Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Guide to Good Gifting

With the holiday season here, a gifting post seems appropriate. The first part of this post is dedicated to fundamental guidelines for gifting. The second part lists some of the best online boutiques and resources for finding the perfect gift for, dare I say it?, anyone on your list.


Buying gifts for people is easy; selecting gifts that aren't cookie cutter items, are in your price range, and the person likes, can be a time-consuming challenge. At the same time, shopping for the people who bring something to your life can be very fun and should be enjoyable. The whole idea of gifts is, obviously, about giving. In its most virtuous form, the act of giving a material gift is symbolic--thus the expression, "It's the thought that counts." What the gift symbolizes will vary, but ultimately it surrounds the relationship between yourself and the person to whom you are giving. That being said, in some ways, a gift is only as valuable as the thought (and relationship) behind it. However, the thought behind the gift does not ensure a "successful" gift, since, in the end, you're left with a material good. More or less, the best gifting encompasses both the thought and intent behind the gift, as well the material good itself.

Below are some guidelines for gifting, along with a couple of ideas that aren't overly cookie-cutter to get your imaginative juices flowing.

1. Buy for the person to whom your gifting!
This is obvious, but it frequently goes awry. Think about the interests the person has and his/her likes. The best gifts are not the ones that are expensive, but the ones that the person would want for him or herself (duh). 1.) The person will feel special because you thought of the person, and the gift reflects your knowing each other and the relationship. 2.) The person will be excited about receiving it. 3.) It saves that awkward feeling of "ohhh, something I really don't want and now have to keep." I'd much rather have a coin purse I love for $10 than a $200 bag I think is ugly or something I'm never going to use. My advice: consider the person's taste, what they have in his/her home, the person's activities/interests, and the person's lifestyle. These suggestions should provide you with some direction and ideas. Obviously, if a person loves and collects candles, go with a unique candle. Otherwise, candles (and picture frames) fall into the category of cookie-cutter items and should be avoided.

2. Don't buy seasonal things. No Christmas ornaments, cute little dreidles for Chanuka, etc. It's a cop out. Seasonal Juicy charms are excluded from this rule.

3. Don't buy perfume or cologne.
Unless you know the scent someone likes or the person has expressed exactly which perfume/cologne he or she wants, skip this idea. It's far too individual.

4. Don't exclude experiences!

Research on happiness actually shows that people who spend money on experiences instead of material goods are happier. Consider what the people on your list would enjoy doing. For example, if you know someone who loves to learn, consider buying him a pass/gift card to a museum. If you're gifting for a food connoisseur, consider a gift card to a restaurant ($25 is sufficient for a delicious lunch spot). For myself, since shopping is an activity/hobby of mine, a gift card to a mall would be fun and much appreciated (TJ Maxx and Marshall's too). There are tons of options for experiences: vineyards, massages, manicures/pedicures, etc. Don't shy away from gifting an experience! However, refer back to Guideline #1 and make sure it is something that the person would enjoy.

5. Books, DVD's, and magazine subspriptions.
These are only valid options if you know the books, DVD's, and magazines a person already has or you know what he or she would enjoy. An example, again referencing the first guideline: if your grandmother loves cooking, but doesn't enjoy reading, don't buy her a cooking book. A recipe cook book or magazine would be more appropriate. Coffee table books can be a good call for the in-home ententainer or friends and family who have their living spaces in top-notch shape.

6. Don't force yourself into one gift.

I frequently find myself falling into this trap. Often, when I try to buy a gift for someone, I think, "Okay, I'm looking for a gift in the 'x-y' price range." Then, I brainstorm for items that fall within that price range. However, if I do this, I'm significantly limiting my options, and I might miss something that is perfect for that person! For example, if I'm looking for a gift between $30 and $50, there might be 300 (arbitrary number) items that fall in that range. If I am looking for any gifts under $50, I've signficantly expanded my options. Combining multiple less expensive gifts can seem tacky. However, if each gift is a quality gift, the person would like it, and you present it attractively, I encourage multiple "smaller" gifts. It's even better if you have a theme that ties together all of your gifts. For example, a fun gift for the entertainer might include a unique cocktail shaker, stirrers, condiment picks, and fun cocktail napkins presented in an ice bucket. If you come across several items you think the person might enjoy, see if you can tie them together with a theme.

For example, below are some items I would combine for a fashionista mom.

Flirty Aprons from Overstock, $32

Safety Girl Roadside Emergency Kit from SugarDaisy, $35

7. Listen!
People frequently talk about what they like or want, only it inconveniently might not be around this gift-giving season. If you can't remember something the person has expressed wanting, make sure that, in the future, you perk up when your friends, family, or coworkers express wanting something or having a favorite store. Of course, for people with whom you're very close to on your list, I recommend asking what they want or if they have any ideas.

The Best Online Boutiques and Resources for Gifting
Here is a brief list of stores to peruise that have a variety of items suitable for gifting. Except for the one that is noted, all of these stores have items in very reasonable price ranges.


Urban Outfitters

Uncommon Goods

Bright Fun Gifts


Anne Taintor


 For the big spender: Vivre

Shopping databases linked to other stores; for some you can even search based on gender, age, and




Sources of images: Go East DesignPaperPlanes.caSelectism.com

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