How to Find the Perfect Gift for Every Person on Your List
I know that title sounds ridiculously impossible. Let’s be honest. Gift giving can be tough!
Do I really expect you to believe that it’s even possible to find the perfect gift at all, let alone for every person on your list? Everyone? Really?
What about Grandma, whose house is so full of tchotchkes she needs more stuff like she needs another hole in her head?
Or your best friend who is really into minimalism and has dedicated an entire day every month to purging her tiny home of every single thing she doesn’t use daily or that doesn’t bring her immense happiness?
What about your uncle who made a lucky investment and moved into a 25k square foot house with a 17-car garage to house his Bugatti collection?
Or your mom who says she doesn’t want anything, “Just having you home for Christmas is enough, honey”.
How could you ever find something any of these people would want?
Read on, my friends!
The secret to finding the perfect gift is in thinking deeply and thoughtfully about your friend — really demonstrating how well you know him or her.
Instead of asking yourself, “What can I buy her?” or just looking randomly and asking yourself “What will she think of this?”, ask yourself what you want to communicate to the recipient of your gift and how to go about that.
I have a list of questions to get you started. Answer the questions from the perspective of the recipient of your gift. If the answer to any of the questions is no or just meh, move on to the next question. The questions get deeper and more personal as the list goes on.
The links below the questions are to relevant gift guides. My hope is that one of them will spark an idea!
If you don’t know your intended recipient very well (like if you got matched up for a white elephant exchange or you chose a name from on angel tree), you might need to do a little stalking! However, in cases like that, the recipient doesn’t really expect something very personal.
This is truly the ultimate guide to finding the perfect gift for every person on your list!
Let’s get started.
12 Questions to Help You Find the Perfect Gift for Anyone:
1. What does your intended recipient need?
That might seem really obvious, but I had to include it, just in case it didn’t occur to someone. How do you know what your recipient needs? Just ask.
It’s the easiest and simplest route, and both of you will be much happier with a gift that is useful to the recipient. If they give you an idea, be sure to follow through on it, or you’ll send the message that what they say doesn’t matter.
It might seem kind of taboo, but be sure to have an amount you plan to spend in mind when you ask, and it’s honestly just more efficient to tell the person upfront. Knowing your budget helps your intended recipient to be forthright in suggesting a gift, as well.
It’s when your intended recipient tells you he doesn’t need anything or refuses to suggest something that the following questions will be useful.
2. What is your gift recipients stage in life?
Child – Kids are obviously much easier to shop for because they get excited about everything. Their parents will thank you for purchasing them educational or experiential gifts, because those gifts won’t contribute to household clutter. And they’ll appreciate toys that don’t make noise or require batteries or have a ton of tiny parts. Other than that, you’re golden.
Teen – almost all teens would appreciate a technology gift, but that’s hard if you don’t know what they already have. Another perfect gift for a teen is a gift card to their favorite clothing store. Keep reading and answering questions for more ideas.
Adult – if your friend happens to have hit a major life milestone recently, like marriage, pregnancy or childbirth, one of those milestones could be a great basis for a thoughtful gift. Otherwise, this category is way too wide open. Keep asking questions!
Elderly – Most older people would greatly prefer a gift of time and self to a physical gift. They’ve been around the block a few times and no longer see value in stuff. They spell love T-I-M-E. They might need service, such as lawn mowing, home maintenance, snow removal or grocery service, but they appreciate visits equally. An experience gift (which includes spending time with YOU) might be the perfect gift.
- 35 Thoughtful Gifts for Grandparents
- 101 Ideas for Experience Gifts
3. What does your recipient choose to do in her/his spare time?
Hobby and interest-related gifts show your recipient that you care enough to really know what they like. Anyone can stop at WalMart and grab a pair of slippers, but you really know your gift recipient.
- Traveling – 15 Ridiculously Useful Gifts for Travelers
- Video Games
- Reading – 63 Family Favorites to Read Aloud
- Athletic Activity (Golf, hiking, cycling)
- Gardening – 15 Best Gifts for Gardeners
4. Is your gift recipient a fur parent?
Just having a pet doesn’t make a person a fur parent, but if your gift recipient truly considers her/his pets children, a gift that nods to their fur baby could be a huge hit!
- Fur parent gifts
5. What is your intended recipients career?
Does he/she really enjoy this career, or is it just a way to pay the bills? If your recipient’s career is more than just a way to pay the bills, he/she just might love the affirmation.
- Programmer/Data Scientist/SWE – 10 Clever Gifts for Programmers (and other geeks!)
- Nurse – 15 Perfect Gifts for Nurses
6. Is your intended recipient a rabid fan of a particular movie or TV series? How about a favorite band or sports team?
If it’s something I haven’t listed here, try searching Google for paraphernalia related to his/her obsession.
- The Office – 15 Perfect Gifts for Fans of The Office
- Horror Movies
- Parks & Recreation
- Stranger Things – 13 Gifts for Fans of Stranger Things
- Star Trek
- Game of Thrones – Game of Thrones Gifts for Raving Fans
7. Is the recipient of your gift fanatical about a certain beverage (wine, craft beers, tea, green smoothies) or ethnic food?
For example, my brother is crazy about Ethiopian food and will go to great lengths for the good stuff. He’d be thrilled to get a gift card or a gift basket to make one of his favorite recipes. Some of our friends are really into home brewing and would love a gift related to that interest.
- Perfect Gifts for foodies
8. If your intended recipient had two weeks to do whatever he/she wanted to do, what would it be?
How can you turn that luxurious dream into a reality for your gift recipient? Not that you can give them two weeks (what would I give?) but that you could give them a coupon for an afternoon of service, or that maybe just asking that question helps to spark an idea for the perfect gift.
- DIY project around the house
- Travel – 15 Ridiculously Useful Gifts for Travelers
- Binge a whole season of their favorite show (See #5 for gift ideas)
- Take a class and learn something (see #8 for perfect gift ideas)
- Finish the pile of books on his nightstand
- Write a novel
- Conquer a mountain (hiking) that has been taunting her
- Catch up on sleep
9. What would the recipient of your gift love to learn more about?
The gift of learning is a gift that keeps on giving. Is there something they want to learn to do? Make it happen! My brother-in-law has secret dream of becoming a race car driver, and my sister gave him driving lessons at a local racetrack one year. My youngest daughter wants to be a singer, so I’m buying her a guitar and lessons for Christmas this year (shhhhh, don’t tell!)
- Learning gifts
- Top 20 Educational (and fun!) Subscription Boxes
10. What is your budget for this gift?
I know this question isn’t about the recipient, but it’s a good question. And looking through several gift ideas in your price range just might give you a great idea for the perfect gift for your intended recipient!
- Thoughtful Gifts (that don’t cost a thing) for When You’re Broke
- Gifts for under $5
- Useful Gifts for under $10
- Stocking Stuffers for under $1
11. Give the gift of self.
Let’s flip the camera. What do you like to do? What are your talents? Can you think of anything your intended recipient would find valuable that you could provide? Maybe you love painting portraits. Maybe you love to sew quilts or make soap. Or maybe your intended recipient needs some service you could provide.
- Service gifts and gifts of self
- 33 Homemade Christmas Gifts That Don’t Suck
- Gorgeous Gifts Kids Can Make
12. When all else fails, give the gifts of laughter and experience.
My grandma truly doesn’t need or want anything, but she attends our family White Elephant gift party (we call it Dirty Santa — semantics!) every year just for a good laugh. She loves sharing our hilarious ideas with her friends who all also appreciate a good belly laugh. Who doesn’t? Gifts of experience are also a great way to laugh together and build relationships and precious memories.
What gifts communicate really has nothing to do with the price tag of the gift. Rather, gifts communicate a lot about the giver, his feelings toward the receiver and his ability to be give thoughtful gifts.
I’m not suggesting that terrible gift givers are unable to be thoughtful, just that they haven’t yet learned how. When I give gifts, I naturally go through the above process.
Also, I’m naturally organized and with a large family and constant gift-giving occasions, gifts are kind of at the forefront of my mind. I keep a running list of gift ideas in my phone and when my daughter tells me she loves a certain song and the artist is coming to our city and she has a birthday coming up, guess what goes on my list?
Honestly, though, I wouldn’t remember these things if I didn’t keep a list of them in my phone. They also help me to get great deals on gifts because I have those ideas in my phone and I can watch for sales all year. Becoming a good gift-giver is as much about creating strategies that work for you as it is about thinking deeply about the recipient of your gifts.
Some friends of ours, a couple, purchase their own gifts and wrap them up for each other to give. They’re both happy that way on Christmas morning.
Some of the gifts I have valued the most have cost the receiver nothing, but have been so incredibly thoughtful that the memories of them still bring me joy. The thought you put into a gift means a lot more than the cost of the gift.
Pin this quiz for finding the perfect gift so you can find it later!