This past Friday was my mama’s birthday. Because we come from a long line of great gift givers and she’s one of the best I know, this post is in her honor. =)
When I was growing up, I loved receiving gifts. I would actually spend time daydreaming about what I’d get for my birthday or from Santa. I especially loved getting gifts that were something I already knew I wanted…and perfect gifts that I didn’t even know I wanted! I’m glad to report that I’ve moved past that stage. Mostly. 😉 I’ve realized I spend waaay more time and energy planning out the “perfect” gifts to bestow on my nearest and dearest these days. And I’m always terribly excited to see them opened because I feel that they’ll bless the receiver in some way.
This has GOT to be the way that God feels about giving gifts to His children. Just imagine Him watching us get excited when our zinnias spring into bloom…or jump up and down after a phone call bearing fantastic news…or feel a rush of love and gratitude when a new baby is born into a family. “Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) It’s a pretty cool thought…almost like rivers of light-filled gifts, raining down on His children. =)
It wasn’t really until I read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts that all this thinking about gift-giving came into focus. (And if you haven’t read that, YOU SHOULD.) I found out that I primarily show (and therefore, want to receive) love through Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. But, because I’m an overachiever, I also tested high for Gift-Giving and Physical Touch. The last love language is Acts of Service – that was my lowest. And wouldn’t you know it, that one was Jeremy’s highest! (He scored a ZERO on Words of Affirmation. Ha!) No wonder we had some communication issues during our first years of marriage. 😉 But really and truly and seriously – buy that book. Read it with your spouse. It helped us a TON. If you don’t have a spouse, it’s still a valuable read – and will help you understand your parents, your friends, and co-workers better.
I can say that because it’s helped me realize how many people in my family are wonderful gift-givers. And they’ve taught me (subconsciously) So Much about picking out presents. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Pay attention to your loved ones’ likes and dislikes all throughout the year. Make mental notes. Make physical notes of the more detailed variety – like their shoe size or your guy’s shirt size or a particular thing they “mentioned” that they would like to have (I have a TERRIBLE time trying to keep that stuff straight in my head!) Make a secret Pinterest board to file away ideas. If you’re a guy reading this (kudos to you!) peek at her Pinterest boards every so often and get a solid feel of what her style is. Some people are super good at this. I feel pretty confident at it, but I’m always trying to improve!
The point of this is to study them. When you study somebody, you pay attention to their style – for instance, what colors they wear. My Jeremy’s best color is blue – one time he told me that he thought he looked awful in red. Noted! No red shirts or ties for that guy. (Maybe a red stripe in a blue tie, but that’s the extent I’m willing to go.) There is one exception to this: ifyouthinkthey’retotallymistaken – and if they just triiiiied on said item, you know they would change their mind! 😉 But that’s a slippery slope. I would ONLY go with that if you are often complimented on your own sense of style – and if you have a gift receipt handy. And you’ve gotta be ready to admit defeat. They may try it on and STILL hate it. That’s O.K. – I would only try that eeeevery so often to change things up. Most of the time, just go with what you know they’ll like. But you won’t know that unless you’ve studied for the exam. So study away! And make it fun! These are people you love and they’ll be wowed that you “know them so well.” =)
2. What about those people who aren’t into giving/receiving gifts? They’re the ones that say, “Oh, I don’t need anything” (um, like my Grandaddy!) or “I can’t think of anything I want…besides a table saw…” (here’s looking at you, husband!)
Don’t let those answers rain on your parade. 😉 Several years ago, I had an epiphany about my Grandaddy’s birthday gift. I realized that he always, always, ALWAYS sends notes and letters of every kind, for every occasion. He’s known for it. So I made him a little basket with a couple of boxes of manly-looking Thank You notes, some pens that I favor, (Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens, Ultra Fine Point, 4-Pack, Assorted Colors, Black/Blue/Red/Green Inks (31276)) – and a book of stamps. He was more excited about that gift that any other gift I’d ever given him! And I might have re-used that gift idea on later occasions, too. 😉
As for the husband who wants an expensive table saw – more than you want to spend on one birthday – maybe you could get a special card and tuck in a Lowe’s gift card or some money to go toward the table saw. He’ll probably get other birthday money, too, so he might get that table saw sooner than you think!!
3. Speaking of money – sometimes that’s the best gift. If someone is hard to buy for, or you don’t know much about their personal style because you only see them a few times a year, maybe you want to let them pick out their own gift. Totally fine! And sometimes you might buy them an actual gift and other times, maybe you want to change it up and buy them a gift card that you know-for-a-fact they will enjoy. (That’s a great idea that Ashley‘s husband Jason employs when he gives her Etsy gift cards sometimes!) My cousin Adam and his wife Tosha gave me a card/check for my last birthday – with a note that said to enjoy picking something out from Jane.com – I had shared that website with Tosha a couple of months before (after Ashley shared it with me!) and we had both enjoyed buying gifts (and O.K., gifts for ourselves…) there. =)
A different spin on that is to find out their favorite restaurant (if you don’t already know it) and pick up a gift card. If they enjoy going to the movies, a movie theatre gift card is another treat. Other gift card ideas: Sonic or Dairy Queen-type places for slushies/ice cream treats; a bookstore or Hobby Lobby/Micheal’s; iTunes; Amazon – surely they can find SOMETHING they want there! 😉 What about a spa gift certificate?? Include a card that says, “For your next date night/girls’ day,” etc. In fact, Keli‘s husband Kevin got together with her friend Emily’s husband and they both got their wives spa certificates for pedicures and also gift cards for a sushi lunch, which meant they could have a fun afternoon out together. Happy Mother’s Day to them! Pretty clever!
Sometimes there’s not money in the regular budget for some fun times or something they would never buy themselves – and that’s where you come in! Believe me, they’ll be thanking you as they enjoy using those gifts cards. 😉
4. Themed gift baskets. I loooove making these and they’re super fun to receive, too! I remember getting a few fun gift baskets when we got married (almost 8 years ago – wow!) – one of them was a basket with a fleece blanket, a movie, and a package of votive candles, with a card that reminded us to snuggle and spend time together. So sweet, right?? I loved it! And the other one I distinctly remember was a basket filled with 2 pumpkin placemats, a fall set of salt/pepper shakers, and two fall-colored cloth napkins/napkin-rings. We got married in November and fall is my favorite season, so that was just perfect!
Both of those gift baskets were filled with items purchased at Wal-mart – proof that you don’t have to spend a ton to come up with a special gift. If your loved one is a foodie, gourmet food items from TJMaxx or Marshalls is a fabulously fun idea! My friend Debbie’s mom always makes gourmet food baskets for their daughters at Christmas and I’m just loving that!
Say you’re buying a wedding gift and the couple is registered at Target. Maybe they registered for pizza pans, a pizza cutter, etc. Or baking items, like muffin tins, measuring cups/spoons, etc. Make it a themed gift and include a favorite handwritten recipe or a pizza dough or muffin mix!
P.S. A dishtowel in their chosen colors is a great way to add some color to metal/white kitchen items. =)
5. If the gift is for a regular birthday or Christmas, and not a wedding/baby gift they’ve registered for, you’re not going to have as much guidance – here’s an opportunity to give them the same type of items you’ve enjoyed. I’ve given oversized fleece throws from Kohl’s, Mainstays three-wick candles from Wal-mart, make-your-own slushy cups, scarves, boots…all with one thing in common. I used them – and totally enjoyed them – myself. And I want to share the love. You should, too – give people tried-and-true items that make your own life easier!
6. Figure out what love languages your spouse/friend/parent speak fluently. If your loved one is a Quality Time person, plan an event for you to attend together instead of an actual physical gift. (They can still open a box, bag, or card with the info/pictures about what you’re planning or tickets to the event.) By the way, this can mean a concert or outing, but it can just as easily mean a night out at home, if you think they would prefer that. (Again, with knowing your person well!) You could purchase a favorite movie of theirs and plan a themed dinner/dessert to go along with it. My dad is a big Quality Time person, so this is often a great option for Father’s Day or his birthday. For Father’s Day this year, I took him to play a room at the Jackson Escape Rooms with some old/new friends of mine. We had a great time and made a good father/daughter memory! (Whew! The Attic was tough! But my dad was ALL into it. Loved that!)
My friend Sasha took me to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants (The Carriage House Antique Mall Cafe’) for my birthday one year and I really enjoyed that time together. It’s a simple gesture that means a lot! I want to use that idea more often.
7. Want to go all out for a special someone? Cards, flowers, birthday cakes, etc. are other fun ways to show someone you care. Stick a card in the mail or order some flowers, especially if you’re not able to give them their “real” gift until later.
Back to love languages…if your friend/spouse/relative is a Words of Affirmation person, giving them a card with some heartfelt sentiments is sure to earn you some brownie points. 😉 Especially if you have trouble saying those things out loud on a regular basis.
If your person loves to be surrounded by flowers like I do – and wouldn’t climb the walls at the thought of spending money on “something that will be dead a week later,” then ordering them a fancy flower arrangement might be the way to go! But if they’re a little more thrifty, maybe they would rather receive a special rosebush to plant in their yard and be able to look forward to future blooms to gather at their leisure. My mom looooves her pretty rosebush we got her for Mother’s Day one year.
For my mom’s birthday this year, though, I had already bought her a fancy exfoliating scrub and body butter set from The Body Shop, but I gathered a little bouquet of zinnias from our yard and took them to her when I picked her up for lunch. I also made her favorite cake – yellow cake with a cocoa fudge frosting…in our family, this is known as Closet Cake. (But that’s another story/recipe for another day!)
On with the baking theme…I completely love that my Jeremy makes me a birthday cake every year! About 3 years ago, I found this incredible chocolate raspberry layered cake and requested it. And will continue to request it every year from now on. 😉 Delicious! And I totally feel spoiled when my husband bakes for me. It’s one of my favorite parts of my birthday!
This year my Grandaddy and I had a joint family birthday party – we both enjoyed our special cake. =)
Even if you’re looking for a non-birthday gift, homemade baked goods are usually welcome! Unless the recipient is on a restrictive diet…you might want to check first. 😉
8. Sometimes buying gifts can be more expensive than what you need to spend. Here are a few ideas to keep yourself in check:
*Budget for gifts. Know ahead of time what months have which important birthdays and how much you intend to spend on each one. Stick to the plan. (And if you don’t have a budget – we didn’t for the first years of our marriage either – commit to beginning one ASAP. It’s seriously important!)
*Set aside a certain amount for Christmas gifts each month, so you won’t be trying to use your November/December paychecks to pay for ALL of those gifts at once. Or worse yet, adding to your credit card bill. Yikes! Just say no. 😉
*Sign up for/use Ebates for your online shopping. I signed up a few months ago and quickly made about $15 in cash back from purchases I would have made online anyway! It’s super easy to use if you’re a big online shopper like I am. And they have a GREAT referral program – you can supplement your gift budget with your earnings.
*Shop throughout the year for birthday/Christmas presents. You can get some super fabulous deals at the end of each season – stock up on baby gifts, especially clothing, at these times.
*Use Dave Ramsey’s free Christmas budgeting tool I’ve used this the past two years and it’s been greatly helpful!
*If you’re crafty and have time, make your gifts. Just make sure you pick a project that won’t have you spending more than if you’d picked up something at Pier 1. And remember, your time is worth something, too!
I think the moral of the story is: “It really IS the thought that counts.” Life gets crazy and I’m definitely not 100% perfect at picking out the best gifts for everyone in my life either…but it’s a lovely thought when someone has orchestrated an experience to bless another person. It brings you outside of yourself and into the realm of generosity…and that’s where God takes up residence.
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