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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UNH chapter.

Everyone has their thing, whether it be singing the alphabet backwards, or being able to win every time they play rock, paper, scissors. I had never realized what my “thing” was, and I just assumed I didn’t have one until my sophomore year of high school. 

Enter the Christmas of 2020: my best Christmas yet. A couple of days prior to Christmas Eve, my friend group had gotten together to celebrate and exchange gifts. I was filled with excitement handing my friends what I had spent about a year acquiring, and as each person opened their gift my insides quite literally exploded with happiness seeing that what I got them ended up being something that they absolutely loved…trust me, they would have let me know if they hated their presents. Over the years, my ability to buy the best and most cost-friendly things for my loved ones has progressed into a talent that has become the “thing” I’m known for.

Now, I am finally ready to share the steps to just how I do this, and how you can too.

Step one: Make a list

As you hang out with your friends or family, listening for and observing what they like or dislike is the first part of knowing what to look for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either. 

Open your Notes app and create a new tab simply titled with the name of whoever you are planning to shop for. Over time, you’ll have an organized grocery list of the perfect gift(s). My lists look something like this:


  • Food/Drink:
    • Candy: Smarties, KitKats, Welch’s Fruit Snacks
    • Drink: Lemonade (Del’s),  7-Eleven Slurpee (mix all the flavors)
    • Specifics: Seafood (lobster, crab), grilled cheese with mozzarella, carrot cake
    • Restaurants: Olive Garden, Taco Bell (No. 4 with a Baja Blast)
  • Clothes:
    • General size: M/L; 10, 29-30
    • College merchandise (gray sweatpants, fuzzy socks with logo)
    • Baseball hats: netting on the back, simple design
    • Lululemon shorts: 3”,5” inseams
    • American Eagle High Rise Jeggings in Black (size 8)
    • David Ortiz Jersey XL
    • Basic White Hollister shirt
  • Artists:
    • Sleepy Hollow, Olivia Rodrigo, Morgan Wallen, 21 Savage
    • ’60s hits, all ’80s music
  • Colors:
    • Blue (light and dark), emerald green, coral, pastel yellow
  • Animals:
    • Dolphins, lions with really big manes, frogs
  • Sports:
    • Baseball: Red Sox, Orioles, Braves
    • Basketball: Celtics, Lakers
    • Hockey: Bruins, Kraken
  • Needs:
    • Pack of white socks
    • Ice tray
    • AA batteries
    • Paper plates
  • Misc:
    • Gas money
    • LOVES sunsets
    • Cash
    • Records
    • Stickers for laptop
    • Harry Potter (Slytherin)

Of course, your list won’t be this long at first but once you start it’s seemingly hard to stop and all you have to do is listen to them when you go shopping or out to eat, or you can ask questions slyly over time and jot things down discreetly.

Step two: Browse And Budget

The browsing period is the most time-consuming step. Get online and look up things on your list to get an idea of what you want to get. Make sure you compare website prices and reviews before you order anything online. Whenever you are out shopping, keep a lookout for current or upcoming sales. I buy most of my gifts months in advance because there will be a huge sale somewhere, even when I’m specifically shopping with others in mind.   

Make sure you set a personal or collaborative budget. Set a spending limit with those you exchange gifts with. A good universal total price of your combined gifts for someone is $30 to $40 if you are ever unsure. If you are in a store and find the perfect sweater for your bestie, or set of dish towels for your mom but it’s outside of what you are able to spend, give it a couple of weeks to see if there’s a sale on that same item. You can also find the same thing for less on Amazon or other online retailers most of the time. Thrift stores and consignment shops are also amazing places to find quality items with a lesser price tag.

Step three: Shop, Organize And wrap

Similar to the last step, make sure you look for the most affordable option and make sure the quality of your purchases is up to par. Go out with and get yourself a fun drink from a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts to walk around with. Maybe take a little tote bag with you for the places that do not offer bags or that make you pay for them. Place different gifts for different people in separate bags to store them, and make sure to keep every single receipt just in case something is the wrong size or they already have what you got them.

My favorite way to give people gifts is to combine a lot of their likes into a basket of sorts or have a theme going on. Let’s say their favorite color is green, I would get a white basket, adorn it with green ribbons and bows and fill it with their favorite candy, a green sweatshirt from their favorite brand, lip balm packaged in a green container and if they’re into pandas I would throw in a green panda stuffed animal. Add some items that they might have been asking for specifically or some essential items like hand sanitizer or a pack of gum and it’s all set. 

Step four: Personalize

Whether you go the basket, gift box/bag or wrapping paper route, make sure to write a card wishing them a happy holiday or birthday while telling them how much you appreciate them. This can be short and sweet or long and heartfelt. My personal preference is to write my loved ones a couple of paragraphs that leave us crying for a minute or so. Extra points if the card, or anything within the gift, is handmade.

This is the step where you can incorporate some inside jokes within your present. For example, my best friend and I have an inside joke having to do with Mickey Mouse, so I got her a $1 sticker of Mickey and a $2 keychain to go with it. This is an inexpensive way to make the whole experience even more enjoyable because it further proves how much thought you put into the gift.

Step five: Sit back And watch

Once you are confident you have acquired the best variety of gifts for your friends or family and you have everything wrapped and ready to go, stay humble and mysterious and let everyone open gifts that they received from other people. Always save the best for last right?

At the end of the day, it truly does not matter the amount of money or things you give someone, or if you even get them anything at all. Birthdays and holidays are supposed to be fun, light-hearted moments you enjoy with those close to you. Remember: do not let other people in on your secret of how you are the best gift giver every single holiday for years on end. A magician never reveals their secrets, and I am doing so now purely to educate others and pass down the torch to the future generation of gifters.

Emma is a freshman psychology major from Massachusetts :)