The Art of Personalized Gift Giving

We can all agree that gift giving isn’t easy. Everyone is unique, and has to develop their own philosophies on how to give meaningfully to friends, family, and loved ones. The pressure to find gifts that suit a person’s needs can be a source of stress, especially during the holidays. How do you develop a gift giving methodology that causes pleasure and joy, without the stress?

Although not everyone may agree with every idea in Marie Kondo’s hit book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we feel her philosophy on gift-giving is particularly insightful. For instance, she writes, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.”

The key concept here places more importance on the act of giving a gift more than simply the gift itself. Of course, if a gift is functional and the recipient requests one, the path is clear and simple. Most of the time, however, it’s not so straightforward. Perhaps with a significant other, you may be so familiar and close that gifting becomes second nature. But would about an aunt, uncle or niece? How do you show your appreciate for them if you don’t always see each other, or aren’t sure about their passions and interests? What about special occasions like a first communion, marriage, or graduation?

With all of the nuances that go into gift giving, each occasion and person are unique and require special attention. In this article, we’re here to help guide you on your path to establishing your very own Art of Personalized Gift Giving.

Long Term Happiness is Rooted in Experiences, Not Things. But Experiences Don’t Always Make the Best Gifts.

Certainly, you may have heard that experiences bring us greater joy than things. In fact, there’s significant research that shows this is a human truth. But how does this translate into gift-giving? It’s not so simple to “gift” someone a vacation, nor is it particularly practical. Imagine if your husband or wife wanted to go to Hawaii and you suddenly surprised him or her with an all-expenses paid trip to Maui, and “we’re leaving in 2 weeks!” That’s hardly enough time to react and reconcile each other’s busy work schedules. Simply put, experiences do bring us greater happiness, but experiences are no replacement for physical gifts. Physical gifts aren’t meant to replace experiences, but rather create and memorialize them, making them an essential and special part of our lives.

One workaround here is to use significant life experiences as the basis for the gift or as a means to commemorate an experience. For example, imagine a situation where you grew up with your best friend, staying together over the course of 20 years. Suddenly, they could get married and have to move to the other side of the country. You could give them a gift that truly represents your shared experiences together. Something that allows you to remember the experience and times you shared together.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Too Much Practicality

During the holidays of 2017 and 2018, the most popular kitchen accessory was the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. I personally use one of these on a daily basis (and I admit, I received one as a gift from my mother-in-law). It can be tempting to take something that you like since you had a positive experience with it and assume that it will make a good gift for someone else. This is a logical assumption to make.

However, the reason I suggest to be careful with this mindset is because: gift giving shouldn’t be about yourself. Gift giving shouldn’t be treated as an opportunity for you to shill the reasons about why it saved YOU so much time and money. I can hear the rant already starting: “This Instant Pot will save you countless hours in the kitchen! I don’t know how you could live without one! It was life changing for me!”

Perhaps the Instant Pot will truly be life changing for the recipient. Maybe they’ll even end up recommending it to their friends as well in a chain reaction of pressure cooking frenzy. But what if they are the type of person that doesn’t like to cook? What if they prefer their own methods of cooking and feel pressured to use the Instant Pot, even if they don’t want to? It will end up as simply taking up counter space for them.

The exception of this is if they explicitly ask for something like this. However, it’s wise to be mindful of gifts that are overly pragmatic, or based on your own experience rather than being personalized to the recipient’s true needs.

The Trap of Giving Gifts that are Too Expensive

Growing up, my best friend and I used to exchange gifts for Christmas (shoutout to her: we are still best friends to this day). We started off small with small cards, trinkets, and accessories. One year, I had decided to step things up. I knew she wanted a Tiffany necklace so I splurged and bought her one.

When she received it, she was so overwhelmed and happy about it! This made me incredibly happy too! After a few moments of elation she said: “this is too much, you REALLY shouldn’t have.

Fast forward a year, the next Christmas she ended up purchasing me jewelry from Cartier and I merely gave her a card and some home-baked pastries. Now, it made ME feel like I wasn’t worthy!

Looking back, what I ended up doing is elevate the monetary expectation of the gift. I made the pitfall of equating value of her friendship with a price tag, rather than focusing on our shared experiences together.

Luckily, we made a rule and set a price limit for every year going forward. This common practice among close friends and loved ones can be a fun and effective way to ensure that your gift giving experience stays positive and fun for all involved.

Personalization is the Ultimate Gift Giving Hack

How do we get around the many problems associated with gift giving? After countless Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, and more, I established that there’s no true way to solve for what ultimately makes for a good gift, which is personalization.

I went on a personalization binge a few years ago and started to go a bit overboard with this. I would shop only for handcrafted items on Etsy. I would create handwritten cards and painstakingly use my poor calligraphy skills to customize the gift.

Did it work? Absolutely. Was it incredibly stressful for me? Yes.

Finally, I realized that going overboard had the same consequences as when I was giving out the really expensive gifts. Instead of investing money, I was investing too much on my time.

Finding the right balance is ultimately the key to good gift giving. It’s up to you to develop the best personal gift giving philosophy for you and your loved ones.

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