Gift-giving is something people face everyday and over a life time--from the holiday present you give to your child’s first grade teacher to the “thanks for the business” gift you give a client. My daughter Jane was less than a year old when she gave her first gift, albeit with my help.
That first gift was a T-shirt we made together for her dad that featured Jane’s footprints and said “My daddy lets me walk all over him.” Jane and I made it together (OK, I painted the bottoms of Jane's feet with fabric paint and helped her "walk" across the T-shirt), and we gave it to my husband for Father’s Day.
The gift itself took less than 10 minutes to make, probably less than $10 to buy the supplies for, but it was a gift my husband truly loved and still loves: it was from his daughter and his wife, it had great sentiment attached to it, and it was something I knew my T-shirt loving husband would really appreciate. I know I was right because he still proudly wears that shirt nearly six years later--and to this day, he still gives me specific laundering instructions for that shirt (no bleach, not too long in the dryer) because he wants it to last for a long time.
In my opinion, this simple gift has all the elements of a great gift--it was geared towards the recipient’s likes (his daughter, T-shirts), and it had personal meaning for him (what dad wouldn’t love something that his child helped to make, especially on his first Father’s Day). Of course, it’s easy for me to analyze my own gift giving since I’ve spent the past few years developing my gift-giving expertise, and I know the hows and whys of the gifts I give. What I hope to do for you, the reader, is help you to become a great gift-giver, too. Obviously, you’re interested in honing your gift-giving ability, or you wouldn’t be reading this book.
RULES OF GIFT GIVING
Now, I know how stressful giving a gift can be--especially when you stop to consider how many gifts we give each year. A recent Lenox Company study showed that the average American buys 47 gifts each year. If you enjoy gift-giving like I do, you probably give many more gifts than that, and it would seem that you would run out of original ideas pretty quickly. However, that doesn’t have to be the case.
If you know how to approach your gift giving and what techniques you can use to determine the best gift to give someone for a certain occasion, your gift giving will get a lot easier. There are four basic rules that I believe can be applied to any gift-giving situation and allow you to make the right choice. You'll hear me mention these rules, if not repeat them in full, throughout the book. Here they are:
* Know The Occasion and Your Recipient
You wouldn't want to hand your boss some lingerie to congratulate her on her promotion nor would you want to present your wife with a silver pen for Valentine's Day. But switch the situations, and the gifts make perfect sense. It may seem utterly obvious that lingerie doesn't mix with the office--and perhaps that was an exaggerated example--but you would be surprised at how many people don't stop to think about the occasion for which they're giving a gift as well as the recipient before they buy the gift.
So do your homework before you start shopping. Ask questions of others. Find out what is and isn't appropriate in your social or work setting. See if you can get good examples of presents that have gone over great in the past--and ones that failed so miserably you'll know to avoid them at all costs in the future. Then, once you have a good sense of the dos and don'ts for the gift-giving situation, you can start shopping with confidence.
* Consider Your Budget
Just because your brother makes a million dollars on Wall Street doesn't mean that you need to spend thousands of dollars on gifts for him. You shouldn't ever feel that you must equate the value of your gift to the recipient's household income. Instead, gear your gift more towards your own budget and what feels right to you. There's nothing worse than coming away from a gift-giving situation feeling as if you spent too much. Decide ahead of time approximately how much you would like to spend on a person's gift, and then use this figure as your rough guide.
*Whenever Possible, Personalize
When I say personalize a gift, I'm not saying pay extra to get that scarf monogrammed, although monogrammed gifts can be wonderful. Instead, make sure you choose a gift that will feel personal to the person who receives it--because, ideally, it is related to a hobby he has or an activity that he likes to do. I once read some sage gift-giving advice that said you shouldn't give people what you'd like to receive as a hint for future gift-giving occasions. Rather, you should think about what that person likes to do in his free time and then use this information to guide your gift giving.
One year, my husband gave me a new camera for a Christmas present. You may think that a camera is a ho-hum gift, but it was the perfect present for me. I've always been a bit of a shutterbug. I was the photo editor of my high school yearbook, spent hours in the darkroom at college, and once worked as a freelance photographer in New York City. Once we had kids, it was impossible to drag around all of my professional equipment to take impromptu pictures of my kids, so I stopped taking pictures all together. My husband knew that this was an activity I desperately missed and wanted to continue, so he knew that buying me a pocket-sized camera that had all the features of my other equipment (without the bulk) was the perfect gift for me.
*Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Sometimes out of pure luck, you hit the gift-giving jackpot. You give someone a gift that you figured she'd like, and instead of just liking it, she loves it. Not only does she tell everyone who'll listen what a great gift you gave her, but she writes you one of the most heartfelt thank-you notes you've ever received. If this has happened to you in the past, then I say don't mess with success. That is, if a certain kind of gift worked in the past for a certain person, give it again. And again. There's no reason you should cause yourself additional stress at each birthday or holiday by trying to reinvent the gift-giving wheel. Of course, if you gave your sister a camera for her birthday last year, it wouldn't be wise to give another camera this year. But you can give her accessories for her camera, like a new lens or a tripod, or other items related to picture taking, such as film, a book on making scrapbooks or even a scanner so she can use her computer to store photos. I'm confident these would be as warmly received as the camera was.