As the holiday season draws upon us each year, we take time to appreciate the people in our lives. No matter what traditions you uphold or what culture you’re from, you probably use the occasion to renew ties and thank important people such as your parents, best friends, and other loved ones. Yet the holidays can also create awkward situations where you have to give gifts to people that are part of your network but aren’t in your close circle. How do you go about finding the right gift for someone you don’t know much about? These general tips can help you out.
Make it useful
Have you ever joined a “white elephant” gift exchange? This is a game where people compete to steal the best gift out of a lot consisting of mostly impractical or weird items. Although devised mostly for entertainment at parties, the practice does take a jab at those people who tend to give boring or useless items. Even if you don’t know a person that well and are inclined to purchase something more ordinary as a gift, putting in some extra effort will make a difference. You could give them a useful item with a touch of personalization. Engraved utility or tactical knives, for example, are bound to see everyday use without being generic. Many aspects of our lives today are dominated by practicality; from that standpoint, a gift that serves a purpose will prove a safe choice for anybody.
People frequently give their loved ones items that don’t necessarily possess significant value or a material form. Framed photographs, romantic spa dates, or handwritten notes are all meaningful gifts to those you hold dear. While they might not be good gift options for someone you’re not that close to, the idea of giving non-material gifts could be well worth exploring when you’re short on inspiration. A couple of movie tickets, for example, will give them an opportunity to go out with someone special. Perhaps, even better in the digital age, you could buy them a Netflix subscription. Not sure what sort of entertainment they like? If you know them from work, a premium subscription to their productivity app of choice may seem boring but will be appreciated. Give experiences, not stuff, and a lot of people will be thankful for the reduction in clutter.
You might not consider cash or the equivalent—gift cards or vouchers, for instance—as anything but a last-minute, impersonal gift option. Some people think that doing so effectively places a marker of value upon the relationship. Framed from another perspective, though, it’s merely giving people the power to spend as they see fit. In a practical world, who doesn’t enjoy shopping on someone else’s credit? In the right context, there shouldn’t be any problem with such an open-ended gift and its implicit acknowledgment that you don’t know what the recipient wants. Dressing up the item helps a lot. Cash can be presented in all sorts of creative ways, for example. Pick a nice container or make one of your own, and the effort will help elevate the cash or gift card.
Sooner or later, you’ll probably run into a situation where you need to find a gift for someone important enough in your life but whose personality or interests aren’t familiar to you. Use these ideas as a starting point to simplify that decision.