10 Ways To Be Successful at Gift Giving

There’s a reason Santa makes a list and checks it twice! The point of gift-giving is to give from the heart and to give something the recipient will enjoy. Think about what they have in their home, what they do for fun and where they like to shop. If you don’t have a clue as to what the person would like it’s okay to enlist a relative or friend to help. Here are some guidelines to help you give more thoughtful gifts.

Personalize it. Everything from personalized embossed stationery to monogrammed bathrobes to an engraved bracelet can accomplish that personal touch. However, just because one’s name is engraved on something isn’t a sure sign they’ll love it. Don’t, for example, design personalized stationery for someone who would never send a letter or give an engraved bracelet to someone who hates jewelry.

If you hit the right note, though, your personalized gift will end up being cherished or even passed on as an heirloom.

My mother, many years ago, cut out headline words and pictures from magazines to make a booklet for me. She described it to me and told about my life. It must have taken days to find all the colorful words and pictures. I treasure that gift.

For our 55th anniversary, the kids wrote our life story through the eyes of our cars. It sounds crazy but was very unique. Each car “told” how it contributed to the life of the Huckleberry family. “I suffered several injuries, being the car Judy and Dennis did their student driving with.” “I was rolled over when Dave allowed his girlfriend to take the wheel and was unfamiliar with the quirks of a Volkswagen bus.” “I was the first pick-up in the family and hauled many loads of groceries, fertilizer, and lumber. I even carried camping gear to the mountains or a bunch of teenagers on outings. (Just a sample)

I’ve used this idea several times for special occasions. The most recent time I used the idea was for one of the gifts for our granddaughter’s 10th birthday. “Ten Reasons We Love You!” was the banner title and I chose four pictures and two graphics along with the written text to make a pleasing 8 x 11.5-inch design. I printed it on glossy photo paper and framed it. The reasons are just for the honoree, but five of the ten I included for Patty were: 1) because you are kind and never want to hurt anyone’s feelings; 2) because you are fun to be with, you like to talk and laugh, even act silly sometimes; 3) because you try your very best at school-the result is that you are an excellent student and that makes us very proud; 4) because you use your talents in church and to make others happy-like your singing and acting; and the 10th one was: Because you are a perfect 10-year-old granddaughter and we wouldn’t change a thing about you!

A few years ago for Mother’s Day, I gave my mom a small canvas bag with “You’re the Greatest Mom” painted on it. Inside, I placed many folded pieces of paper starting with the words, “You’re the greatest mom because of you…” I completed each sentence with things she’d done or said and examples she’d set for me. She told me she still goes to her “greatest mom” bag every time she needs an emotional boost.

Dig through the photo albums. Photos are almost always a hit. And what’s more personal than sending a sibling a reminder of your childhood or a niece or nephew a glimpse of their dear old dad from a few decades back? Put an old or recent photo in a nice frame. Or you could pair it with a generic gift to make the whole package thoughtful.

There are tons of options for giving photos as gifts. Buy a photo album that matches your friend’s or family members’ tastes and fill them with old pictures. Copying centers offer an easy way to make a flip calendar out of family pictures.

You can even turn a photo into a mouse pad or coffee mug. Desktop publishing also is making it easy to burn a CD-Rom or DVD of your favorite pictures, graphics, and captions to give as a gift.

One of the best, most recent gifts, was a Christmas present from Mom. She knew how much I liked Great Grandma and Grandpa Jackson’s wedding picture. She had a copy of the picture that had a crease through the top third of the picture. Mom took the picture to a photographer and he restored it to the original state. Mom had it made into an 8 x 10, framed it beautifully and gave it to me for Christmas.

The year my mother-in-law, a long-time quilter, turned 85 I made a family photo calendar entitled, “Making a Family Quilt.” Each page had different family photos designed in a specific quilt block pattern. The calendar pages included all family member’s birthdays and anniversaries. I made the calendar by scanning in photos and using a computer publisher program. I had copies made on 11 x 17-inch paper and then folded it into an 8.5 x 11-inch calendar.

For our parents’ 60th wedding anniversary we made a huge framed 36 x 42-inch collage. There was a recent picture of Mom and Dad, their home and the church where they have been active members for 59 of their 60 years together. Also included were the 12 families formed as a result of their marriage (five children and seven grandchildren). Alongside each family’s picture was a picture of their current home. Attractive family identification labels, as well as a touching tribute, were added. Pictures of businesses owned by family members provided the border for the collage.

Match hobbies/lifestyles. The first thing to think about is what their interests are. A frequent traveler could use nice luggage tags or a monogrammed toiletry bag. Someone who hates clutter might prefer a consumable gift, such as a gourmet wine and cheese basket. Gift certificates for services such as a massage or manicure can be great, too.

Give the gift of having someone’s house cleaned for him or her. I am doing that today because it is Kim’s birthday and she is basically bedfast for a while. I know it will be a treat to have a fresh house!

I love gifts that are thought about and planned ahead. My daughter, Jeri, knows I love musical plays so she took me to Springfield for my first “big time” musical.

I’ve played the piano since fourth grade so I was delighted to receive a beautiful piano music box for my 50th birthday from my sister and mom. One year my sister found an afghan that had piano keys and musical notes design. She made a coat for me out of the afghan.

My husband is a bass fisherman. His favorite gift is a gift certificate to Bass Pro.

My sons play golf. They are always pleased to receive a box of golf balls or a book of golf humor.

Give to a charity in their name. This is a good idea for a friend or family member who has everything. Or you may have someone on your gift list that is disapproving of spending “money on him or her.” Make sure it is a charity the person supports. Most charities will provide gift cards that you can dress up with a small holiday ornament and a gift bag.

I received a special gift from my daughter last Christmas that touched my heart. The gift was through WORLD VISION and Abby gave $25 in my name to teach an African woman to read! You can go to their website and find tons and tons of ideas.

Add to a collection. Give them something they collect. Today, flea markets are easily spotted along highways and in small towns. There are also online auction houses that make it easy to find items ranging from obscure collectibles and rare books to antique dishes.

My mother first gave me a Depression glass plate. It was an amber Patrician pattern and she always used it as a cake plate. I began collecting other pieces. Soon, I was also receiving pieces as gifts. I use my dishes at Thanksgiving because they fit in and look so pretty with fall colors.

Bring back globetrotting gifts. If you’ve traveled somewhere special throughout the year, bring back unique items the region is known for, such as Austrian crystal bracelets or embroidered Asian purses from Hong Kong. As long as they fit the recipients’ tastes, it’s still personal because you thought of them on your journey.

While our nephew was serving in Iraq, he sent my husband paper money inside a birthday card.

Our grandchildren knew Grandpa and Grandma had attended a Rams (St. Louis Football Team) pre-season game. The next time we saw them we had Rams jerseys for each of them. The shirts were purchased at a dept. store but the children hooped and hollered over the shirts.

While my military uncle was stationed in Japan 40 years ago, his family mailed several Japanese gifts to our family. I received a kimono and my brother got an embroidered black satin bomber-style jacket. We took them to school for “show and tell” and have used them in plays. I still have my kimono.

Show off your talents. If you have a talent for gardening or cooking, don’t be afraid to share it. However, don’t give a prized amaryllis bulb to a friend who is never home to water plants or homemade pecan caramels to someone who is desperately trying to cut calories. But where it fits, let your talents show through.

Sharing some of your prized recipes (along with a sample) with a newly married couple or gardening tips and tools with a new homeowner who wants to test his green thumb could be lovely. Or, if you have a great music collection, share some of your favorites songs by burning them onto a CD. Top it off with a special label you’ve created.

My sister made me a lovely large wall hanging from her pink and green scraps (which goes perfectly with my décor) using the quilt block named “Sister’s Choice.” I am so proud of the wall hanging, especially after it won first place at a local quilt show!

My niece gave me (and many other people, as she mass-produced them) a daily scripture calendar. She typed up scripture for each day-I appreciate all the time and thought that took-made copies (front and back) and cut the pages into 3 x 3.5-inch pages. She made two holes in the top of each page and held them all together with metal rings that allowed the pages to “flip.” The card stock was used to make the base. To make the gift even more of a treasure the opening page includes a poem written by the gift giver-Lora.

A friend of mine prepared a special recipe (gourmet’ of course) for her older parents-serving a different “creation” each month for a whole year.

Poems written by my dad and children are such special gifts. I have one framed hanging in our dining room, one framed hanging in our den and one in our bedroom.

Our daughter gave me a scrapbook that she had made of favorite memories. It was for Mother’s Day, she had special little notes, etc. throughout the book.

Add to their holiday decorations. Seasonal decorations are a great gift for secret pals, wedding gifts and thinking of you gifts. It is a gift that keeps on giving as the recipient is reminded of the giver each year as they bring the decoration out to display.

After my grandchildren grew past toddlers I changed my Christmas gift to be an ornament-I make the ornament and include a gift of money. The children don’t need more “stuff” and the money is designated for their college fund. When they go off to college they’ll have money saved and also ornaments for their own Christmas tree.

My sister made my husband and me beautiful stockings the first Christmas after moving to a new home with a nice fireplace. We enjoy them each year and appreciate her.

Each year I give my grandchildren a “pre-Christmas gift.” It usually is a pretty Christmas sweater or something they can wear throughout the season. I give it to them when we are together at Thanksgiving. Last year I changed things a bit and gave each of my sons’ families a Good Deeds Christmas Tree. I gave each person in the family a set of 12 ornaments. (Dad got white icicles, Mom got red bows, Sis got blue ball ornaments and Brother got snowmen ornaments. This allowed a quick look at the tree to see who was doing the good deeds!) The instructions were that each family member would put one of their ornaments on the tree after doing a “good deed.” The star was added to the tree when all family members had completed their 12 good deeds.

Give a themed basket. If you start with a theme, gift-giving becomes easier. Put together a sports lover’s basket with tickets to a ballgame, plus some fun items for tailgating. Get a gardener a basket of the latest tools or bulbs and a subscription to a home and garden magazine. It’s easy to fill a basket-or even a Christmas stocking–once you have a theme.

Last Christmas our youngest grandson, age 5, was interested in horses and cowboys. So we gave him books about cowboys and horses. We also gave him a sweater with a bucking bronco embroidered on the front. He got several different play horses and even cowboy pajamas. The same Christmas our oldest grandson was almost 16 and anticipating getting his driver’s license in just a few weeks. His gifts were a flashlight, toolbox for the car, a bucket packed with car cleaning supplies and money for gas.

For the new college student I give a little Tupperware-type box with a lid or a small plastic three-drawer container with the following items: pain reliever, band-aids, shout wipes, small sewing kit, scissors, stamps, thermometer, cough drops and a roll of quarters (for laundry). It is always a hit!

My secret pal gave me a St. Patrick’s Day gift that was packaged in a green Irish hat. The theme was green and the gifts included a package of lettuce seed, cucumber-melon body lotion, green mints and several pieces of green fabric.

The presentation is everything. Almost everybody gets excited about wrapped packages and if the wrapping is clever and unique it can be just as important as the gift. Spending that extra time tying the ribbon or finishing a handwritten card is the perfect personal touch to your thoughtful gift.

My children love to help with gift-wrapping, so I asked them to make finger-painted gift tags. They dip their hands in finger paint, make handprints on paper, and cut out the tags. They add a homemade, old-fashioned touch to gift-giving.

When possible I like to wrap baby gifts in baby blankets and use diaper pins to hold the gift together.

I enjoy wrapping something in a special way. A gift given in the fall could have artificial fall leaves glued on the package. A fall scene could be designed with craft sticks in the shape of a fence with leaves or a tree in the design; small craft animals or birds could be added. At Christmas, you could wrap the package in the white paper, cut out a picture of a person from the catalog and put a Santa suit on the person with felt and cotton.

My boys enjoy crafts, but I don’t want a big mess. Origami is the solution. Folded paper projects keep them busy, and the shapes can be decorated with stickers and metallic gel pens. They use their art for thank-you notes, birthday cards, Valentines or Christmas greetings.

I’ve used a knit hat to wrap a small gift. Close the hat with a barrette or pretty pin.

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