Show Up For Your Friends: A Guide To Curating The Perfect Gift

When we are fortunate enough to chance across people that enrich our existence and with whom we have forged genuine connections with (AKA your 'Significant Person', it might be overwhelming to figure out how exactly to convey this love and adoration.

With that said, what makes for a good gift? Generally speaking, I believe a good gift is one that speaks to how well you know your friend (incorporating what they like), and how much you like your friend (incorporating what you like about them). It is your prerogative to be creative and intentional in the way that you invest your time, money and energy when creating the perfect gift.

  1. 1. Recognize that Brainstorming Can Be a Continuous Process

    computer hands writing in journal on table

    I find that the most suitable and well-liked gifts I have given sprout from seeding ideas throughout the year. Bear with my agricultural analogies for a moment — designing your gift requires the same attention as tending to a garden. You're constantly accumulating both generic gift ideas and occasion-specific ones (knowledge about different soils, seeds and eco-friendly fertilizers). You're also constantly trying to find the perfect match between the gift and the occasion (growing orchids in charcoal chunks). You need to nurture the ideas over time because you don't want to end up having to rush the process — more likely than not, that sours the process and becomes a source of stress and anxiety for you.

  2. 2. Pay Attention and Take Notes

    Normalize taking notes during or after your hangouts with your Significant Person about content that they're consuming and loving or want to consume and love. This enables you to (i) actively acknowledge that you're listening to and learning from them and (ii) develop a more comprehensive understanding of their tastes and preferences. Did your friend pick up a book documenting local photography in a bookstore and wistfully flip through it? Trawl the Internet and ask your local bookstore owners for recommendations on obtaining books within that genre, or better still — get them that exact book. Does your friend frequently muse aloud about urban farming but seems hesitant to commit to it? Find out more about the lighting conditions in their apartment before picking beginner-friendly DIY herb-growing kits.

    Make your intentionality known in an accompanying note, such as 'I remember from our trip to Bookstore X last summer that you were really into that book on photographing the ever-changing NYC skyline, so I got you a similar one!' or 'I was thinking that right by your kitchen window would be a good place to grow Plant X because it doesn't receive direct sunlight throughout the day.'

  3. 3. Anticipate Their Needs to Love Them Better

    Flowers Florist

    Anticipate the needs of your Significant Person. The chances are high that they have upcoming 'Turning Point' type events that require your wholehearted support. If they're making a big move from home to college, get them something that's cozy and reminds them of home, or something that makes it a little easier for them to make friends with strangers, or a college-life essential that is frequently overlooked. There's any number of combinations of gifts that could enhance their experiences and ease the discomfort of navigating large life changes! Plow even deeper by finding out their love language and scoping the medium of your gift accordingly. If they're all about physical touch, get them gifts that they can touch, smell, taste and otherwise physically interact with. Fresh flowers that you can purchase at your local grocer's and self-assemble into a mini bouquet is a good example of this — who says it has to be a special occasion for flowers to make an appearance? If they're into quality time, get tickets for you both to check out that art exhibition that you know they've been eyeing for months. If they cherish receiving gifts, do your best to be punctual in celebrating the special occasions or anniversaries in their life with them.

  4. 4. Do the Legwork: Take Time to Check In

    Check in with the other Significant People in their lives. You don't need to be the person that knows them best in the whole world to get them a perfect gift, since you could just as easily check in with the person that does know them best. Take note of who they talk about frequently or converse with on a daily basis, and consider sliding into their DMs or dropping them a text! In that text, outline the fact that you both care a lot for your mutual friend and that your intentions are to source them a really great gift. Ask what they're planning to give (so that you can match that), or whether your mutual Significant Person has recently expressed a desire to check out the Brand X's volumizing mascara or Artist X's debut album.

    Check in with your Significant Person about three months in advance maybe. Ideally, they would have forgotten that they had directly requested for Item X, thus making for a pleasant surprise. If you want to better surprise them, check in with their social media followings. Does your friend follow six different Instagram accounts selling quirky clay earrings? You know what to do.

  5. 5. Personalize It Through DIY

    Kendra Kamp

    Assemble a box of their favorite snacks, self-care or comfort items. Ideally, these items would be a good mix of useful or pragmatic, aesthetic, cozy and novel. Throw in some personally favored items if you know that the two of you share similar tastes, like a copy of a book that always make you feel warm inside. If you include any wearables, do make sure to include the receipt so that they can get a better-sized version if necessary!

    Alternatively, include photographs of your favorite memories together and letters for every occasion (examples include: for when they've finally achieved a lifelong goal of theirs, for when they feel lonely etcetera). If you want something more transportable and customizable, a digital copy of this could be created on free sites like Canva, Google Slides, or Wordpress. Take it a step further if their love language is words of affirmation: source letters of appreciation from their friends, family and colleagues and catalog or present these letters on any of the aforementioned digital platforms. One logistically-intense but incredibly rewarding project I have personally embarked on is producing a list of questions for my Significant Person's friends to film themselves answering, then fixing the footage to the goofiest photo montage possible. This was completed using the free iMovie software on my laptop, and I dare say it was one of the most well-received gifts I've ever created.

  6. 6. Take Reference from the Experts

    If you have difficulty brainstorming a truly novel gift, hunt on sites that specifically collect and sell unique products—such as Uncommon Goods and Not On the High Street. Because these sites tend to list their products at higher prices, you would be better off purchasing a more affordable version of the item that's locally produced. Consider looking up subscriptions for items that they enjoy consuming on a relevant basis on My Subscription Addiction or Buzzfeed listicles — a word of caution; do look up reviews to ensure that they are affordable and of legitimate quality.

  7. 7. Avoid Breaking the Bank

    Planning in advance means that you have leeway to wait for the potential gifts to go on sale! It also means that you have the time to look for resale items (if you know they're environmentally conscious and excited to re-home items) and brand new items at your local stores. Think thrifting platforms like Depop or Goodwill, consumer-to-consumer sites like Facebook Marketplace, craigslist and eBay, or even Daiso and other dollar stores! For bigger ticket items, consider pooling budgets with other mutual friends.

Above all, don't forget that a sincere card or letter can go above and beyond in conveying your feelings for them. Whether you are reminiscing the best memories the two of you have shared, listing every single aspect of them that you enjoy, brainstorming future plans or even all of the above, cards and letters serve as a universally appreciated reminder that your significant person matters, and that they are loved.

At the end of the day, isn't that the greatest gift of all?