How to Give Gifts People Want

The Lord loves a cheerful giver. I’m usually a cheerful giver. My hyper-analytical nature usually enables me to come up with thoughtful gifts. But I do feel stressed when I don’t know someone well enough to give them the quality of gift I would want. This post will show you a process for selecting thoughtful gifts in an organized way so that gift giving isn’t stressful as it tends to be.

One of the principles I live by is not to bring clutter into this house. My aversion to clutter is complicated by my guilt about throwing things away. As a result, I often decline free stuff, other than candy, and I don’t like receiving generic gifts. I would usually prefer no gift at all rather than some cheap thing you picked up at Walgreens.

And because of that, I am usually very specific about gift options for myself if asked. Some see this as bossy, but I’m just trying to be helpful. I like to give several options at different price points so the gift giver can find something they personally connect with.

That’s kind of the whole thing behind good gift giving– you want the gift to represent you or your connection to that person.

I have broken down my thought process when it comes to selecting gifts. Hold on tight because it’s pretty meta.


Gift Categories

Practical– something the recipient uses already.

Problem solving– item that resolves an issue the recipient does or does not acknowledge they have.

Enhancement– a better version of something already owned

Requested– what was asked for

Personalized– practical or luxury items with a personal embellishment

Consumable– something to be eaten

Giftcards and Services, Cash– gifts that allow recipient to direct purchase, or voucher for generic service

Gag– something intended for amusement rather than function


In my opinion, the best types of gifts are requested; give people what they want. But if it’s someone you don’t have a list for or the items one the list aren’t feasible for you -cough-my brother-cough, this is a good guide to use to come up with a gift on your own.


Loved One, Known Intimately- requested, problem solving, enhancement, personalized, practical

Loved One- requested, enhancement, personalized, practical, monetary, gag

Friend- enhancement, personalized, monetary, gag

Acquaintance- enhancement, monetary/services, consumable

Generic- consumable, monetary/services


Of course some relationships won’t fit neatly into that breakdown.


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Case Studies

We will look at two different people in my life and follow the process of selecting a gift.


Cathy is a member of my husband’s family. I spend a lot of time around her when we spend time with his family and she buys us Christmas gifts, but I don’t really know much about her. I know she likes St. Louis Cardinals, bike riding, drinks tea, keeps her house nice, cooks well and goes to work… Cathy could be classified as both Acquaintance and Loved One. For me that means the budget is higher than Acquaintance, but I’ll follow acquaintance rules, unless I receive inside information from my husband’s mom.

Here are a few options.


When I was visiting her home, I noticed her coasters were worn out even though the rest of her home is in great shape. I could get her new coasters, or better yet– St. Louis Cardinals coasters!

I know she enjoys tea (over coffee). I can assume that like any other human’s, her tea may go cold sometimes. This temperature control mug may be perfect for her. 


Monetary or Service

A giftcard to Teavana since she likes tea.
A massage because who doesn’t enjoy a massage?
I could give her giftcards to restaurants near her office.


Tea, some fancy butter, some sort of spice collection,



Mark is my brother. He’s a Loved One, but I don’t live near him to intimately know his life, but I do know him intimately. Men tend to be hard to buy for, plus he’s rich. He works as a pharmacist, has a girlfriend, works out a lot at home, likes to cook, and likes to socialize.


I can check his Amazon wish list or ask what he wants.


We both use Beverly International Protein so I could buy his next canister.

Problem Solving

My brother sweats a lot and works out at home. A shammy will be more absorbent than the bath towel he typically uses.


As a healthcare provider, he may appreciate a fancy personalized pen, but since everything is done on computers now, this might not be as useful as I think.


It’s hard to improve on the things he has because he purchases the highest quality of what he wants. I believe he mainly uses dumbbells in his workouts, so I could get him resistance bands. I can also gift him the extra immersion blender I received for Christmas last year.

He has his own set up with smart devices so I could purchase some extra smart light bulbs or plugs.


Not giving him money but could provide a gift card for his local theatre.


Final Rules


Hopefully that exercise helps you understand how to plan your gifts in an organized way. I have a couple more rules to help make the most of your gift.


  1. Don’t spend over $50 on something you aren’t sure is needed or wanted. That number can vary person to person. Once at a cruise port in Mexico, my mom bought my brother a gold chain for $100. I told her not to spend that if he hadn’t told her he wanted a gold chain. He was pretty disappointed at Christmas and had $100 less of something he actually wanted.
  2. Avoid buying clothes UNLESS
    You know the recipient’s style very well.
    The recipient has no style AND finds yours aspirational.
    OR you are purchasing something that looks like pieces the recipient already owns.
  3. Buy gift cards for as specific a purchase as possible.
    Unless the recipient has bills to pay or is trying to make a large purchase, or loves money, avoid cash gift cards. Gift cards for places like Wal-Mart or Target end up being used for toothpaste, Doritos, socks and toilet paper. Is that a gift? Yes, but sending someone to Baskin-Robbins or out to lunch is actually a treat.
  4. If you can’t find a gift you are happy with, give a gift card or cash.
    Less exciting, but most useful to your recipient. If you plan ahead you can buy discount gift cards at Sam’s Club.
  5. Don’t Go Into Debt.
    Most of the time we are trying to adequately show appreciation for a person, meet their expectation of value in a gift from you. It’s better to buy a sensible gift and put effort into presentation–to express sentiment– than to focus on spending a certain amount of money. We often forget our gifts but remember how the person made us feel.
  6. Plan Ahead!
    We pay in cash what we fail to spend in time.

I know this is more detailed than you thought you needed, but I do hope it helps shoppers make more personal and creative purchases. Are there any tips I missed? Please comment below!



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