Love is great, but presents are nice too

Love is great, but presents are nice too

Love is great, but presents are nice too Photo used under Creative Commons License
Love is great, but presents are nice too
Photo used under Creative Commons License

Ronna Fisher, Editor-in-Chief

   I love presents. I love getting them, but I love giving them more. I love the hunt for the perfect item, the feeling when I’ve nailed it and my friends faces light up upon reception. Great gift giving doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but here are a few tips for when you’re feeling particularly generous.

1)   Vet your recipient (and his or her friends):

   Hopefully you already know your gift recipient pretty well, but it never hurts to ask around. I’m always surprised when I realize that I don’t even know my best friends’ favorite color or candy. It’s okay to ask questions to whoever is getting the gift or the surrounding friends. You don’t want to buy a friend a chocolate bar only to learn they hate chocolate. Also, if you know your recipients’ love language, even better. This doesn’t mean gifts are no longer necessary, but if you know a friends’ love language is words of affirmation, then invest more in a note or card that goes along with the actual gift.

2)   Make it personal:

   Gifts are even better when you know only the recipient would truly appreciate it. If the gift has something to do with a shared experience or inside joke, that can mean so much more than a random dvd or generic card. Try explaining in a note why you picked out that gift, especially if the gift is something that could be seen as generic.

   For example, I once bought jewelry and nail polish for one friend, explaining in a card that she always looks stylish no matter what. At the same time, I gave a Jane Austen themed memoir and a scarf with a literary quote on it to a lover of Pride and Prejudice, explaining in a note that I hoped the book got her excited to read more Austen. This shows that you were thinking of only that person when you bought the gift.

3)   Think of yourself:

   No, really. Is there something that you know a little more about than others? Do you know music like no other? You could probably make great personalized playlists for friends. Do you know where the best restaurants are? Buy gift cards to unique places or create a restaurant, menu and map book. I have one friend who likes to gift really nice groceries. She frequently wraps up natural and interesting jams or gives her friends a healthier but still tasty replacement of their favorite foods.

   These gifts are unique and practical. Tap into your unique sources and market those. It’s okay if you return to similar gifts time and time again. Many times your friends will be excited when it’s their turn to get their version of your go-to gift.

How's that for a theme? Photo used under Creative Commons License
How’s that for a theme?
Photo used under Creative Commons License

4)   Go with a theme:

   Gift baskets might seem like something reserved for the sick and elderly or church visitors, but themed baskets make great gifts as well. If you know someone who really loves watching movies, gather a movie or redbox gift cards, some microwavable popcorn, some candy, put it all together in a popcorn bowl and voila! You now have yourself a stand-out gift. Spa baskets or craft baskets are also great examples as well.

5)   Window Shop/Keep a list/Pay attention:

   The best gifts take time. I don’t buy the first thing I see but surf the web for interesting gifts, keeping note of multiple ideas before choosing. Sometimes I go to a store with nothing particular in mind except that person and wander around until I stumble upon the perfect gift.

    It’s also a good idea to keep some kind of list throughout the year. A lot of times I come across books or products online that instantly remind me of someone else and I’ll bookmark it for later.

   If you are really attentive, you can recognize when someone needs or wants something but won’t buy it for themselves. One of my best friends once heard me swooning over this watch online. I was trying to convince myself not to buy it because it was more money than I was used to spending. She could tell that I really, really wanted it even though I decided not to buy it. Without telling me, she went online right then and bought it for me more than a month before Christmas. I was shocked to receive it as a gift and so appreciative.

   Actual presents aren’t always appropriate, but the act of giving and exchanging gifts is such a significant part of our culture that the ability to give a good gift will come in handy. Plus, there are ways to create a quality present without overspending. While I know that there are so many other meaningful ways to show love and compassion, putting the time and thought into the gifts you give can be a wonderful way to show someone how highly you think of them, especially when everyone we know is in college, broke and busy.

For a few more of my favorite gift-giving strategies, see next week’s issue with part two of this article.