Like you, I get many holiday gifts every year I don’t use — from clothes that don’t fit to food I don’t eat to soaps and bath accessories I don’t need. These products fill our landfills and clutter our closets. Worse yet, they are often quickly forgotten and don’t make an impact on our lives.
Here, then, are five strategies you can use to give meaningful gifts your recipients will love — and actually use!
- Avoid giving “stuff” if at all possible.
All of us get an inordinate amount of “stuff” every year. Most of it clutters up our houses, and therefore, our life. I’m a big proponent of reducing the amount of stuff in my life, so I don’t like these gifts. Instead of giving stuff, why not give an experience they will remember for a long time to come?
Here’s an easy question. Simply ask the gift recipient where they shop, eat, or would like to have a spa day, nail treatment, etc. Don’t let them get away with vague answers like “I buy most things at my local grocery store.” Ask them, “Where is your favorite place to shop?” Then give them a gift card fom that place.
My mom gives me Amazon gift cards, which are nice — but they do contribute to the stuff accumulation in my life. I wouldn’t mind gift cards to my chiropractor, for instance, or my massage therapist. Heck, even paying a month of my gym membership would be awesome. The point is, these are all experiences I enjoy and that make me feel better. Why not contribute to someone’s well-being instead of contributing to their closet?
- Give gifts that will save the recipient money.
I admit to being a rather quirky gift-giver. Last year for the holidays, I gave everyone in my family about $75 each worth of compact fluorescent bulbs. With each gift, I explained why I had given it. “Installed properly, these will save you about $5-10/month on your electric bill,” I said. Then I helped them figure out where to install them in their house for maximum savings.
If we all switched to compact fluorescent bulbs, we’d save 15-20% monthly on our electric bills, and our overall electricity demand in the U.S. would drop by 18%! [source]
I’m definitely a crusader for environmentally friendly products, and I’ve been known to give away many CFL bulbs. But I can’t think of any better gift to give than one that takes less than 5 minutes to install and saves the recipient money, month after month. Who couldn’t use an extra $10-20 a month?
Another gift in the same vein is a programmable thermostat (though you might want to consider how handy your recipient is, or offer free installation with it). Finally, a “smart” power strip that shuts off all devices when the primary one is turned off can help avoid “vampire” energy-sucking appliances by automatically turning off a DVD player, video game console, etc. when you turn your TV off.
- Consider “add-on” gifts that the recipient would have to buy anyway.
Find out what printer they have and buy cartridges for it. Find out what kind of razor they use and buy extra blades for it. If they have a video game console with only a single controller, consider a second or third controller. Buy them some blank DVDs or CDs so they can burn backups or music. If they print photos at home, get them some nice photo paper. Find out what exact bathroom and household supplies they have and buy them more of what they already own.
These are great gifts because you practically guarantee they will get used. Instead of buying them something new (and therefore less likely to be used), you’re helping them use something they already own without outlaying additional cash.
- If they have a subscription they like, continue it for them.
Subscriptions and other “small luxuries” are often the first to go in a downturn. If your recipient loves Netflix, for instance, help them out by extending their subscription for a few months. Other subscriptions to consider extending include magazines, gym memberships, newsletters, and newspapers.
The catch is that they actually have to be using that membership for this gift to be worthwhile. There’s a simple solution to this — ask them! We all love to talk about whether a certain service helps us or not. You won’t look foolish for asking “Hey, I noticed you had a couple Netflix DVDs on the table. Do you like their service?” Rather, you’ll appear interested in their life — and thoughtful when you later give the gift!
- Buy gift cards for an experience they will remember — not for stuff they won’t use.
One of my fondest memories was when a client we had gone above and beyond for sent my company a Ruth’s Chris gift card. Ruth’s Chris is a fantastic, high-end steakhouse. I wouldn’t typically eat there on my own, but the gift card made for a truly enjoyable experience. I can’t remember most of the gift cards I’ve gotten, but this one I will never forget.
What’s a local, really nice restaurant near your recipient? Where can they go and have an amazing experience? Try to pick a place you’ve been to yourself. If you don’t know the area, use Yelp or Citysearch to help you find the cream of the crop in restaurants or spas.
What’s the point? We can all do a lot better at identifying what gifts to give recipients. Often, my friends and relatives complain that I’m hard to buy for. But by using these simple tactics, you can figure out what even the pickiest gift recipient would find useful.
Need a quick idea? Check out the most popular books others give as gifts: