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How to give gifts people actually like

by Gemma Hartley

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I don’t hate gifting. In fact, when I find the perfect gift—something that will add value to a loved one’s life—it’s an ecstatic feeling. The problem is a lot of the time I’m not sure exactly how to do that.

Instead of being a joyous exchange, gift-giving often stresses me out. Especially during the holidays, when it’s socially demanded, the added layer of expectation leaves me dreading the process of finding the right gift.

When holidays are fast approaching, I no longer view gifting as a mindful act of love but rather a necessary chore. I will put off shopping until the last minute or I will make a list of gifts I can purchase in one fell swoop, carrying out the task with military precision but not much heart. There is no thrill in giving when it becomes another errand on your to-do list.

But with a more mindful approach, giving doesn’t need to be such an anxiety-inducing experience. It can be a way to build a deeper connection with your friends and loved ones—a way to show how much you care. Sure, material items aren’t the end all of a relationship, but they can serve as a nice reminder of your bond. And that is something worth celebrating, not stressing over.

These five tips can help you become a better gifter so you no longer have to worry about piling onto your friends’ collections of extraneous scented candles and slippers.

1. Give the gift of experience

A gift doesn’t always have to be something material. In fact, it’s often better if it’s not. Especially during the holidays, when people are bombarded with physical gifts, it’s a relief to receive something that won’t take up more space in the hall closet. Concert tickets, movie tickets, a gift card to a favorite restaurant—these are all options that will most definitely be enjoyed, and won’t be a burden in your loved one’s personal space.

2. Savor some memories

No, I’m not talking about making a scrapbook or giving the grandparents another framed photo of the kids. Instead of looking back at fond memories, make new ones. Take planning out of the equation for your friends or family, and allow them to enjoy an activity like cooking a meal together or going ice-skating. If you’re feeling nostalgic, maybe try to recreate a certain memory—like a family road trip to go skiing. It doesn’t have to be as big of an undertaking as skiing, just as long as you’re bringing people together and focusing on being present.

3. Give yourself more time

One of my biggest problems is letting the giving season sneak up on me. A great solution to the last minute dash is to buy gifts throughout the year. Instead of making mental notes about how that specific notebook would make a great gift for my friend, it would be much easier to buy it and save it. Not only does it take some of the stress off of the holiday season, but it also makes each gifting experience more personal and unrushed. I’m much more likely to choose a mindful gift while strolling through a shop in October than when I’m on a list-driven shopping spree in mid-December.

4. Just ask

If you feel uncertain about what sort of gift will really benefit your loved one’s life, just ask them what they want. I try to live a more minimalist lifestyle, and the thought of receiving a slew of gifts at once stresses me out. As a result, I feel a similarly when buying for others. However, by simply asking what they want or what they’d find useful, I can take that worry entirely off the table.

5. Give good consumables

If you really want to give a physical gift, but don’t want to impose on your loved one’s precious space, giving a gift that will be consumed is always appreciated. Some people love a good bag of coffee or, perhaps, there’s a certain holiday treat you make that is anticipated all year. Just make sure you’re mindful of any dietary restrictions or abstaining before you give a big box of chocolates or a bottle of whiskey.

The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.

Gemma Hartley

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer with a BA in writing from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her work has appeared on Yahoo Parenting, Ravishly, Role/Reboot, and more, in addition to being a writer for SheKnows, Romper, and YourTango. She lives in Reno with her husband, three young kids, an awesome dog and a terrible cat.