|[New Yorker cartoon by Victoria Roberts]|
This time of year, almost every publication puts out a gift guide. These guides accomplish PR goals or feature novelty products. However, giving gifts is not a checklist of items, but an art. And a guide to giving gifts should explain how to determine the perfect gift for your lucky gift getter.
First off, there is something inherently wrong with hunting for the perfect gift in the holiday season – and expecting to find it. That’s like going to a bar and seeking out a best friend or looking for the best Philly cheesesteak in the Philadelphia airport. Instead, anytime you see something that might appeal to the person, buy it then and there. You might not find it again, and it’s one gift fewer gift to buy in crunch time. There is no shame in buying Christmas or Chanukah gifts in June if that will make it a better gift.
Moreover, pay close attention to the wants (and needs) of your giftees: My father collects salt and pepper shakers; my best friend only wears gold jewelry; and my aunt’s favorite cookbook is torn to shreds. Keep a list (in your phone, diary, address book, etc.) of the preferences, interests, and even sizes of your loved ones. That way, you know better where to start.
With the exception of edible delights or ephemeral occasions, pick something that will last. Don’t buy a gift that is the season’s trend. It will go stale and forgotten. Instead choose a “classic” book, piece of jewelry, or kitchen appliance. That way, it will get used for many years (or even generations).
Additionally, don’t cheap out. If you’re spending money, spend it on the people you love. It’s the easiest and best investment there is. Giving is gratifying to the giver, and if done well, it can be even more gratifying to the receiver. Moreover, no good person ever forgets generous, thoughtful gestures. And what goes around, comes around.
Otherwise, make sure to include a card. Wrap the gift in gift paper, aluminum foil, or newspaper. Never buy someone a larger size of something if you are on the fence between two sizes. Include a gift receipt. And, of course, make sure you’re not buying a gift that you, yourself, would want, but that your recipient will value and cherish.