Monday, February 7, 2011
How to buy the perfect gift
I’ve been going gangbusters on the online “How tos” at the moment, as I’m sure some of you can tell. I just love them! Of course, as is the case with the internet in general, some entries are of far greater value than others.
As the receiver of many a terrible/hilariously inappropriate gift in the past (fluoro fish candles and Youth bibles included) I thought I may attempt to write something on giving appropriate & thoughtful gifts.
I always try to think sincerely about the person’s interests, likes and dislikes. Even if you do not know them very well you are probably aware of one or two characteristics. What do they do with their spare time? Do they like to read? Are they sporty? Are they into computers or fashion? Do they like the outdoors?
Are they the sort of person who would appreciate an experience? Gifts like skydiving, swimming with dolphins and balloon rides are pretty cool in my estimation of things, especially if you’re going to come do them with me. Of course, these things don’t appeal to everyone and won’t always fit the budget requirements. Less ambitious experiences could include a paddle boat ride or a chocolate tour to Hahndorf, even a cooking or dance class. If they don’t go in for any of that caper, how about taking them out for a meal, that way it will be a lovely experience and time spent with their cherished friend – YOU. Try somewhere they haven't been before, that way you are still giving the gift of an experience. Sharing a special bottle of wine you've been saving is always nice too.
Time poor? Don’t buy a voucher, shop online! There are fantastic sites that can even make the experience fun. My current favourite is www.etsy.com, which I was introduced to by my dear friend Emily. She consistently gives beautiful and thoughtful gifts, it turns out many of them come from this site. You have access here to thousands of artists and crafters from all around the world who hand make jewellery, bags, prints, t-shirts and more. Just make sure you’re on it a couple of weeks early to allow for postage and handling time. Keep in mind too that some sellers will only accept payments from pay pal.
I think that artwork makes a wonderful present, but I am aware that this may be a personal bias. I love to buy artwork by young, talented artist who are still selling their work relatively cheaply. I’d much rather have original pieces on my wall than a print from Ikea which has another 6000 ++ copies circulating in the world.
Speaking of artwork making great presents... Check out the exhibition “Come and Plaything” by the amazingly talented Sally Ella-Kitten and Anna Goodhind in The Adelaide Fringe... opens Wednesday night at Vintage Carousel, 26 Hawker St, Bowden, run by the lovely Rachael Will. Here is the link to the facebook event; their work is always very purchasable! http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=125219694210287
Recently I’ve signed up to all of these “daily deals” sights. Jump on it, Living Social and Cudo being the main ones I pay attention to. They offer packages for 50% or less off the retail price. I have seen everything from cakes, to cocktails, meals, health treatments, fitness classes, car washing all for greatly reduced prices. This is a great way for small businesses to promote themselves to a huge mailing list of potential customers that they would not ordinarily have access to. If you can be bothered seeing them in your inbox every day they provide some great and original ideas for gifts (and occasionally yourself of course). Fiona and I briefly entertained the thought of going and having our ‘fat vacuumed’. It’s this bizarre beauty treatment where... as far as I understand it they wrap you in compression bandages, or cling film, or something and then use a vacuum to suck at your ‘problem areas’ to encourage improved circulation, resulting in cellulite reduction and assisting in toning, bahahaha... All for just $59 instead of $230. Don’t worry, they’re not all this peculiar!!
Steer clear of actually buying items of clothing for people unless they have particularly expressed to you that they would like that exact thing before and you are absolutely 100% sure of their size.
Have you thought of a magazine subscription? These can cover a special area of interest for the person... like artlink or adbusters, or they could be more general like National Geographic. You could even get them a subscription to the local newspaper if they often buy it and are not already having it delivered. It’s a gift lasts all year!!!
An extension of this is buying a membership. For example... a year long pass to a particular movie theatre, an art gallery membership, or for a professional artist you could buy their NAVA membership for them which covers some necessary insurance for the year also (I use this as an example because I once won a year’s membership and thought it was just the bees knees, it had so many useful perks).
When you’re really stuck...
A voucher can be acceptable, as long as it is not simply for a large department store. At least show you have some awareness of the person’s interests. Also ensure the location of the store is convenient for the recipient of the voucher. It’s no good getting a $20 voucher if you have to drive for an hour out of your way to use it. Vouchers for massages are very acceptable for those who enjoy that kind of thing. There are so many Chinese massage places in Adelaide now, we are spoilt for choice and you can get treatments for as little as $5.
If you really don’t know (or your giftee is a massive hippy) you could also get them those charity / donation cards that tell you what you have bought for a village in Africa kind of thingy (I've had them from both Oxfam and Unicef). This is a good way to give some warm fuzzies and it’s all ethical and stuff – not adding more unnecessary landfill to the world. One of my lovely housemates bought me a chicken via this method for Christmas last year which was particularly appropriate given my nickname at home is ‘Chicken’.
Here are some simple ideas for thoughtful gifts.
Make something! My father still has a felt comb holder I sewed him when I was 5 or 6 years old. While we’re not all craft geniuses (like my 5 year old self), most of us do own a camera or at least have one on our phones. A photo gift is a good way to personalise your efforts. That said, my family did have a professional studio photo done of them with prosthetic, noses, ears and moustaches which I received for my 21st birthday. I have never yet figured out how to display this, given the obvious cringe factor.
I am told there are great sites online to have your own, or your friend’s image printed onto aprons, hats, mugs, calendars and all of that usual tacky gift palaver. Otherwise you could consider downloading some free flash animation software and making a basic stop motion film using a series of photographs. This appeals to me at the moment, as I have just bought a camera with a rapid fire setting.
For craft ideas I often turn to my Frankie magazine and library books, but there is tonnes of information on this topic online.
I don’t really think that chocolates or nuts are acceptable, except in the case of thankyou gifts, or hospital gifts. These are the only permissible occasions (booze has similar rules for all intents and purposes – except French champagne, which is ALWAYS an appropriate gift and really expensive wine, but again, that opinion is due to a personal weakness).
Instead of bought chocolates you could consider baking some delicious treats instead! If you have the necessary skills it is a marvellous way to give a food present with love.
Novelty gifts are okay if you find them incredibly hilarious and they are not too offensive. They are definitely preferable to generic ‘I really don’t know you presents’ like dumb inspirational coffee table books that have ‘a saying a day’.
When I started thinking that I would like to write something on this subject I e-mailed my sister, as she is an excellent gift giver and seems to really enjoy the process her thoughts on the matter. She answered as follows;
“I buy gifts that remind me of the person that I’m going to give the pressie to. I buy them when I see them, not when I need them; because, shopping under pressure just seems to result in a less than satisfactory, and often more expensive, purchase. Practical gifts are OK if they have something else going for them. As well as practicality, gifts should be funky, clever, a cool design or beautifully made.
When I buy for kids, I keep it simple. There are so many gadget gifts for kids but something simple and robust is best. Look for versatility - how many ways can the gift be used and re-used? Could a dress be worn as a top once the child has grown? Could a toy be used in games of the child’s own making or is its use too specific to allow this?
I find men the hardest to buy for. Often I opt for an experience rather than an object – such as, tickets to a show, a subscription to a magazine or a membership to a cultural establishment, a day out-and-about somewhere unfamiliar.”
As you can tell, we seem to share some thoughts on the matter. This is the woman, who along with her husband are responsible for gifting me a personalised number plate on my 18th birthday, which still drives around on my parents car to this day, almost 9 years later. It cracks me up every time I notice it.
Buying a really good gift is just so satisfying, but it probably won't happen every time despite your evident skills in the area. Remember to always keep the receipt