Some people are great at gift-giving. They instinctively seem to know what people will want and always have the perfect gift for any occasion. And then there are the rest of us, blearily combing through online craft sites late at night or hitting up the mall just as it’s closing for that last-minute perfect gift (which is, inevitably, very far from perfect.) Is there hope for the rest of us? We could just write this off as something that we’re not very good at and hope that our other qualities make up for our shortcomings, but you really can become a better gift-giver. Think of it as a skill that you can improve like any other.
Pay attention to what your friends and family members like and want all year round, not just in the weeks or days leading up to their birthday or a holiday. Most people do this casually all the time, mentioning a game they really want, for example. People also talk about indulgences that they’d enjoy but wouldn’t pay for themselves. When you hear someone mention something, make a note—literally, if you have to, just a quick few words tapped into your phone’s notepad. This will help ensure that when another occasion rolls around, you’ve got a good selection to choose from.
You can approach stocking up in two ways. One way is that whenever you’re out shopping, and you see something that a friend or family member would love, you grab it even if it’s nowhere near an occasion where you might give it to them. The other way is to keep a stockpile of nice gifts so that you always have something handy in a pinch. It’s less personal, but sometimes you need to produce a gift for someone you don’t know well, like a coworker.
A kind of synthesis of the two above ideas is to research and plan ahead without actually buying anything until the time comes. Subscription boxes offer a great opportunity to do this because they are available in so many different varieties and at so many different price points. For example, do you have a friend who loves to travel, either for real or from the comfort of their armchair? A snack subscription box that offers snacks that are unique and best-tasting from all over the world and can be a great way of giving them a taste of being on the road without leaving home. There are plenty of other subscription boxes available as well for most budgets and interests, from flowers to wine to sports and many more.
Let’s say you haven’t done any of the above, and you need a great gift within the next day or two. There’s still plenty you can do at this point to get it right. If you’re connected with the person on social media, scroll through their posts and look for something that sparks an idea. If you have to resort to a gift card—which is not the worst gift anyone ever received by any stretch of the imagination—you can still make it more thoughtful and personal by accompanying it with a handmade card or nestling it in a bouquet of flowers.