Friday, November 28, 2014

Gifts: How to discover what people really like

The reality is that gift giving is very intimidating to almost everyone. More or less we all dread that person in our list that already has everything, the one that never seem to really like our picks or the one we don’t spend that much time with, to know their preferences. No one has the gift operation 100 % perfected yet, because there is always someone who will make you wonder and think and sweat and stress and overspend.
Fortunately, we live in the best era humanity ever experienced (related to this topic, at least) and peaking into other’s lives is not that much of a rarity. I am not referring to bad old spying, but to the sophisticated Internet era “taking a quick look over” the life of everyone. Even for those who live on the other side of the world or the ones we can’t seem to pick up their brain, there are helpful tricks to help us make better decisions.
Of course, the first step before going through any of these methods, would be to ask directly what they’d like (if you are comfortable asking and you can afford things more than $10). If there say they don’t need anything, go on, they have been warned.
Here are some of the tricks to get on the table, after putting your modern spy hat on:

1. Pinterest
Of course Pinterest tops the list, because it is a fast, no brainer tool that helps you pick up a present for practically everyone in the world, without even knowing them. People create boards on Pinterest and name them to their likings. Luckily, there are these popular categories you can choose from and one of them is called “Wishlist”. I bet everyone picks it or creates some slight variation to the tittle. Those boards help pin everything you like and don’t know where to save without bookmarking. For me, it’s a way of getting stuff I don’t really need or usually can’t afford out of my brain and leave them somewhere safe I can return to, serving a little as a shopping bag for every website on internet.
To utilize Pinterest, go to the “Wishlist” board (or an equivalent to that, like “stuff I want for my birthday”) of the person you’re interested in and look for a general “theme” in all the pinned images. If everything seems to be pink, you’re really lucky. Just get anything you like, spray paint it pink and they will love it no matter what. Now, if your gift receiver is more intimidating and all their pictures are of vintage cars, you’re not supposed to buy a real ‘70s car for them (if you can though, it would be awesome). A miniature model will do, just be sure it’s a rare model or a special edition. Also, a calendar full of cars is great too, as well as a print or painting.

So, you get the idea, find a theme and work around it with what you have.

The second approach you can take is more direct. Pick an item from their “Wishlist” and buy it. You better look towards the top of the page, where the freshly pinned items are, so you don’t end up getting something they already have or don’t like anymore. A safe way is to go for a “Christmas edition” or “limited edition” or “value set” pick, which increases your chances of them not having it yet. Also, pay attention to the description below the picture, if there is any. You don’t want to go for the striped dress and ignore the “I like this dress, but I wish they made it in solids”!

2. Websites like Polyvore, Lyst, LikeToKnow, Amazon
Similar to the “Wishlist” concept above, there are many websites nowadays that help people store their favorite things around the web.
See if you happen to find your friends on one of those by doing a quick Google search (creepy, I know, but it’s for a good reason) and go with any of the two above directions. It is easier to shop through these platform, since they direct you exactly to the shop that carries the item, so you don’t have to search for everything manually.
Fast and easy! If only they were already as popular as Google though and everyone had an account.

3. Blog power
If you are lucky enough to have all lifestyle/beauty/fashion bloggers on your gift list, then everything is good. Go to their blog and see if there is something you can afford in their latest “Things from heaven” wishlist. If you are lucky, there should be a $60 candle or a $35 pen and pray they haven’t already got it in their stockings!
If your friends and family are normal people with no glamorous “wishlists” consisting of $500 scarves, you would be surprised to discover how many of them might have a blog. Think of how many teachers/professors/journalists/writers/mums/florists/decorators/architects/crafters/cooks/travelers/fashion addicts you know and Google them to find a possible blog. It might be something as simple as a personal diary, but it’s better than nothing.

4. Go out vs. stay in
If there is only one question you can ask them or someone who knows them better, try to find out if they prefer going out or staying in. This simple fact gives you so much choices and mistakes to avoid. A monthly home delivery (magazine/flowers/box) would be perfect for people who prefer staying in. A concert ticket, on the other hand, is great for the going out types.

See what you can come up with that is creative enough to spark interest, but yet foolproof and not hobby related. Going out means eating at a restaurant for someone, strolling around the park for another and skydiving for someone else.

5. Zodiac sign
Okay, before you laugh or skip this, hear me out. I don’t believe in the zodiac hype, but the descriptions for the signs are somewhat accurate. If you can’t find anything else for your gift receiver, try with their birthday. Again, generalize everything and try to pick up a theme. Homebodies would appreciate something cozy for the house or some nice loungewear. Passionate ones would prefer an adventure or a surprise. Outdoor types would love an experience voucher. Introverts tend to like books more.

Go with this method and again, something classic or the latest release, to avoid duplicates.

6. Taste in music/movies/books
You can learn a lot about someone knowing what kind of music they listen to, what movies they watch and what book genres they like to read. I mean, someone who likes comedy must appreciate a little humor in their gift. That friend who reads about planets all the time, there’s no way he won’t appreciate the piece of land you bought him on the Moon or the star you have his name to (it’s a symbolic gift, no actual land on the Moon or legal star naming, unless you have billions of dollars) and  you can give them a printed certificate they can frame.

A granted way to make people love the gift, is to pick collections of what they like. A CD/DVD collection or a set of vintage records, 10 best books of their favorite author or the complete episodes of a classic movie/show makes for a generous and awesome gift.

7. What they don’t like
When you don’t know what someone likes, there must be something they don’t like. So, obviously, don’t get them what they hate. Now go a little deeper and think. If they don’t like very feminine things, pick up something gender neutral and they will appreciate your thought. For guys who don’t like commercial stuff, opt for local shops, indie or hand crafted. If they hate animal violence, make sure to pick something specifically celebrating the lack of that or even donate to a cause related to their concern.

8. Pay attention
This is the most difficult one, but also the more meaningful, if you ask me. I am aware that it is impossible for some of you, but if it comes naturally, go for it and you will for sure be greeted with a big grin or tears of joy when they will open your gift.

For people you are close to, get to meet from time to time or even talk on the phone/connect through social media, try to pay a little more attention. By being fully engaged in your interactions, you will come through something they say or do that is worth remembering and using for a gift. Recall their struggles and help them rush to the lighter days. Show someone support by giving what they really need and not what was convenient for you to order online in bulk. Pick up that one thing they admitted liking but would never buy for themselves. Remember how your friend, who is a mom of two toddlers told you she hadn’t cut her hair in a year? Gift her a saloon appointment and a babysitter one, because there’s no way she’d go otherwise. For your grandparent who doesn’t need more stuff? Take them to the park where they first met their love and hold his/her hand while sharing a dessert. Surprise someone with a personalized gift, when they would never thought you’d remember their children’s name.
Use your best abilities and surprise people by paying attention to the smallest thing about them. That will be their favorite gift ever (unless someone buys them a house - you can’t bit that one).

9. How you want to make them feel
If you don’t want to spend precious time playing Inspector Gadget around everyone to find the perfect gift, go with a reverse intention. Consider how you want to make each person feel.

Do you want them to be surprised or receive an old favorite of them? Do you want them to know you will always remember the special time you spent together or how much fun you have with them? Do you want those new parents to feel pampered, with finally receiving a non-toy gift? Do you need them to understand something or recall memories? Or do you just want to make them see you remembered them during this special time of the year?

It’s up to you to decide and choose what you need everyone to receive from your choice. If it is necessary, add a handwritten note explaining how the particular thing reminds you of a special time, or how you choose a funky item thinking of them. Sometimes you might assume your cousin will laugh hard at your spicy joke inside the box, but they could actually get confused or even insulted. So, to avoid confusion, add a short note.

10. Consumables
When you can’t decide on a decent gift after all these tips, it’s time to go for the final trick. Consumables! Choose the best option you can afford, that is presented in a cute way and comes in a good size for its price. Most people enjoy food or drinks and it’s something that can be shared easily during the holidays. 

Also, when you don’t know what to pick for someone, it means you don’t know them that well after all, so don’t crowd their space or make them feel guilty of getting rid of your gift. Food or drink is a safe choice that will satisfy both the giver and the receiver. 

Do you find any of these helpful or they seem too intimidating? I'd say go with one or two approaches, so you won't spend infinite time on each of your gift receivers. Trust your judge and have a little fun. No one is actually supposed to give gifts by any laws, we just do it to make someone happy. So keep it light and cheerful and something great will pop up even for the most intimidating person in the list. 

Happy gifting!

| Love, Lisa |


  1. What a great post! You are so clever, I'm really impressed with these ideas and I can't wait to try them out on my list of people to buy for this year!! xo

    1. Thank you for your kind words Lauren! It feels good to share what I know and what has been proved successful from my experiences.

      Everyone deserves to unwrap gifts that make their eyes sparkle, no matter how expensive they are :)

  2. Is so helpful Lisa!
    Wish you all your dreams come true ...
    Hugs miss

  3. I am so glad to hear that.
    Thank you :)
    Happy holidays!

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