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A Gift Givers Guide To A Stress Free Holiday Season

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSC chapter.

Gift giving is stressful. It’s okay to admit it, even if the payoff of happy loved ones makes the struggle worth it. Financial strain, lack of ideas, and time restraints tend to take the fun out of wandering the aisles of Target in search of that perfect present. 

Anxiety used to be all I knew during the holidays, always worried about the inevitable lack of enthusiasm that would accompany people opening my gifts. That was until I implemented a few strategies that gave my talents a full transformation. Since then, I’ve had two different sources say that they were about to buy the obscure present I gave them for themselves and question how I knew. 

The secret, as I told them, is paying attention all year round. 

  1. Keep a List

One of the best things you can do for yourself, and subsequently the recipients, is keep track of your loved ones’ interests, hobbies, favorite things, and anything else that could be valuable information for buying them gifts. I have one in my Notes app where I discreetly hold a record of my family and friends’ comments that they make throughout the year. This makes it easy to return and jog my memory whenever I’m drawing a present-blank. 

How small is too small? There’s no reason to not include the tiniest details such as flavor preferences, specific brands, and whatever else they mention. The more specific, the stronger the gift since it demonstrates how you’ve been an attentive and active listener with them. Either they’ll remember casually commenting on it and be touched by your thoughtfulness or they’ll be blindsided all together by how well you know them. Both are great feelings! 

  1. Choosing The Gift Type

There are a few route options to choose when finding the perfect gift, usually depending upon finances, effort, and creativity levels. If you’ve accumulated a huge list of smaller items your recipient loves(such as their favorite candy, harder to find snacks, personalized accessories, etc.) then a self care package might be the way to go. This is a way to showcase your knowledge of their preferences in a simple and hugely customizable way while giving you more financial freedom. Be careful, though, the prices tend to add up quickly. 

Another great option is to fund a service or experience. The reason people enjoy gift cards is because they take the pressure off of the purchase and just allow them to enjoy splurging. Sometimes people need that extra push and lack of choice to allow themselves to enjoy a moment of luxurious relaxation. Booking them a massage, sticking two movie tickets into an envelope, or making plans to take them out to dinner are ways to create an experience together while maintaining that edge of comfort.  

With all of this in mind, there are two specific gift types that tend to really make waves during the holidays: the one your recipient didn’t know they needed and the one they didn’t know they wanted

  1. The Gift They Didn’t Know They Needed

Finding something that someone didn’t know they needed requires a ton of observation, patience, and research. Take advantage of your perspective as an onlooker into someone else’s life and search for places where your gift can provide a cushion. For example, if you notice that every time you cook at a friend’s house you complain about their dull knives, then maybe a kitchen store is the place to go! 

Most of us tend to accept inconveniences because life is so full of them. Wouldn’t it be nice if a few of those were magically fixed during the holiday season before you even realized they were causing you stress? Doing this for loved ones is one of the best ways to show you care and continue that support by improving their daily lives. 

Keep close track of wardrobe staples they constantly fawn over but continue to lack, household appliances that cause difficulty on a day-to-day basis, and gadgets that could encourage their hobbies and/or career development.  

  1. The Gift They Didn’t Know They Wanted

My personal favorite, and often the one that requires the most focus, is the gift that people didn’t know they wanted. This requires combining the knowledge you have about your recipient’s personality with knowledge of their field of interest. Even better if it crosses over two separate fields. 

For example, if you know your art major friend loves the movie Pulp Fiction and is currently obsessed with impressionist paintings, commission a local artist to do a rendition of the cover in that style! That is a one-of-a-kind gift that speaks directly to multiple areas of their interests. 

Pay close attention to categories of things that they enjoy! If you notice that they have a ton of wall decor hung over their bed, maybe look for a niche poster that fits in well. It’s all about trial and error until that perfect present finds you.

The best gift you can give yourself during the year is to be present with your loved ones. A list of gift ideas for people is only as good as the observations you’ve made, so pay attention and be mindful of your perspective. The holiday season is an opportunity to make the people in your life feel happy, loved, and comfortable and gift giving is one of the most fun ways to do that. So, go open your ears and start that list! I promise, you won’t regret it.

Serena is a student at UCSC pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Literature with a love for creativity, storytelling, and learning.