The gift of giving: mistakes to avoid

October 17, 2014

If you’ve ever waited in the gift returns line after the holidays, you know that choosing a gift is an art. Tune up your shopping skills by knowing the gift mistakes to avoid.

The gift of giving: mistakes to avoid

Gift giving should be a happy, relaxed event – often, though, it's a hurried and impulsive purchase that leaves the giver wondering where the money went and the recipient puzzling over where to hang hummingbird wind chimes in a contemporary urban loft. Here are the most common mistakes even champion shoppers make – and how to avoid them.

Don’t overspend

The most common gift shopping mistake, especially during the holidays, is spending too much on a gift – a mistake that stresses out the giver and embarrasses the recipient who can’t afford to reciprocate. Instead of impulse buying:

  • Make a plan, especially when you have to buy a number of gifts at once – who do you need to buy for and what can you afford to spend for each person?
  • Do your research, either online or at the mall, and see how you can get the most bang for your buck. Shop during sales all through the year, if you know you’re going to be buying for an upcoming event or the holidays.
  • Look for coupons – if you don’t have actual coupons in your mailbox, go online and search the store name and “coupon” or “discount” – many stores have coupons on their website that you can print and present at the store or for online purchases.
  • If you can’t find an appropriate gift in your budget, consider giving a gift certificate or gift card in the exact amount you can afford.

Don’t get too personal

A Christmas sweater is not a great gift if your recipient doesn’t celebrate Christmas, is not a size 10 or doesn’t like to wear red. Be wary of giving tech items if you don’t know whether your gift is compatible with the recipient’s systems and equipment. Unless you know your recipient well, avoid gifts that require some personal knowledge.

If you’re stuck for a gift for someone you don’t know well, you can’t go wrong with:

Consumables: A selection of teas, a basket of fruit or a tin of cookies are always welcome.
Items in natural or neutral colours: A grouping of white or beige candles or a lush, foliage plant in a simple pot are appropriate in any décor.
Books: Coffee table books can be intriguing gifts. Your local book store probably has a wide selection in subjects ranging from travel to cooking, movies, classic comic strips and brain teasers.

Don’t get too impersonal either

Your company’s promotional items may be useful advertising, but your coworkers and even your clients would appreciate it if your gift shows some thought. A gift card, for even a fairly small amount, becomes a more thoughtful gift if it covers dessert at a favourite restaurant. An easy way to make a generic gift, such as a travel mug, more thoughtful is the addition of a name or an initial. Many print shops and gift shops offer this service.

Don’t forget people

If you give gifts in a group setting, make sure to include everyone. Make a list of who will be present and have a few extra on hand, just in case you have an unexpected guest. Even if the effort to include everyone reduces what you can spend on each gift, everyone will appreciate your thoughtfulness in remembering them.

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