With individual personalities, budgets, time and so many other resources to consider, knowing how to find the perfect gift for someone is not for the faint of heart nowadays. But the act of gifting turns into a burden as soon as the holidays become more focused on materialism than it is on the meaning behind it. We won’t let that happen this year! Here are seven secrets on how to think like the best gift-givers out there.
01. Find out their love language.
By now you may know that each person has one or two dominant love languages. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages describes these as the way in which a person prefers to give and receive love. It began as a powerful tool to strengthen the connection between romantic couples, but it’s also great for all kinds of relationships: between parents and their children, best friends, siblings, and even colleagues.
A good gift-giver can figure out their recipient’s love language by paying attention to how s/he most often expresses affection—whether it’s through words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gift giving, or acts of service.
02. Recall their recent complaints.
Have you ever wished out loud for an item that you swear would make your life better or complained about one of your favorite things becoming unusable? It’s the best feeling when someone surprises you by “fixing” your problem for you via a thoughtful, well-timed gift.
A good gift-giver listens and pays close attention to any needs she can address for her recipient, and fulfills it for them with a gift or by having a broken item repaired. “This is just the thing I needed!” is something she often hears.
03. Make a list and plan ahead.
Each year we swear to start Christmas shopping early so we aren’t caught buying gift cards at the very last minute. If you haven’t already, start your gift list today.
A good gift-giver writes down the name of every person she wants to give a Christmas present. She keeps this list somewhere she’ll see it often and adds gift ideas next to each name as they come to mind. She’ll also set calendar alerts to ensure that she’s on track to collect all her gifts, wrap, and distribute them.
04. Succumb to intuitive (versus impulsive) buys.
You’ve heard the warning not to succumb to last-minute impulse purchases, but sometimes you haven’t even thought about whether something will make the perfect gift until you see it in person or come across it online.
A good gift-giver assesses impulse buys by asking herself whether it’s a “buy now” or “think about it first” purchase. By learning how to recognize and acknowledge the feeling she gets when she “just knows” the gift is right, she can confidently listen to and trust her gut intuition.
When you’re keeping gifts out of guilt, it’s likely because you assume that you’re ungrateful. I love this person, so I should keep it, right? But as Maria Walley writes for Verily, “By letting go of the gift, they’re afraid they’d lose the object’s associated meaning—even if, in reality, the memories and feelings are so much larger than the objects themselves.”
A good gift-giver knows that re-gifting can be done tastefully and thoughtfully. John Tierney writes for The New York Times, “Don’t be ashamed to regift. Researchers have found that most people assume that someone who gave them a gift would be deeply offended if they passed it along to someone else. But these same studies show that most givers actually aren’t offended. Once they give someone a present, they figure it’s the recipient’s right to dispose of it at will.” At the end of the day, Tierney says the perfect gift is the one they asked for!
06. Don’t equate the cost with the value.
Dr. Gary Chapman tells Verily, “Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.”
A good gift-giver considers her budget, but doesn’t make it the be all, end all of her gift. She focuses on the individual by making it personal and thinking about the presentation. She believes that less is often more, and that the most expensive gifts aren’t necessarily the most valuable. She knows that something she makes herself—à la Little House on the Prairie—can be much more meaningful than something store-bought.
07. Give experiences, not things.
A research study in the North American Journal of Psychology reports that being less materialistic with how we spend our money is proven to expand our openness to new experiences. “Experiences are less subjective to comparison,” author Laura Vanderkam tells Verily. “That lack of comparison allows us to draw more pleasure from experiences.”
A good gift-giver knows that just because a physical object will last longer, does not mean it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience. In his book, Dr. Gary Chapman explains that what makes quality time a truly special gift is giving the other person 100 percent of your time and attention. A good gift-giver remembers that the experience isn’t what makes the perfect present, but rather the time spent together. Whether it’s making a date night dinner, signing up for an Airbnb experience, or setting aside time to just be, you can’t go wrong as long as the receiver stays top of mind.