Ask Andi: What birthday gift should I give my friend who I haven't seen in years?

Hi Andi,

I have a friend whose birthday is coming up. We have stopped going to the same school for the past seven years, and have rarely seen each other since then. We have, however, always kept in touch. I'm not sure what to get her for her birthday because I don't know how much her likes and dislikes have changed. I don't want to spend too much money but I would like to get her something. So, Andi, what should I get her?

A Present for the Past.

Dear A Present for the Past,

Buying a gift for even your closest friend can be difficult.  Everyone wants to pick the perfect gift but it is not always the easiest to decide what that might be.  We place such an emphasis on finding the best gift because we obviously care about the recipient (or why else give them a gift?) and we want to show that we know what that person likes.  The fact that you don’t see your friend much anymore makes this process more difficult.


The most important thing to remember is that it is the thought that counts.  This really holds true.  You two have been good friends and have remained in contact over the years so she will appreciate the gesture and that you thought of her on her birthday.  Another piece of advice is to buy a gift that matches the personality she had when you were close friends.  If her likes and dislikes haven’t changed, then your gift will be perfect.  However, even if she has slightly changed, the gift will be something that she’d like as you remember her.  This is both sentimental and thoughtful.

Websites like have gift giving guides that give you plenty of ideas based on the recipient’s personality, profession, gender, and age, as well as the occasion! Below you will also find universal gift ideas that will guide your gifting:

No matter your friends interests there are generic, but thoughtful, gifts that any girl would be happy to receive.  The best part is—you can find something universal without breaking your budget. 

One idea is to give her some sort of body product.  A combination of bath soaps, lotions and body sprays are something that every girl would like.  After all, everyone needs to shower, right? Many stores like Bath and Body Works or The Body Shop sell their products in sets for value prices. 


When picking out the scent, go with something neutral—not too floral, not to musky, not too fruity—the sales associate can help you find the right fragrance! 


Poppie Jones Bright Wristlet at DSW- $19.95

Another thing every girl can make proper use of is a wristlet.  Whether to carry her cash when she goes out on the weekends, or to hold her drivers license or student ID when she doesn’t want to carry her whole wallet, any girl can make use of this handy invention.  Even more pricey brands like Coach sell small sized wristlets for about $40, but you can also find them for under $10 at other stores. You can find a wristlet almost anywhere like Target, Forever21, Love Culture, Macy’s, Francesca’s (Top floor above eatery in Towson Town Center), or any Vera Bradley retailer.  Even if she already has one, a girl can make use multiple wristlets.  An additional idea would be to put a small value gift card inside the wristlet.  Starbucks is a great choice because even a $10 gift card will serve for multiple trips! Even someone who doesn’t drink coffee can find something they like at Starbucks. You could also put a lip gloss or your favorite type of Chap Stick in the wristlet!

Another idea that is a sure bet, regardless of her interests, is to take the sentimental route.  A nicely framed and mounted photo of you both from awhile ago is a thoughtful and sweet gift.  If you’re the skilfully creative type, you can try making a shadow box or a collage.  Add different photos or quotes about friendship lasting over the years.  The Michaels in Towson Place Shopping Center is a great place to start.  They have cute supplies to decorate your gift and the employees there can help you with creative ideas. These types of gifts are the best because they are personal and they show you put in the effort and thought into the gift.  This type of gift is also easier on a Collegiette™ ’s wallet.

The safest, but least thoughtful, gift choice would be a gift card.  Many people warn against giving gift cards by claiming that they are impersonal and show little thought.  I say,  the giving of the gift, and not the present itself, is the true gift.  Especially if you know a place where she shops or likes to eat, a gift card is a way of showing you know what the person likes but are giving them the freedom to choose their own goodies.  At times I try to avoid giving a gift card, but when I think about it—I’ve always been very happy every time I have received one. Plus, nobody turns down a gift card. I’d personally even be happy with a gift card to Giant (less money I spend on groceries, the more I can spend on spring wedges, crops tops and cab fare!) But I don’t suggest you buy her a grocery gift card. My point is: gift cards do not need to be avoided.

No matter what gift you chose, a nice gift-wrapping job will dress up the overall presentation.  Adding a card will also be a nice way to deliver your birthday wishes.  You can even make one!  The trick is to think about what gifts you would be happy with and find useful—chances are it’ll be the same for most girls, regardless of personal taste and style!

Xoxo Andi