How to (Really) Give The Perfect Gift.

Each year tons of holiday gift guides come out. Some of them are pretty decent, or at least fun to look at (1,2,3), but others not so much. The reason why gift guides fail so miserably, aside from being extremely general, is they completely go against everything that a good gift is supposed to be.

A good gift, ideally, is a reflection of what you know and think about the person you’re giving it to. Gift guides make this simple concept very difficult to achieve when they provide suggestions of gifts for people that they don’t even personally know. Yes, it is the thought that counts, and getting a gift for somebody regardless of what it is, is a nice gesture. However, sometimes that’s all it is – a nice gesture.

So, screw gift guides, and their vague ideas of what to get people. Instead of giving something that fills up space in someones home until they regift it the following year for white elephant or donate it to the Salvation Army perhaps consider these tips that will allow you to give them something actually worthwhile and genuine.

1. Think outside of the box

Unless they specifically mention these items to you or they’re unusually rare/nice versions of them, most people do not need another Christmas candle, holiday themed bath set, winter gear (gloves, hats, scarfs, etc.), clever cookbook, key chain or picture frame. Instead, try something more creative and unusual.

People love homemade shit. Seriously. My mom cried last year when I gave her a tie blanket that I made her because she thought it was so sweet. Parents, significant others and sometimes close friends genuinely enjoy something that you make with your own hands, even if it does turn out kind of lame. I recommend browsing through Pinterest/craft blogs for inspiration then putting your own twist on them. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a book entitled “The Tales of Emma Klug Present: A Love To Last A Lifetime,” that one of my best friends made me one Christmas. It was relevant to my life and fucking hilarious.

2. Assume nothing. 

“Assume nothing, everything matters,” has been a reoccurring theme in my magazine journalism class this semester and, whadda ya know, it applies to a lot more than just career advice. To be blunt, it’s stupid to just assume that the person you’re finding,buying,creating, (whatever) a gift for already has the item that you want to give them. Assuming before you actually know this information will just limit your gift giving possibilities and make it harder to find something else they’d like. Given that you probably know well in advance who you’re shopping for, you have the ability to talk to the person or other people about what they may or may own, which brings me to my next point…

3. Ask around

Even if you’re the unlucky individual who pulled the new guy at work as your secret Santa, chances are somebody knows something about him. You don’t need to know an obnoxious amount about a person to get them something that they’ll like. Having just a little information about a person is enough to get them a decent gift.

There’s also a way to inconspicuously ask somebody questions about their interests/what they want or need without letting them know that you’re just trying to figure out what to get them. Figure out ways to casually bring up gift ideas into conversations and then remember what they say.

4. Be prepared 

The holidays are at the same time every single year. Every. Single. Year. Sure, Christmas may spring up on you because you’ve been busy with other things, but running out of time is pretty much the lamest excuse for not giving somebody a gift or giving them a stupid one. There are HUGE sales, for almost everything, at the end of every season. You can look out for items well in advance, purchase them, then gift them when the time is right.

5. Pay attention and don’t be an idiot

General knowledge is a useful tool sometimes. Giving a gift isn’t hard if you consider all the general principles of being a decent human being (listed above) then actually put thought into what you’re doing. The most straight forward, and obvious, way to know what to get somebody is to pay attention. Pay attention to their interests, their lifestyle, their favorite colors, what their hobbies are, what they may actually need, anything and everything.

So, your brother really likes music? Awesome. Pay attention to what concerts he goes to, which artists he follows on Facebook, what lyrics he tweets, etc., then think beyond that. Almost every band has some sort of merchandise that you can purchase. Do they have a show coming up? Cool. Buy tickets. And what about collectible items? Check E-bay and Etsy for rare/signed concert posters, vinyls, dvds, or whatever.

If you know that your best friend loves to drink, works and goes to school full-time and therefore rarely has time/money to go out to the bar, then maybe an unusual drinking game, personalized shot glasses or even her favorite alcohol, equipped with a hangover cure package, are right for her.

It’s also important to note, that as much as you pay attention to the things they do like that you also pay attention to those that they don’t, especially when it comes to food. Nothing is more awkward than making a batch of double chunk chocolate chip cookies for somebody only to find out they hate chocolate.

Emma Klug started The Style Note in the fall of 2012. Her writing has been featured in DBusiness Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, Nothing Major, The Working Wardrobe, Chicago Talks, Inexpensive Chic, and The Wayne State University student paper: The South End. When she’s not writing you can find her eating pizza, binge-watching Netflix and working her day job as a magazine editor.
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