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holiday gift giving tips | give great gifts every time

Discover the art of giving great gifts every time. These holiday gift giving tips are a life-saver when you just can’t figure out what to give someone. Whether for a distant relative or a spouse, these tips will help you every single time!

Gift giving tips include thought and car win wrapping the gift as this one is wrapped in plain gift wrapping, tied with twine, and has dried eucalyptus leaves tucked into it.

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I don’t know when exactly it happened, or if it happened slowly over time. But I have somehow managed to gain the title “queen of gift giving.” Maybe it’s due to my thoughtful nature or maybe it’s just a skill I’ve acquired from lots of experience with giving gifts over the years. Those near and dear to me are always saying how thoughtful my gifts are. 

Honestly, that’s a badge I proudly wear. 

I enjoy getting to know people and trying to understand their interests. And then getting creative and seeing how I can turn those ideas into physical gifts. 

I enjoy seeing their face light up when they unwrap it. The excitement in their voice. And I’ve always just loved that act of giving honestly. I think that deep down that’s where the art of gift giving begins. Because if you don’t truly want to give it, you completely diminish the purpose of gifts.

I think between crazy busy schedules that are all too common in today’s society, coupled with no motivation to be creative, it leaves people resorting to gifting cash and gift cards as a default.

Now, there is nothing wrong with gift cards or cash. Sometimes the occasion calls for it. But real, intentional gifts are those carefully selected, researched, and wrapped just for that special someone. These are the gifts people remember. 

So today, I’m going to highlight all my major holiday gift giving tips. We all know the holidays will be sneaking up on us in no time…

Let’s jump into the holiday gift giving tips.

Holiday Gift Giving Tips 

Drop the expectations

First of all, we have to drop the expectations to find the “perfect gift.” Not everyone’s love language is gifts, and some people are just really hard to shop for. (Like if they already have one of everything or they don’t have any hobbies or big interests.) 

Once we drop these expectations, the entire process becomes easier. We can’t expect a single gift to be life-changing. That’s just not likely. So quit putting added pressure on yourself. The less anxious you are about it, the more authentic your gift can be because it came from the heart. 

Get them what they like, not what you like

This is one of the most common mistakes people make when holiday gift giving. They buy what they think is cute, what they think the recipient needs, what they would want as a gift. Well, news flash, we aren’t all the same. No matter how much I love certain people in my life, I’ve come to terms with the fact that we have vastly different styles, tastes, and lifestyles. We do not always like the same things. And that is okay.

The next time you’re around these people, be more aware of what they say and do. Try to take mental notes of their likes and dislikes. Be more aware of colors they like. Scents they like. Their favorite band, their favorite sports team, and so on and so forth. 

I will sometimes be hanging out with someone and realize they’re really into something. After I leave or if I take a break from socializing, I’ll pull out my phone and jot this down in my notes app for a gift reminder later. It could be April and I’ll add this to my running list of gift ideas. I have a list with every single family member’s name in a column, and I’ll add to it when I get an idea. Get used to doing this all year round. When Christmas arrives, all you have to do is place the order. So ridiculously easy.

Understand their interests and hobbies

You don’t actually have to fully understand why they love a certain hobby so much or why they’re obsessed with their favorite band. But realize that knowing all these little things is key to buying (or making) a great gift. 

When you have these little details about their lives, it is so much easier to shop for them. If you notice a new person you’re dating loves listening to punk rock and wears a lot of black, buy them a t-shirt of their favorite band. This may not seem that thoughtful to an outsider, but to the person receiving the gift they may think it’s so cool you remembered or noticed this about them. (And believe me, music is so important to some people.) 

Not everyone else has to understand the gift. But if you can dig deep and understand what’s important to the recipient, you can get the right gift every time.

Gift giving tips include a succulent garden you arranged yourself.

Know and stick to a budget

This is a hard one. Everyone’s budget is so different. And everyone has different expectations of what others should spend on them or how much they’re willing to spend on others. For me, I feel like if it’s someone new in my life or we’re not super close, I can probably keep it on the smaller side. $20-50 range. If it’s my husband, depending on the holiday, I might spend $200-300. 

It really depends on the season of life we’re in, though. If your range is more or less, stick to that but be consistent. 

A variety of budget-friendly wines are nestled into a basket, making a lovely gift anytime.
A variety of budget-friendly wines are nestled into a basket, making a lovely gift for any wine drinker.

Now, your budget may fluctuate over time, which may make holiday gifts way different each year. But if it’s Christmas and you’re spending $25 on a sibling, make sure you spend that much on every sibling (within a few dollars at least).

These are not hard-and-fast budgets, though. Go by what your budget allows and what you feel comfortable with. That’s the most important thing.

Spending more doesn’t always equal better

Which brings me to my next point. Don’t be over-the-top flashy with gifts either. That really makes some people uncomfortable. They may think you expect the same. They may feel like it’s money wasted. They may think you have ulterior motives. You can’t buy someone’s loyalty or trust or friendship. You just can’t. Besides, sometimes less is more. Thought can matter so much more than the cost.

The bottom line: Just because you spend more on something flashy, it doesn’t mean it will necessarily be seen as a better gift. Spend wisely.

Don’t just ask them what they want… unless you’re close to them

The reason this makes my holiday gift giving list is because it shows you don’t put a lot of extra thought into gifts. It’s basically giving up before you even try. Now, I get it if you have 25 people to buy for and someone new is in the picture and you have absolutely no idea what to get them. 

Instead of asking them directly, try asking someone close to them what the recipient’s interests or hobbies are. Then use that to direct you toward a gift idea. Don’t just straight up ask them what to buy that person, though. (It’s no fun when you make someone else do your dirty work). 

Asking someone directly can also put them in an uncomfortable situation because they don’t know how much you’re willing to spend on them and don’t want to seem stingy. 

However, if this person is super close to you and you’ve run out of ideas, I think it’s okay to ask them if they have any ideas what they want for a gift. My husband and I occasionally do this and sometimes it’s for the best. If I had kids I would probably do the same, at least with some of the gifts. With anyone else, I do my own work and try to think outside the box.

Get them something useful

One of my favorite holiday gift giving tips: be practical. Practical doesn’t always equal boring. And sometimes even “boring” can be good. Because what seems boring to you may just be exactly what they want. 

It could be something they’ve been needing forever and just haven’t gotten around to buying. If it’s something they will use frequently, even if it seems mundane, they may just love it. 

It means one less shopping trip they have to make. That gift could mean completing one daily task much, much easier. It doesn’t have to be “gift-worthy,” it just has to be useful. Sometimes these gifts become my favorite, regardless of how weird it seems to others.

It’s okay to take a risk… as long as it’s calculated

This one may feel risky, but sometimes we have to take risks in life. Usually I’m cautious when it comes to gift giving. On occasion, though, I find the coolest present, and although it’s a little different or unexpected, I just get a feeling the recipient would LOVE it.

For his birthday, I recently gifted my husband this projector with a screen that you can find HERE even though he had never once said anything about wanting one. Somehow, because I know him so well, I just had a feeling he would love it. He was ecstatic. He had no idea I was buying it and absolutely loved it. Now, he’s running all these ideas by me about what we should watch outside and football parties we need to host on the patio. 

So take risks, but be smart about them. Know when something is worth it and listen to your intuition. 

Gift experience gifts

Here is another favorite holiday gift giving tip I love. If finding a material gift is hard, try gifting them an experience. Buy them tickets to a concert they’ve been talking about or take them to a special dinner to a restaurant they’ve never had but have been dying to try. You could even book a spa day together to spend the day with them and get pampered together. There are so many possibilities with this. 

One reason I love this idea, especially for kids, is because many end up with too many toys after the holidays. At a certain point it becomes wasteful. Yes, kids need toys to play with. But do they really need 100 plastic toys piled up in the corner that won’t be used? Not to mention, the parents have to end up driving them somewhere to donate them in 6 months… 

Experience gifts teach children the value of time, the value of family, and the value of experiencing life. Not just owning more things. You’re not a bad person for setting boundaries with toys or setting boundaries with yourself when it comes to making purchases on material gifts. Sometimes it is okay to gift an experience instead. 

A woman pulls a small boy in a wagon at the zoo.

Sometimes the less things we have, the more we appreciate them and this can be said for children and adults alike.

There have been studies that show that the more toys children have, the less satisfied and happy they are while playing. Additionally, the fewer toys they have, the more children play. Children tend to stick with a few favorites and this I’ve seen firsthand. 

My point is that we can only have so many things before they lose their meaning and purpose. Sometimes the best gift we can give someone is our time.

Secondhand gifts aren’t off the table

This one isn’t for everyone. But if you know for a fact that they like second-hand items, go for it. That being said, there are a few items I personally would not want secondhand. Use your best judgment. 

For example, if my husband gave me a second-hand lens for my camera, I would not be the least bit bothered. In fact, I’d be ecstatic and really not see a difference, as long as it was in good shape of course. Camera lenses are very expensive (hundreds and thousands of dollars). And photographers are notorious for taking very good care of their camera gear. Those are their babies. So I guarantee this would almost be the preferred route to go with a camera lens.

I also LOVE antiques. So if someone remembered a particular antique piece I mentioned and bought it for me, I’d be completely in love. (Just don’t go buying your friends random stuff at an antique store. That will be so obvious and no one wants random junk for a gift.)

However, on the other hand, I might think it a bit strange if my husband were to gift me second-hand clothes. I’m not against wearing second-hand clothes, but they are much harder to find in my style and size. I can be picky about clothes. So that would be a no from me.

Everyone is different, though.

In general, I’d say if you know the person uses second-hand stuff and/or if you can still get a great value for an item that would normally be way out of your price range, go for it. 

You don’t have to spend money

You heard me right. You can even just make something with things you already have on hand. Sew? Make them a throw blanket or pillow. Bake a lot? Make 5 different types of cookies, freeze them, and divide them up on the holidays between family and friends for a variety pack. People appreciate the thought more than you think. Sometimes we can put our own hobbies to use when we give gifts to others.

A cookie cake is sliced and served with a scoop of ice cream on a rustic table.

Gifts not to buy… like, ever

Okay, this holiday gift giving tip may be controversial because everyone truly is different. Unless you’re really close with someone and know for a fact they’d love it, there are a few things I recommend not buying. Intimate adult toys, self-help/diet/workout books, home decor, super noisy kids’ toys, hygiene products, and clothes.

Again, if you truly know someone well you may be able to get away with some of these gifts, but most I don’t recommend. 

Intimate adult toys are a way too personal, self-help books insinuate they have issues, home decor is too hard because most people have very unique styles (same goes for clothes), noisy toys will irritate parents, and hygiene products are useful but insinuate they need to be using them more. 

I will say, I have on rare occasions bought a home decor gift when I knew that person would love the theme and the decor was neutral and would pretty much work in any space. I have also bought clothes for nieces and nephews before, but only because that was pretty easy once I asked for sizes from the parents. 

But otherwise, oh heck no. Just don’t take the risk. 

People’s styles are so individualized that unless they tell you something specifically, just skip these things.

Final thoughts on holiday gift giving tips

Hopefully these gift giving tips can steer you in the right direction. I wrote this in hopes to help others, not to criticize any prior gift choices you’ve made in your holiday gift giving. (So don’t think I’m singling you out.) 

I have just noticed a pattern with my own gift giving habits. And after recognizing what tends to work and what doesn’t, I came up with these useful holiday gift giving tips. 

No judgment intended. 

Even if a couple of these tips give you ideas, then I feel like I’ve done my job. Happy gift hunting!

More Holiday Posts You Won’t Want to Miss

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DIY Gift Baskets for the Holidays  

Scandinavian Christmas Tree Decorating  

DIY Sugar Scrubs 3 Ways 

Winter Date Ideas

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