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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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How to Not Screw Up Giving Holiday Gifts

Written by Rebecca Tunney

Let me guess: you’ve asked your friend, significant other, parent, sibling, cousin and dog what kind of presents they’d like, and their responses have been: “I don’t know,” “nothing,” or “woof!”  Some are fickle and can be hard to buy for. But your situation isn’t hopeless! After some deep thinking, and maybe a bit of guidance, you’ll be able to think of the perfect present in no time!

First things first: Set your budget

Before you even think about what to get them, you need to a set a limit for yourself. How much are you willing to spend on this person? Budgets are important to set and stick to, especially when you have multiple people to buy for. Know what you can afford, what you’d be comfortable with spending, and divide it amongst the people you need to buy for.


Commence brainstorming

  • What are their interests? Is there a particular sport they play or a hobby they enjoy? Their interests are generally a good place to start when gift giving.
  • What would nobody else think of? Keep in mind things that they may already have. Because everyone considers interests first, there is a chance that the receiver will get multiples of an item. Stand out from the crowd by looking at their interests in a different way. For example, writers tend to get notebooks. Believe me, I have over 10 of them. Instead of taking this route, consider things like an Aquanote board, for when your writer gets ideas in the shower.
  • Have they mentioned anything before? Throughout the year, the receiver will point things out and say “Hey, it would be neat to have that.” Take note of these things discreetly. When you give it to them, they’ll be touched that you actually paid attention. For my boyfriend’s birthday, I got him a book he’d brought up once, three months beforehand.
  • What do they need? They’ll say that they don’t want anything, but there’s a good chance they need something. Think about obstacles they encounter in their daily lives, and try to relieve them of some of that stress. Is he a student living on campus? Get him detergent and fabric softener, or other household items that would be useful. Is she a business owner? Buy her planners and other products that help improve time management.
  • What are their goals? Give your receiver a little boost towards their goal, whatever it may be. Has he always wanted to try ballroom dancing? Buy him a lesson so he can give it a shot. Does she want to take up knitting? Get her some yarn or knitting needles.
  • Check their sites. Many websites allow members to create wishlists, like Amazon or Goodreads. See if your receiver has either of these, and consider getting something from here. It’s also worth checking their social media.
  • Ask Google. If you’re really lost, there are plenty of helpful people who post about cool and unique gifts on their blogs. 
  • Add a personal touch. Think about any inside jokes you have with this person, or specific memories that you’re both fond of. Framed picturesspecifically collagesare great, but sometimes even a handwritten note telling them how much they mean to you will be enough to give them some “feels.”
  • Funny is good. Many people exchange gag presents, just for fun. In fact, my grandfather and his best friend used to send each other huge boxes of them every Christmas. Simply fill a box with small, silly or strange objects and send it off. For good measure, use the craziest wrapping paper you can find. You can also include an actual present in the mix.

If all else fails, donate

So maybe this person really has everything they could need or want, or maybe you don’t have enough time or resources to get them presents. Don’t give up just yet! Does your receiver volunteer a lot, put others first, and really not want anything? Do they spend a significant amount of time at food banks, or do they build schools every summer? Consider donating to their favourite charity or organization! It’ll mean a lot to them that you’re contributing to a cause that they feel strongly about. Sometimes the organization will even give you a gift as a testament of your donation, which you can then give to your receiver!

Do you have any gift-giving tips? Let everyone know down below!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.