I can still remember the best gift I ever got. I was ten years old when I received my first ever Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas Day; she had a fuzzy pair of auburn plaits, a pair of floral overalls and her name was Patricia Anne. Oh how I debated changing that name when I finalised the adoption paperwork; it was the only thing about my wonderful new doll that disappointed my ten year-old self, who was of the wide-eyed belief that Susan was the best name ever.
At the time this all happened I was under the misconception that an all-seeing man in a jolly red suit was responsible for the best gift ever, and it wasn’t until I was older that I came to realise that Mum was the person who should have received the credit for that. What felt like a miracle at the time was really just a mum doing what mums do best; knowing their kids better than anyone else.
When you are on the other side, the pressure to buy the perfect gift can sometimes feel overwhelming because we aren’t always gifted with a mother’s intuition. To make the process easier, here are ten simple tips to gift-buying success.
1. Set your budget
Before you start brainstorming gift ideas, you need to think dollars and cents. Two questions: How much are youable to spend? How much do you want to spend? They aren’t always the same thing.
2. Define the event
Is it for a birthday party? A wedding or engagement for a couple? A christening for an infant? A baby shower for a new mum-to-be? A housewarming?It might seem obvious, but it’s the first step in narrowing your options into a much less overwhelming set of choices.
3. Discover their interests
Hobbies, collections, obsessions: we all have them. The trick is to work out what their passions are and to follow that train of thought. Are they a Dr Who fan? Do they collect Willow Tree statues? If you aren’t sure, you can always discretely ask someone close to them for ideas.
4. Match their personality
Some people prefer not to draw attention to themselves and may not appreciate an ostentatious present, preferring something small and discrete. Others are frugal and may be offended or embarrassed by expensive gifts. Then there are those who want the biggest present and the biggest fuss possible. Everyone is different.
5. Know their style
Do they like brand names and bling? Do they prefer primary colours or neutrals? Do they love Ancient Egyptian sculpture? Do they like vintage collectibles or modern gadgets? Everyone has their own sense of style, the things they like to wear and to have around them.
6. Make sure it’s appropriate
You wouldn’t give French lingerie to your boss, a hamper full of beef jerky to a vegetarian or the new Metallica album to your nanna. Unless, of course, your nanna is a Metallica fan, in which case you should get her the limited edition version with bonus tracks. Think about social and cultural etiquette when choosing.
7. Think practical
If all else fails think practical.Practical gifts are terribly under-rated.If the gift is thoughtfully chosen and needed by the recipient you can be onto a winner, but if your gift is pair of men’s running socks and the recipient neither runs or – for that matter – is a man, your gift might fail to inspire.
8. Listen for hints
Some people will inadvertently (or deliberately) drop hints about things they might like. Listen for hints and if hints are not forthcoming, milk them for hints! If your wife has a birthday coming up it might be worth making deliberate but casual detours past all her favourite stores to see whether she reacts to anything.
9. Personalise it
Personalised gifts are always a great idea. You can get watches or jewellery engraved. Monogrammed dressing gowns. Their name on a coffee cup. A C-class Mercedes Benz with a personalised number plate. Use your imagination!
10. Find it online, in-store or at home
Some people like buying gifts in a bricks and mortar store, while others prefer to surf the internet at any time of the day or night. Home-made gifts like hand-made crafts, children’s artwork and baked goods are always a lovely option.
And lastly, if you are still no closer to buying the perfect present:
Gift vouchers (or cash) are always a great no-fail option
I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone frown at an envelope stuffed with money, and I strongly suspect I never will. When all else fails, gift cards, vouchers or cash are a great back-up.
Have you ever received the “perfect gift”? What was it? And who was it from? Feel free to write to us in the below comments section.