The perfect gift, in 3 easy questions

The Perfect GiftBy Bethany Chambers | Digital Operations Manager

Everyone who knows me will tell you: I love to give gifts.

I like it even more than receiving them, which is really saying something when you consider that I keep a running Christmas wish list year-round, and I know exactly what remains from last year. (Yes, it’s cats. I’m a cat person, to paraphrase a Wal-Mart commercial.)

I’m not the kind of person who can squirrel away gifts for the holidays; that takes years of practice and is a skill that is mastered after you have to supplement Santa gifts (not that Santa needs your help). When I get to that point, I can only imagine I’ll master it as my mom has, with an entire room dedicated to gifts and gift-wrapping (and the ironing board, which no one else uses anyways).

I give gifts year-round—strange gifts, non-gift gifts, perfect gifts. These are little things I pick up because they remind me of someone and they always say more than words. I give them right away, because I have no patience for delaying the gratification of seeing the confused, surprised, concerned and/or impressed look on the recipient’s face.

That said, the holidays are when I look for the ideal gift for everyone on my list. The first thing you need to do is listen and know your target well. Applying tactical skill is the only way to succeed, especially if you’re just now starting.
Start by asking yourself:

What do they need?

This year I had this figured out early for my husband and was patting myself on the back. The road warrior, he needed a new winter coat that was lightweight enough to wear on a plane but warm enough to combat the Minneapolis cold. And then I saw it, at Macy’s on 34th Street no less, for all you Christmas movie fans: the packable puffer coat.

Of course, when I ordered it online with a pile of coupons from my super shopper mom, I should have known he’d open the package and start wearing it right away. Now we’re calling it a birthday gift, and I’m back to square one.

What do they want?

Did they ask you for something specifically? Did they say, “Get me Taylor Swift’s ’89’ on vinyl…standard LP not a 45”? Umm, done. No really.

Now if they aren’t so obvious as to hand you your assignment, you have some room for creativity. Last year, I really outdid myself on this with my coworkers, which led to both confused AND surprised faces. One wanted a hammock. Well, it was a hammock, all right, but it wasn’t people-sized! Another a snowmobile. This one was people-sized…Lego people, that is! Yep, those will live on in infamy. Also, in the corner of their cubicles.


What speaks from your heart?

This is the hardest to fulfill, because it means putting yourself out there in a way. If your family or friends aren’t touchy-feely, this can be challenging, but if Hallmark Christmas movies have taught me anything, it’s that ‘Tis the Season for Love.

With my mom re-entering retirement, she already knows we’ll be spending an afternoon at the spa as her gift, since we don’t get nearly enough time together these days.
Sometimes this comes together in a way that can only be described as kismet (or a Christmas movie plot) and one gift satisfies all of these needs. I’m a firm believer that it’s OK if one gift cannot fit into all these categories. Sometimes a multi-gift is an even better way to combine the serious and the whimsical. Nothing says “You are loved.” like a new pair of shoes…with socks that make it look like your feet are being bitten off by sharks.

Before you complain about breaking the bank on three gifts (while you’re reading this in line at Target), this isn’t as hard on your budget as you’d think, especially because some of these are things you already have or are things you can make.

And before you spend your last dollar this Black Friday, remember: Sometimes the perfect gifts aren’t things at all. A thoughtfully spoken word, a hug or just being there, that may be the perfect gift.