Does their garage need an overhaul? Consider gifting storage bins, a book on organizing, or an afternoon working side by side. Would they love a night out but can't leave kids/pets/aging parents? Offer to hold down the fort while they take a much-needed evening of R&R. The gift of time and help can be priceless to someone who's short on both. 

Request advice. You've racked your brain and you're still stumped. Or you aren't close to the recipient, but a gift is a must. What to do? Try asking for guidance from folks who know them well. They may be able to clue you in to a hobby or interest and guide you toward the perfect present. 

Start online. Shopping for gifts takes energy, particularly during the holiday season! If time is short and your gift list is long, a little planning is in order. Start to browse online to maximize your time, check out options, and narrow them down to two or three. You may decide to order directly online, or if you're a shopper who needs to see a potential gift in person before pulling the trigger, have a clear idea of what you're looking for and where to find it before heading out to buy.  

Get off the beaten path. Bored of mass-produced stuff that feels impersonal? Fortunately, it's easier than ever to find handmade or one-of-a-kind gifts. Here are some great alternatives to the typical shopping mall or chain store:  

  • Artisan shops. If you're looking for quality arts and crafts, check out your local artists' collective. Baskets, pottery, prints, ornaments, hand blown glass, clothing-- an artisan shop is the place to find unique gifts that make an impression and show thought and effort.   
  • Galleries. Step up your gifting game. If it's luxury or a breathtaking object you're after, you can't go wrong at an art gallery. This is where you'll find paintings, sculpture, mobiles, and furniture that stand head and shoulders above standard gifts. Just be sure you know the artistic style of your recipient, along with the gallery's return policy in case of a taste mismatch. 
  • Flea markets. Maybe your giftee has funky taste or is otherwise unimpressed by the humdrum and ordinary. If it's an unusual gift you're searching for, a flea market is the way to go. From old records to antique porcelain to the best in retro fashion, your local flea has almost everything, for almost anyone. 
  • Etsy. You don't have to leave your house to find handcrafted gifts! Buy directly from ceramic artists, jewelry makers, and craftspeople of all kinds on Etsy. All Etsy products are handmade, vintage, or custom, making it a perfect place for personalized gifts. Etsy may be the largest website of its kind, but it's hardly the only one. Similar sites include Uncommon Goods, Bonanza, and Aftcra. 
  • Farmer's markets. On the hunt for wildflower honey, homemade jams, or hand-poured candles to give as gifts? Farmer's markets offer more than veggies! If you're looking for a present for a foodie or someone who appreciates locally made products, a farmer's market is the ideal place to get your gift on. 

Gift giving guide

How To Wrap A Gift 

You've got the gift, the occasion is around the corner, but the hard part is still ahead. We're talking of course about wrapping! All that cutting, folding, and taping can feel like a chore that never looks quite right. Don't let your fear of a sloppy result detract from the perfect present. Here are some alternative, ultra-simple ways to wrap things up: 

Put it in a bag. If you're less than adept with wrap, keep it simple with a gift bag. These easy-as-pie alternatives come in a wide array of sizes and can handle anything from a tiny trinket to a lamp. Just line with a generous amount of tissue paper, tie the handles with a piece of ribbon, and gift!

Swathe it in fabric. For a nice DIY vibe, try wrapping your gift in a stylish piece of fabric. Look for a patterned piece of cloth opaque enough to conceal the present inside and wrap it burrito-style, folding the ends in and rolling carefully. Tie up your fabric bundle with a ribbon made from twine, velvet, or satin for the perfect finishing touch. 

Stick it in a jar. Scrap wrap altogether by placing your present in a jar. Chic mason jars or other interesting glass containers are perfect for gifting several smaller items and reducing your impact on the environment. Wrap a ribbon around the top, add a gift tag, and you're good to gift!

Stamp it. Have you wrapped your gift only to realize it's underwhelming? Add some instant sparkle with stamps! You can find stamps and ink pads online or in any craft store and use them to give pizzazz to simple butcher paper. Create a bookmark by cutting a rectangle from card stock, decorating it with your favorite stamp, and slipping it under the ribbon of your gift for a festive little extra.  

Use cellophane. If you’re all thumbs but you’re set on wrapping a gift, try cellophane. This crinkly-by-nature material doesn’t show misplaced tape or uneven ends like regular gift wrap, and looks festive besides. Cellophane is also a great way to wrap presents in odd shapes, like wine bottles.  

Don't forget the basics. No matter how you wrap, make sure to remove price tags beforehand. If there are fingerprints or dust on the gift, give it a quick swipe so it looks spiffy and ready to impress.

How To Give A Gift


You've got your gift, wrapped it, and now the time has come. How to give it in a way befitting of your effort? A romantic dinner, party, or family gathering are tried-and-true times to present a gift, but if you're looking for a twist on your usual giving routine, here are some ideas: 

Do a treasure hunt.  Everyone, no matter their age, can appreciate a treasure hunt! This is a great choice for fun folks in your inner circle, particularly if you have several smaller gifts to give. Leave written clues at each hiding spot or send the recipient a voice message with directions to follow. Tuck wrapped or unwrapped presents into places around the house or outdoors on a dry day and let the gifting games begin.

Get them alone. This is especially important for romantic or intimate gifts. If you want the recipient's full attention, gifting when you're alone is the way to go. This allows them to focus on you and your present, and really experience what you've chosen and what it means to both of you. 

Surprise them. There's nothing quite like the expression of someone receiving a surprise gift! No matter what the occasion, a spontaneous gift shows caring and thought. From flowers to their favorite takeout to the shoes they've coveted for weeks, a surprise present combines a special gesture with the unexpected, and who can resist that?

Say what you feel. At its heart, gift giving is about caring. Make your present extra-special by including a handwritten note about how much the recipient means to you. Even better, tell them. Forego the greeting card, say it from the heart, and then give them your present. Appreciative words are the most important gift of all, and the most long-lasting.  

Build anticipation (or not!). Maybe they've got a big birthday coming up and have no idea what you're giving them. Get them excited by dropping a few subtle hints to pique their curiosity. Or throw them off the scent and leave them guessing! A little stealth can be just as fun as creating anticipation. Bring household members in on the plan and swear everyone to secrecy. Drop a few red herrings to puzzle the recipient and enjoy watching their reaction when they finally open their gift.