The Ultimate Gift Giving Guide

(Photo above by Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash)

If you, like me, put off getting Christmas gifts until the last second, you might be a little stressed right now trying to figure out what to get everyone. It feels like there is so much to choose from but at the same time you don’t know what the person you’re shopping for would want. This is especially true if you’re shopping for someone who seems to already have everything.

Fear not! I have some advice for you. And you can trust me because people have consistently told me that I have given them the best gift they’ve ever received. A couple weeks ago I even got a text from a friend saying that the Christmas gift I gave him two years ago was a “fantastic experience and it’s brought me so many hours of enjoyment.” (It was this scratch-off poster of 100 albums to listen to before you die, if you’re curious).

Here are my best tips on giving a good, meaningful gift your loved one will actually like. This advice works no matter the occasion, so whether you’re shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, a birthday, or just because, these tips should help you.

#1 Don’t rely on “best gifts of the year” lists

Lists like these that you’ll see on Buzzfeed or magazines like New York or even gift finders from stores like Amazon are not good resources for you. These lists are impersonal and not curated to the tastes of the person you’re shopping for. If you find a hyper-specific list that matches their interests, then it might be worth a look. For example, if you’re shopping for an stylish environmentalist, a list of the best sustainable clothing gifts might work. Otherwise, stay away from these lists. 

The featured items also tend to be more expensive than what my college student self can afford, and the under-$50 or $25 lists are filled with things your loved one is more likely to throw away than treasure forever. 

#2 Shop small

The benefits of shopping small are twofold: you get to help out small businesses in a time when they need it most and you get unique items you can’t find anywhere else. A good gift is memorable, and if you get your loved one something they’ve seen a million times before it’ll be less impactful. But if you get something from a small business that no else has, it’s much more personal and meaningful for them. 

I suggest looking for really unique, handmade jewelry and art from small businesses. But if you know your loved one likes other things, like cooking or gardening, look for items related to their interests. 

#3 Reflect on memories you’ve had with them

If you’re truly stuck and don’t have any idea what to get your loved one, try to remember good moments you’ve spent with them. Did you take a trip with them that they really enjoyed? Get them something from that place or a framed photo from that time. Do you two enjoy the same books/movies/tv shows/music? Get them a special edition of the book, a book of the month subscription, merch related to the show, a projector so they can enjoy movies from home while theaters are closed, a silicone case for their airpods — the possibilities are endless. 

And if they have a special interest or specific quirk you can play into that by giving them a gift related to whatever they’re into. For example, my friend (who’s an adult college student) thinks Peppa Pig is really funny for some reason, so last year I got her a Peppa Pig shirt that she now wears all the time. 

#4 Look for what they need

Sometimes the best gift is a practical one, especially if you know your loved one has been needing a certain thing for a while. These types of gifts can be difficult to give because you have to remember what they’ve said they’re looking for or needed in the past. You also have to make sure they haven’t already bought it for themselves (try asking their family and friends about it before getting it as a gift). 

In spring, my boyfriend mentioned off hand that he lost one of his Galaxy Buds and wasn’t able to find it anywhere. So for his birthday in June, I got him a replacement pair because I knew he wouldn’t buy them himself. A practical gift doesn’t have to be that expensive, just keep an ear out for what they’ve been lacking. 

#5 When in doubt, buy a mask

A great addition to any gift in 2020 is a face mask. I’m sure whoever you’re buying for already has a drawer full of them. But this is an opportunity to get them a really nice one. And you could combine all of the advice I’ve given throughout this list to give them a nice face mask from a small business that incorporates what they’re interested in. Maybe it’s a face mask with a bunny print on it because they really like rabbits. Or maybe it’s a fancy silk mask because they’re into skincare. Or you can get really elaborate masks from a high-end designer because their masks are affordable but their clothes are not. Whatever their interests or needs, you can personalize it into a face mask. 

Happy holidays, and good luck gift buying!


Written by Abby Sacks

Student at the University of Virginia studying Psychology and Media Studies. When not writing or hanging out with my cat, can be found watching too much bad TV and being too old for TikTok but enjoying it anyway.

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