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How to Choose a Great Gift … For All Occasions

By Joyce Venezia Suss

Most people hope to give a gift which makes someone’s face light up with genuine happiness, a look of surprised delight that might include a big hug, tears of joy, even hearty laughter if the gift is meant to be a gag.

Whether you are searching for a gift to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, graduation, new home or other special occasion, here are some strategies to find something meaningful.


Do Some Sleuthing

If you don’t know the recipient well, it’s smart to do some research. You don’t want to present a steakhouse gift certificate to a vegan colleague! Learn about the recipient’s interests, hobbies or perhaps what’s on their bucket list. Nowadays, social media is a good way to find out their favorites. For people you don’t see regularly, try to chat with their relatives or friends to learn more about them. If you know the person well, it may be OK to simply ask what’s on their wish list.


Listen Closely

The best gift givers enjoy giving more than receiving, relishing the delight that comes with finding the perfect gift. They listen year-round, waiting for clues about special things and memories. Perhaps someone compliments you about a scarf you are wearing, or shares how much they like a certain kind of music, food or sport. Take note of those passing comments! Great gift givers also shop all through the year, buying the perfect gift when they see it.


Memories Make Great Gifts

Sometimes a memory can be the starting point for the perfect gift. If you hear your mother fondly recalling the smiling pig cookie jar in her childhood kitchen, see if you can locate it on eBay or a vintage website. If Grandpa still dreams about his 1957 Chevy Bel Air in Larkspur Blue, a die-cast toy version in the same color could bring a big smile to his face.


Turn Simple into Sensational

Presentation is everything! An inexpensive gift can be transformed by wrapping it in special paper with beautiful ribbons. If you are giving cash, get crisp new bills from the bank, then look up “origami with dollar bills” online for a creative way to present money. Kids of all ages also love scavenger hunts that lead to the gift – an ideal way to give something large or bulky.


About Gift Cards

Although gift cards seem like taking the “easy way out,” in some cases, a gift card really is a wise (and often desired) choice, especially for young gamers or teen fashionistas. But don’t just hand the card over in an envelope: Tuck it in a gift bag filled with a few fun things like boxes of movie candy, a tube of lip balm, fidget toys, fun socks or a pair of fingerless gloves for texting.


Give the Gift of Time

Older people will often say they “don’t need anything,” which is especially true for those who have downsized to a smaller home. The best gift is often a gift of your time, paired with tickets to a memorable event like an upcoming show, concert or movie; a museum membership (for multiple trips!); or a special seasonal event like a cherry blossom festival in the spring, or apple picking in the fall.


“Secret Santa” Exchanges

To alleviate the stress – and expense – of these annual traditions, try a funny Holiday Grab Bag instead. Here are details for the group email:

Bring something you want to get rid of. Perhaps a gift that didn’t match your personality? A gently used gadget sitting unused? A watchamacallit? An unusual tchotchke? An unloved gewgaw or knick-knack? Here are the rules:

  • It’s more for the gag than the gift.
  • If you bring something, you get to take something.
  • Please wrap your contribution.
  • All grab bag items should be in good taste.
  • Trading is allowed.


Ultimately, think about the emotion you want any gift to bring. Will Grandpa chuckle with glee over a gift that brings back a funny memory? Will a dinner hostess smile because you brought her favorite wine, or a frazzled new mom gratefully hug you for your frozen casserole? It is always “the thought that counts,” but a thoughtful gift is the best gift of all.

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