A paper-wrapped gift with a blue bow with a question mark above it.

The Dos and Don’ts of Gift-Giving

There’s an art to giving gifts. Giving to your friend from college is vastly different from gifting something to your grandma, and each requires your careful discernment. Also, you want to avoid getting them something they already have or don’t want without giving yourself and your gift idea away in the process. The only ways you can get better at the art of gift-giving is by practicing, getting to know your recipient better, and taking note of general advice. We can help you with the general advice part. To guide you through the gift-giving process, here are the dos and don’ts of gift-giving.

Do: Start with a Budget

While this first point complicates the art of giving, sticking to a budget is a must. It’s always easier to find something more on the expensive side—a device, for example—that would impress the person you’re giving to. That said, spending too much money complicates your finances a bit while also potentially limiting creativity. When you stick to a budget, you not only save yourself a financial headache, but you also force yourself to get creative with what you choose. Rather than throwing money into a gift (or just giving them money), being intentional about what you spend $20 on—or perhaps even making a personalized gift yourself—makes it clear to your recipient that you put effort into the process.

Don’t: Limit Yourself to Giving Tangible Gifts

When you think of a gift, you likely think of a finely wrapped package ready for them to unwrap. While many gifts take this form, they don’t need to. Gifting them an experience shakes things up and helps you focus on spending time together. While so many of us are socially distant during this pandemic, you can’t exactly go out to a baseball game or see your mutual favorite band together, but you can at least look forward to these activities. Gift them with the anticipation of going out when restrictions lift. If you can’t wait, there are other experiences you can gift them. If you live together, cook them dinner or give them the classic breakfast-in-bed treatment. If they’re far away, play a game over video chat that they enjoy. So often, that knick-knack gift you decided on because you couldn’t find anything gets put to the side, whereas memories from a trip or another experience remain for a long time.

Do: Ask Their Friends or Relatives What They’d Appreciate

Here’s another “do”—ask their friends or family about what they’d like. If you don’t spend your daily life with them, you may not notice what they do or don’t want. Their family and close friends, though, may get the offhand comments about wanting a record player, the quip about orange nail polish looking weird, or the desire to get that new movie on DVD. Getting in touch with their loved ones helps you narrow down your options. When it comes down to it, though, choose what to get yourself. Recommendations can guide you, but a gift from you is more precious if it reflects you and your relationship with your friend or family member.

Don’t: Fall Prey to the Deal

If you go into a store or online shopping without a plan, keep your guard up. It’s possible a price-cutting deal sways you into getting a cheap but unnecessary gift. Take a second to ask yourself, “would I get this for them if it were full price?” If not, skip it. That said, if you see a massive discount for an item—maybe a board game or piece of clothing you know they’d love—put it in your cart. Snagging a sale gives you more room in your budget to add to your gift, sweetening the entire package.

Do: Give the Gift Receipt, Too

As you give your gift, don’t be so confident they’ll like it that you don’t give the gift receipt too. Now, in some circumstances, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt they’ll like it, but that’s not typical. Give them the option to get something else if they choose—it’s their gift, after all.

Don’t: Re-Gift Something

Among our other dos and don’ts of gift-giving, this is perhaps our starkest warning: don’t re-gift. Re-gifting removes the art of gift-giving and makes it a matter of convenience instead. It requires no thought about what your friend or loved one wants. Also, there’s always the chance they remember you receiving said gift or, worse yet, could be the original giver. It’s best to steer clear of the potential complications of re-gifting and getting something else for them.

Do: Think About What They Value

While friends and family can give you valuable insight, really pondering a person’s personality and values will send you in a positive direction. If they care about justice initiatives, consider going the fair-trade route, only buying accessories, clothes, and other items from companies that pay a fair wage. For those concerned about the environment, buying from companies that employ sustainable practices is a great way to go. People who go out of their way for family would appreciate a quality picture frame to put a family portrait in. A gift that corresponds with values connects it to a larger purpose, allowing the gift to serve more than simply their enjoyment.

Don’t: Be Afraid to Get Something Unique

As you comb through gift options, you may come across more unconventional items. Perhaps your recipient wouldn’t even know what they are. While some are clearly not for them, don’t be afraid to introduce your loved one to something new. For example, if they don’t read a certain book genre but you think they may like a book you found, don’t be afraid to pick one up. So often, new interests spring from gifts or suggestions from others, so this is a chance to expose them to something unique. That said, still consider their interests throughout. Some out-of-the-box gifts are better left on the store shelf.

Do: Commemorate an Occasion

Many people follow the script of giving gifts on a holiday or birthday, but consider how other occasions allow you to give. Tokens of your appreciation can pleasantly surprise someone on a special day. Give your pastor one of our religious appreciation plaques on the anniversary of their pastoral service in your church. Take your son to pick a gift out to celebrate him passing a difficult class. Pick up some flowers for your wife to remember the day you went on your first date. The options are endless, but gifts generally make little and big occasions better.


The Dos and Don’ts of Gift-Giving

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