Fact: I give the best presents ever. People love getting things from me because it’s always awesome. When I really want to, I turn gift-giving into an art. For a friend’s recent birthday, I went balls out and hit her with a collection of stuff that was truly a sight to behold. Frankly, I was jealous of myself. I mean, c’mon. This is what boxed it was in:
Now, don’t think you can match my greatness, but here are some tips to stop giving sucky gifts.
1 ) Go big or go home
This might seem like an odd place to start, but it’s actually the most important. Think about why you’re getting this gift; are you doing it because you actually care or because you feel obligated? If it’s the latter, don’t even bother. A truly great present has to come from the heart. If you’re doing it just because you think you have to, the result is going to be sub-par. It might be good, but it will never blow that person away.
2 ) Locate target; identify interests
Obviously you want to give the person something they will like. You might think this is a no-brainer, but some people are actually this clueless. If you’re not sure, stalk browse their social networks for stuff that they’re into. That’s why we invented the internet, isn’t it? To overshare?
3 ) Be original
Based on the last tip, think of the most obvious thing to give your giftee. Don’t get that. Put a little more thought into it than that; you have to go deeper (G I F T C E P T I O N). Not only will this make for a more memorable gift, but it comes with the added benefit of less chance for someone else getting the same thing. It doesn’t need to be an original pressing of the White Album or anything, but rarity works to your advantage here. Try importing something, like this Japanese Mario Kart racer. Get creative.
4 ) Personal significance
See that? It’s gum. “Big deal,” you might say. “I thought this was about giving GOOD gifts.” It is. Now shut up and let me explain. On the surface, that might seem like the laziest thing ever, but I know two things about this person: she loves gum (Five, in particular), and her favorite flavor of everything is watermelon. As such, watermelon gum. To anyone else it might not mean anything, but to her specifically it meant a lot more.
5 ) Put a little bit of yourself into the gift
Put down the knife, Van Gogh. I’m not talking about an ear or anything. Combine one of your interests with one of theirs. This will ensure that whenever they see the gift, they will think about you that much more. Case in point: I’m a Lego nut, she digs Harry Potter. Put them together, bam, Lego Harry Potter. But when I say a little bit of yourself, I mean just that; a little. Don’t go overboard. This is about them first and foremost, after all. A reminder of you is a lot different than a personal monument. Sprinkle on a bit of your own personality, but keep it about them.
6 ) Think small
Big things are great, but it’s the little things that really stand out. Here’s another thing I know about my friend: she loves Batman. McDonalds happened to have Justice League toys in their Happy Meals last month, so I asked around at the restaurants near me for one that actually had the Batman toy in stock (this proved more difficult than I imagined, Batman is a wily son of a bitch). It might just be a stupid Happy Meal toy, but she loved it nonetheless.
7 ) Greater than the sum of its parts
Here’s an idea that goes along with the last one. Instead of getting one big thing, get a bunch of small stuff. People like to say “quality, not quantity,” but why not both? It’s like Voltron; separate they are strong, but together they are unstoppable (note: if they’re into Voltron, just get them that). So assemble one kickass gift out of a bunch of little things. Items to consider: candy, toys, books, souvenirs, accessories, whatever. The nice thing is if you’re on a budget you can make a bigger impact with the same amount of money.
8 ) DIY
Any old jackass could just go out and buy something, so it will mean a lot more to create something with your own hands. And don’t give me any of this crap about “Oh, I’m not very creative,” or whatever. If your heart is really in it you shouldn’t have a problem thinking of something. Nobody is necessarily expecting you to fabricate something from scratch, either. Maybe start with something already made and customize it. It’s that personalized touch that makes a gift really shine. Here’s a Moleskine notebook that I painted with a Doctor Who theme (Shhh, spoilers).
9 ) Mind the minor details
Like I said before, it’s all about the little things. You’re already well on your way to an awesome present, take the little extra effort to really knock it out of the park. Take this bitchin’ Flight Control Tardis for example. What could be better than that?
Answer: a Tardis filled with Jolly Ranchers.
10 ) Seal the deal
Literally and figuratively. Get creative with the wrapping paper. It might seem like a waste of time – it’s just going to get ripped apart anyway – but the wrapping will create a first impression and set the stage for what’s to come. One of my old standbys is ripping pages out of a magazine and taping them together. Or you can flip the wrapping paper inside out and draw all over the blank side. If you want to be an asshole you can go to town with a roll of duct tape until you’re left with a giant ball (for bonus points hide the scissors and knives). To really go all out, keep it in the theme of the gift itself. For this one in particular, I used a brown paper bag from the grocery store and spray painted on some Aperture Science logos I had made stencils out of.
11 ) Don’t forget the card
Don’t go to Hallmark for this one. That’s lame. Why should you pay for someone else to express your thoughts? You’re not a politician, you can write your own material. You might have balked at the DIY thing earlier, but anyone can make a card. Fire up Photoshop if you’re savvy with the pixels or whip out the pencils if you’re more traditionally artsy. But even if you’re not particularly skilled, don’t worry. You can do this. Protip: Don’t use regular paper, invest in a ream of cardstock. The thicker paper will make the card feel more professional. If you’re going the digital route but you don’t have a good printer, take it to Office Depot or use their online service. A high quality print will only run you something like 70 cents and you can pick it up at the store usually in an hour or less.
Other things to consider:
Basically, the key to all of this is simply being thoughtful. Like I said at the beginning, a gift you’re forced to give will never be as good as one you want to give. And it’s not about spending a lot of money. It might sound cliché, but it really is the thought that counts. You can drop a lot of cash if you want, but a price tag won’t make up for thoughtlessness. Don’t feel like you have to go completely nuts like I did here, either. This was just an extraordinary situation that resulted in an over-the-top gift. Most of the time just keep it simple. The important thing is that it is heartfelt.
By the way, if you follow my advice and it gets you laid, you totally owe me a beer. Just saying.