It is human nature — the more we value the person we are shopping for, the more we strive to find THAT one-in-a-million gift that will completely & effortlessly reflect the depth of our feelings about our relationship and be EXACTLY what he or she wants.
Warning, Will Robinson.
You know and I know that thinking this way is, at best, unhelpful & at worst, a sure path to frustration and spending (way) more than you can afford. So why do we do this? There is a psychology to gift giving — and there is research that demonstrates the biggest effect from giving a gift may be on ourselves — our self-perception as a result of the gift we give. Self-perception could be a pretty powerful motivator when just one person is involved, but multiplied by a long gift list full of cherished friends and family and it is not surprising that we often lose control.
Here are 5 rules that I know, but sometimes forget to apply, when it comes to holiday shopping. These help to keep me grounded and thoughtful as I go about checking off my Christmas gift giving list.
1. Money does not buy love. You can be passionate about gift giving and still not blow your budget. Giving gifts that are practical, but maybe a bit less desirable to give as gifts, is GOOD! Handmade gifts are awesome, if you dedicate the time and materials needed to truly deliver. But – if you haven’t yet done what you are planning to do for a DIY gift – do a practice run to make sure you have all the supplies you need and that the end result is what you envisioned. As with all gifts — keep the recipient in mind — ‘useful’, ‘edible’ or ‘holiday keepsake’ are all great DIY categories. And lastly – do not turn gift spending into a competitive sport – do not attempt to match spend. Rarely turns out well, builds resentment, and just not a good headspace to be in.
2. If they asked for it, that probably means they would like it. There are studies that demonstrate recipients actually appreciate gifts they specifically asked for more than gifts chosen by the gift giver. (!!) Moreover, when recipients then rated the giver of the requested gift, they rated them as more thoughtful and personal than the person who gave the unrequested gift. Long story short here — don’t guess — ask for a list. And if you are worried that asking for a gift list may seem tacky, or obligate the person you’re asking to then give you a gift, good points! Plan B: going with a gift that tracks an interest (yoga) or theme (cooking, gardening) or a gift certificate (massage, bookstore, coffeeshop) could be a great alternative.
3. Men and women not only shop differently, but truly think differently about gifts. Gender factors into gift giving & receiving. While a generalization, men tend to skew more pragmatic/functional & women skew in a more sentimental gift direction. I am not saying this to let anyone “off the hook” for a poor gift choice. No way. I say this so that you and I can compensate for any chromosomal tendency we might have – not play to it. So while gift cards and envelopes full of cash have their place, don’t assume that because you would like to receive your gift that everyone else would appreciate receiving it as well.
4. ‘Experience gifts’ are often more appreciated. A gift of time – sharing a meal & a movie together, breakfast in bed, a day spent shopping, hiking, or museum hopping are all amazing gifts. These gifts allow you to feel closer by spending more time together and allow you to tailor your gift to the specific interests of the person receiving it – increasing the emotional value to you both.
5. It is okay to give the same gift to different people. Placing a premium on “uniqueness” over “appropriateness” is the trap not to fall into here. It’s okay to buy the same gift for different people if you believe each person would enjoy receiving it. It’s efficient too! Might need to consider if the recipients would be opening your gifts to them at the same event, but really — if I like a gift enough for more than one person, or if two people on my list have asked for the same gift, why not!
Choosing gifts based on the recipients perspective is the best way to approach your gift shopping. Gift giving, when done with intention and thoughtfulness, can make relationships stronger, regardless of money spent.