Giving Gifts that Matter


We’re all all-too-familiar with the experience of receiving a present that we don’t want or won’t be able to find useful.  Whether it’s a gift card from a store we never go, an ugly sweater, or a boring novel, it’s always difficult for the person receiving the gift to put on a brave face in order to show gratitude.  

Likewise, it’s difficult to be on the giving end of this when you’re trying to find an adequate gift that won’t end up being thrown away by someone who genuinely means a lot to you.  This often leads to the situation when you spend hours upon hours trying to find the perfect gift for each person on your list.

These occurrences can make the holiday times awkward and take away from the holiday spirit.  That was, until, The Schreiber Times decided to absolve all your gift giving and receiving issues!  

Before diving into how you can improve your gift-giving skills, though, it’s important to take into consideration some facts that may shed light on just how complicated this time of the year can be for some. Despite four in ten shoppers saying they worry about buying a friend or loved one the “wrong” present at Christmas, new research reveals that the vast majority (96 percent) of people value the thought behind a gift rather than the gift itself.  Additionally, according to the Washington Post, about ten percent of all Christmas gifts are returned each year; and the percentage of unwanted gifts is likely higher given that many people are too lazy or feel too bad to return presents.

Furthermore, gift givers and receivers interestingly tend to have different preferences in the sense they value different things.  A new research article from the Association for Psychological Science found that when shopping for presents, gift-givers tend to primarily focus on the moment of exchange.  On the other hand, the recipients of presents are usually more concerned with a gift’s long-term usefulness.

In a 2017 article from NetDoctor, psychologist Honey Langcaster-James explored the psychology of gift giving, more specifically the reactions and emotions of gift givers and receivers.  Langcaster-James shared that in order to ensure you are delivering a thoughtful gift that the receiver will be touched by, you should find a gift that is reminiscent of a good time, intimate moment, or inside joke you have shared with the person receiving the gift.  It should also somehow acknowledge the impact he/she had on your life, such as incorporating something they have taught you.

Many people may remember the episode of the famous TV show The Office where Secret Santa gifts are exchanged and Jim had gotten a teapot full of memories of their times together, and that special gift touched the hearts of millions of Americans when they saw it.  Of course, don’t hold yourself to that standard (we can’t all live in fictional television worlds), but take some inspiration from this scene and find something special that will really touch those who you care about.  

All of these tips from psychologists should definitely be taken into consideration when figuring out what to give someone.  However, for someone who is more adventurous, you should think about giving experiences, as opposed to gifts.

From one-on-one dinners, to city days, to concerts, an experience can mean more to someone than a physical gift.  Because the holiday times are so hectic, setting aside designated time to celebrate with the people that matter is so important.   This experience will allow you to create new memories will last a lifetime. No sweater or remote control helicopter can last that long.  

Also, maybe the person has wanted to go somewhere or do something for a long time.  If a friend has wanted to go ice skating for a long time, but maybe you’re not such a big fan, consider putting that aside and treat them to a great day at the rink.  

Your gift is not going to make or break your friendship, so don’t sweat it; however, throughout the process of choosing a gift, do make sure that you have the right intentions at heart. Spending hours online shopping or wandering through the aisles of one of your favorite stores can lead you to the temptation of choosing something you personally would want, essentially projecting your own desires onto your gift giving.

Moreover, the most expensive gift is not always the best gift! People often just want something that means something to them rather than a fancy or expensive material thing. If you lack the means to purchase a more expensive gift, then put some thought into the interests of the receiver, and give something that will remind them of your friendship. In addition, there are various cheaper options that may still be very functional as a gift. Consider options that are useful yet inexpensive, such as portable chargers and other phone accessories.

Pay attention to what your friend may have mentioned that they want, keep tabs on their likes and interests. If you hear them mention they want something, even just absentmindedly, it shows a lot about how you pay attention if you notice! Even if the thing at the top of their list is expensive, you can still look to pool with friends in order to give the person what they truly want.

Another thing to consider when giving gifts is the potential lifespan of anything you give; gifting something durable that will allow the recipient to use it for a long time may have a much greater meaning in the long run rather than something one-time-use or otherwise insignificant. There is a wide range of presents that fit this category, anything to fit the taste of who you’re gifting to. Something like a nice, warm sweater, or some nice makeup, or supplies for a hobby they enjoy (such as cooking utensils or art supplies), allows your recipient to not only actually get use out of their gift, but they will think of you each time they do. This can make something all the more special.

One crucial part of gift giving that is often an afterthought is the inclusion of a receipt with the gift.  No matter how great you think your gift is, you never know how it will fit, or if the person would simply prefer a different item from the store.  Including the receipt takes minimal effort, and gives the person the ability to exchange the item in case it is not perfect.

Many people have music which connect to valuable memories, and this music can be an excellent personal gift to anyone in your life.  This can be in the form of a cd if someone enjoys listening in the car, or in vinyl form if the person has a record player. Moreover, if the person already has the ability to listen to the music on their own, there are many other options that may connect back to the music.  Posters, t-shirts, and other merchandise are all great ways to remind someone of their favorite music without actually giving them a record.

A photo collage is another great option if you hope to give an item which brings back amazing memories.  Using websites such as Shutterfly, you can make a beautiful book of photos for a relatively low price. In addition, if you are looking to include just a singular photo, framed pictures are a great way to remind someone of the great moments that you have shared together.  

Many people believe that gifting just money is impersonal and lacks sentimental value, but some people would much rather just have some extra cash to cover their expenses.  In addition, if you don’t have the time to look for a real item, gift cards are a great option. If you do not have a real idea of what someone wants, Amazon or Apple/Google Play gift cards are very versatile.  By purchasing someone a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant, you can show them that you know what they like, while still giving them the choice to purchase what they want.

While of course no friendship or romantic relationship should be based on gifts, they do provide a meaningful and tangible way for people to express their appreciation for one another.  Through this, it is a powerful tool where a lot of emotion can be transmitted. Love, appreciation, care, understanding, all of these are things that can be difficult to, but are very important to vocalize with important people in your life; if gift giving is just another way you can do that, all the more power to you.