The art – and joy — of thoughtful giving.
I couldn’t help overhearing their loud voices next to me in the drugstore:
“I hate birthdays. Mine and everyone else’s.”
“Just get the gift card.”
“He never likes what I get him anyway.”
“Just get the gift card.”
“Ugh. They only have $20 cards or $100 cards. $20 will make me look cheap, and he is not worth $100.”
I felt their stress. Gift-giving sometimes comes with the heavy baggage of expectations, especially if we think we did not ‘get it right’ in the past. We have a commercial culture that is sometimes hard to fight against. Have we forgotten what a gift really is?
It might be time to redefine our definition of a gift. What do you consider a gift? How do you approach gift-giving? Does it feel obligatory? Are you trying to impress? When someone gives you something do you wonder how much it costs? Do you judge it or think about how nice it is that they thought of you? Do you wonder if they remember that they re-gifted you something you had given to them? (It happens!)
If you want to be gifted at gift-giving, there are a few things to keep in mind. There is an art to joyful giving.
What is your gifting intention? There is a difference between giving something because you had to or wanted to. If you buy someone something with a specific price in mind or because the occasion requires it, it is just a money exchange, not a gift. You can still keep a budget in mind with intentional gifting; it just means that money is not the qualifier. The thought behind it is.
Make your connection with the person the priority.
We are not expected to be mind readers and know what someone hopes for. When in doubt, it’s okay to ask directly for gift ideas or have a conversation about their preferences. Don’t be afraid to ask. “I want to make you feel special on your birthday. Is there anything specific you would like to do?” They may appreciate your effort to make sure the gift is something they genuinely want.
Gift-giving is an opportunity to think of the special person in your life. What would make them happy? Is there something that they need? I keep a list of things that people say they like and use that as a reference when I want to get them something meaningful. Keep the person in mind before you head out shopping.
I once made the mistake of getting caught up with a trend craze when shopping. I bought a plastic talking, walking nightmare toy because I was told I was so lucky to have found one when they were sold out everywhere. When I arrived at my friend’s house and was reminded of all her natural wooden toys and minimalist surroundings, I realized I had made the ultimate gift mistake- I bought what the marketing teams wanted me to want, which had nothing to do with what was suitable for my friend. Forget the “hottest baby gift” searches and the “best gift for your man” and think of the person, not the demographic.
Remember, the most essential aspect of gift-giving is the thought and effort you put into it. Show the person that you care by considering their interests and preferences. Aim for something that demonstrates your love and appreciation for them.
My friend Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs, the social climate scientist, describes gift-giving as a sustainability minefield. We don’t take the time or effort to be thoughtful, so we throw money at the occasion to compensate. Most people don’t need more stuff. The best sustainable choice is a gift of time and experience. What is better than giving someone a gift of time together or a gift you made yourself?
One of my favorite sayings is, “We don’t have to follow society. We can choose to lead society.”
Start a new authenticity trend for gift-giving. What would happen if you skipped the obligatory event-driven gift altogether? You can give the special people in your life presents any time during the year when you happen upon something they would like or a special activity you can do together. What is better than a little something special when you least expect it?
Here are some general gift ideas that may spur you to think of ones of your own.
- Heirloom seeds that you grew yourself for someone who loves to garden.
- Bake a dessert that someone mentions is their favorite. (And give them the recipe, too!)
- Plan an appreciation picnic with some of their favorite foods.
- Breakfast in bed. Who doesn’t like coffee and treats delivered to the warm comfort of your covers?
- Make a map of some of your favorite places you have gone together.
- Give the gift of time. Something you do together- a mini vacation, tickets to a special event together. Dance or cooking lessons, a wine tasting.
- Gift cards can be handy, especially for hard-to-shop-for teens, but have it include, for example, a trip to the bookstore together for coffee and browsing instead of just a money exchange.
- Give word presents- little notes to say how important they are to you and list things you appreciate about them. Include hand-made coupons for a movie of their choice, a game night or back rub, or an offer to do a chore for the other person. They are gifts of time and thoughtfulness.
- Make a charitable donation in their name. Help someone else in their honor.
If you give a gift from your heart and the person is still unsatisfied, the question you might want to ask yourself is, What am I getting from this relationship?
Ashana Larsen is a Life Coach, dreamer, hypnotist, and champion for equity and sustainability. What do you want to change today? Plans for every budget, including psychedelic journeys that can unlock memories, creativity, and foster spiritual awareness, healing, and connections at solutionarycoaching.com (follow on Facebook for updates and engaging content).