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One of the secrets to giving gifts that really make an impact is to find a gift that speaks to the recipient’s values. In my book, Gift Giving for Busy People, I talk about imagining yourself in your recipient’s home or office and ask you to see what’s there. What does she fill her space with? What colors do you see? What sports teams does he follow?
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, what we spend our time on, what we surround ourselves with and where we retreat for some relief all point to what we value most in life.
Now I’d like to add something to the value mix: social issues and lifestyle. Think about the causes your recipient supports, or any significant aspects to his or her lifestyle. Is she vegan? Has he stopped consuming alcohol? Does she contribute time and money to a homeless shelter?
Being aware of these parts of your recipient’s life takes gift giving to a whole new level. For example, giving someone a pink sweater when she looks best in blue is a slight miss; giving someone a leather wallet when she’s vegan and anti-cruelty to animals is a bomb. “It’s the thought that counts” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I once committed such a gifting sin. I wanted to give a gift to a speaker and coach who inspired me to finish my book. He had once worked as the manager for the lead singer of a rather famous rock band, so when I found a wine that was a play on the band’s name, I thought it was the perfect gift.
Except, my recipient and his wife didn’t drink alcohol. I was very grateful for my recipient’s graciousness in receiving my gift and making light of my faux pas (he still had friends who drank with whom he would share the wine), but it taught me a valuable lesson.
Although you may have different beliefs or make different choices, take some time to think about these aspects of your recipient’s life. My friend Lisa gave up all animal products years ago. While I still enjoy a good leather handbag, I’ve come to learn about brands that feature cruelty-free, manmade products.
It is possible to give the perfect gift that speaks to all the facets of your recipient. It just takes a little more planning and research. Show your recipient you understand her, and the gift is that much more special.Read More
As this post is published, the biggest holiday for gift giving—Christmas—is less than seven weeks away. More Americans start their holiday shopping in November than any other month, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation. On average we will spend about $750 purchasing gifts and cards for our family, friends, coworkers and pets. That’s a lot of shopping; it’s going to be a busy month! Therefore, it’s important to keep track of where, how and on whom that money is spent.
To help track of holiday purchases—and gift purchases year ‘round—I created a Gift Tracker to record dates, names, gift ideas and a budget for everyone on your list. Click to download the Gift Tracker 2012 in Word or a PDF version. The tracker is only part of the story, however. Use the tracker in conjunction with the overall Gift Giving for Busy People system.
When I was developing my POPS (Plan, Organize, Prioritize, Schedule) plan for personal success, I knew it could have applicability to the gift giving side of life. Nearly everything I do for holidays, home decorating and even entertaining follows that basic outline. So why not gift giving? The one adjustment I make when applying POPS to gift giving is to make it personal.
Thus, here are the four simple steps to streamlining and simplifying your gift giving, whether it’s the holidays or any day:
Creating a gift giving plan gives you a bird’s eye view of your gift giving needs, and lets you budget accordingly.
- Create a big picture view of all birthdays, anniversaries, known occasions and holiday gifts. The holidays are a heavy gift giving season, but look for groupings or clusters in the rest of the year. Maybe you have six birthdays and an anniversary in April. That’s a signal you will need to budget more for those times of the year.
- Create an annual budget, paying particular attention to winter holidays.
- Use a gift tracker to write down everyone you need or want to select a gift for, a price point for the gift and any ideas or things to remember.
Look at your gift giving behaviors. Are you typically a last-minute shopper, picking up some knick knack on the way to the office party for the grab bag? Or do you plan ahead? Even if you do plan and purchase ahead of time, is there a frenzy every time you need to wrap a gift? Once you identify what causes stress in your gift giving continuum, think about ways to make that task less stressful. Being organized might be the answer! Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Use a gift drawer so you’re never caught without a gift. What is a gift drawer, you ask? Read on.
- Designate supplies just for gift wrapping, and keep them handy. Read more.
Perhaps the biggest stressor in gift giving is “what” to buy or make to give to your recipient.
In Gift Giving for Busy People, I go into great detail with a series of questions designed to help you arrive at the perfect gift for your recipient. For now, try this exercise. Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a shopping mall with your recipient. What is she drawn to? Notice the stores, the items and the colors and see if any themes emerge. Or, would he even be caught dead in the mall? Where would he rather be? What would he rather be doing? What gift ideas come from those answers?
It is necessary to step into your recipient’s shoes for a moment to determine what is important to him or her. This includes being aware of your recipient’s social conscience and lifestyle; for example, you would not want to give a leather purse to a vegan. The reason this works is, people respond best when their values are supported. Challenge their values and they will withdraw or become defensive. This is true in any interpersonal exchange, whether it’s a business meeting, a family dinner, or a gift exchange. A gift giver should always keep in mind the recipient’s values, rather than his or her own.
Any gift you select may be personalized even more and made very special indeed. Do this by including a personal, handwritten note explaining your feelings behind the gift. For these gifts, we’re talking about symbolism and sentiment to move the gift beyond the realm of the generic and into perfection. For example, a husband presenting his wife with a clock on their first wedding anniversary might say, “May this gift remind you that no matter how quickly time may pass, my love will always be there for you.” A personal sentiment is free and it transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary and meaningful. Read more.
- Plan shopping trips at holiday time. Literally block off time after work or on a weekend (eek!) to shop for gifts.
- Looking at your gift tracker, look for groupings of stores; any time several gifts can be purchased at one store or at several stores in one shopping center, it saves time. (And gas!)
- Use technology to your advantage to comparison buy or simply buy online and ship directly to your recipient.
- Sign up on your favorite retailers’ social media pages, or sign up for promotional emails. Both are a great source of exclusive information on sales, as well as coupons.
- Combine tasks by shopping where you are. Read more.
- Save time by shopping when you are. Read more.
If you still need help selecting holiday gifts, check out my Holiday Gift Guide 2012 on Pinterest! Happy giving!!Read More
August is a great month for gift giving; it has a great gemstone with a fresh, trendy color story and one of the coolest flowers ever.
Gift Idea #1: Flowers
Let’s talk flowers first. The official flower for August birthdays is gladiola. Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking: “those are funeral flowers!” While it’s true that gladioli appear in many funerary arrangements, it’s with good reason. The flowers are tall, sturdy and long-lasting, while at the same time being easy to work with and quite lovely.
In fact, the “glad” as I call it is one of those flowers you can bring home from the florist by the armful somewhat inexpensively and just place in a tall vase and be done. No fussing or arranging. They’re beautiful all on their own and as few as 3 or 4 stems can give a nice, full look depending on the vase. But go for 6 or 12 stems for the wow factor! Photo © profotokris/Fotolia.com
Gift Idea #2: Gemstone Jewelry
Peridot is the August birthstone. First discovered on the tiny Egyptian island of Zabargard about 4,000 years ago, the peridot is mentioned in the Bible as chrysolite. Crusaders introduced the stone to Europe and it is now mined around the world, including in the U.S. (Arizona), Pakistan, South Africa, Myanmar and Brazil. The stone is one of the few in nature that has only one color way: green, although it can vary in shades from lime to olive depending on the elemental makeup. (It’s in the olivine mineral group.) The derivation of the word is murky, but the one I like best is that it’s derived from the Greek peridona, meaning “giving plenty.”
Which leads to the meaning and power the stone is believed to wield. Peridot is thought to protect its wearer from negative emotions, depression and nightmares. It symbolizes wealth, money, happiness, abundance and healing.
A gift of gemstone jewelry is a perfect go-to gift any month, and this “Good Fortune” necklace from RedEnvelope highlights the color, beauty and meaning of the August birthstone. The bezel-set, faceted stone is encircled by sleek silver bamboo—an ancient symbol of well-being, wealth and health. (A natural companion to peridot, don’t you think?) The necklace ($59.99 at the time of this writing at www.redenvelope.com) comes with a card explaining the meaning of the peridot and bamboo, so there will be no mistaking the relevance or intention of this gift.
When I contacted the folks at RedEnvelope to ask for permission to use the photo, they graciously sent me a sample of the necklace. The color of the stone is that perfect lime green that I think of for a peridot, and it sparkles! The bamboo circle is 7/8 inch in diameter, and the slim silver chain is adjustable from 16 to 18 inches. It’s made in Indonesia. I think it’s pretty stunning in person and is a very wearable, timeless piece. It just feels good.
Gift Idea #3: Color Inspirations
Look for gifts in shades of green inspired by the peridot, from lime to light olive. A sophisticated shade of lime green is chartreuse. (Say it out loud; it’s a gorgeous word! Chartreuse.) The Chartreuse mountain range in the French Alps is home to the La Grande Chartreuse monastery where in 1737 the Carthusian monks finally cracked an alchemist’s code, given to them in 1605 by a French king, for distilling an herbal tonic thought to be the elixir of life. Now known simply as Chartreuse, it was first marketed to the public around 1740. The liqueur combines a neutral alcohol base with 130 herbs giving it that signature green color, and it’s aged in oak barrels for five years. Only two monks know the list of top-secret ingredients. (To learn more, visit the Chartreuse website.)
If your recipient appreciates unique cocktails, consider giving the gift of a bottle of Chartreuse (around $25 to $35 at liquor stores) along with cocktail recipes. Find recipes at the Chartreuse site or sites like barnonedrinks.com. Select a few, print them out on pale green cardstock or copy them onto recipe cards. Photo © Chartreuse-Diffusion
Other green-inspired gift ideas:
- A pashmina, such as the Jones New York satin pashmina in spiked yellow ($25 at macys.com).
- A bamboo plant to signify wealth and abundance.
- A pretty green vase (will you promise to keep it filled with flowers?).
- A wristlet or clutch purse (evoking peridot’s symbolism for money) in lime or olive.
- A green enameled pen.
- A selection of the recipient’s favorite foods, beverages and/or snacks presented in a green storage bin. ($3 to $15 at Target stores)
- A bottle of nail polish like Lime Cocktail ($4, Sephora Collection) or Designer Fig Leaf ($9.50, Sephora by O.P.I.) and a travel manicure set.
- Bath and Body Works products in scents like Cucumber Melon, White Citrus, Coconut Lime Breeze or Citron (for men). Look for travel sizes and present them in a cosmetic bag.
To further personalize your gift, include a note or card explaining why you chose that gift for your recipient. And if it’s inspired by peridot, say a little something about the gemstone. Next week I’ll give more tips for writing a gift note.Read More
“Souvenir” comes from French, meaning memory or remembrance. To me, souvenirs fall into two categories: (1) for me (whose trip is it, after all?) and (2) for everyone else.
When it comes to vacation souvenirs for other people, there are travelers who feel the need to purchase something for everyone they know back home – no, really, I mean it – everyone, and they stress out if they miss someone! Parents, children, friends, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, coworkers, neighbors, the girl from the vet’s office who’s watching Fluffy, the lawn man, the cable guy. Everyone.
It’s out of hand when you spend more time shopping for souvenirs than seeing the sights.
Vacation should never become synonymous with slavery to souvenirs. Here are a few tips to help you navigate through your souvenir shopping:
- Research the areas you are visiting. What is each area known for? Is there a special foodstuff, clothing item, pottery, handicraft or other product that is particularly representative of the area?
- Take a list of addresses with you and send colorful postcards to friends and family back home. (Postcards also make excellent souvenirs for you!)
- Shop like a local; find a street market or fair and look for locally-produced items.
- Shop where and when you are; do not search a dozen stores for the best deals on shell necklaces or fridge magnets, only to go back to the first one! The time you save is equal or greater to the few dollars or cents you might save elsewhere.
- Buy only what you can fit in your suitcase or carry on, or plan to spend extra time and money on shipping excess items home. If it’s a large item such as a piece of furniture or artwork, check with the seller to see if they can arrange shipping.
- If it’s something for you, is it something you will use or display? If it’s hidden away in a box or drawer, it won’t be much of a memory. I love collecting artwork, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, textiles and crafts from local artisans.
- If it’s something for someone else, is it for a particular occasion? Is it truly unique and representative of the area you’re visiting? If you’re browsing a fantastic bazaar where you find the perfect gift for your mother that you could never find at home, then by all means buy it and present it at the appropriate time, like her birthday or Mother’s Day.
- If it’s not for a particular occasion, and it’s just a typical souvenir, is it useful? Does the recipient collect the item? Is it something that can be consumed, like candy, or will it end up in a drawer or charity bin?
If the “gifts” are really meaningless trinkets that will quickly find their way into the garage sale bin, the charity donation box, or the trash, then save your money, your suitcase and your recipient, and just say no to the tacky souvenir. Instead, create an album of your trip photos on one of many online photo sharing sites, and invite friends and family to view your album.Read More
It never fails. Well, two things never fail. Every wedding shower I attend, it seems like (1) my gift is opened nearly last; and (2) despite shopping from the bridal registry, my gift is a “repeat gift.” The bride has already opened the identical gift from someone else.
I remember my friend Jackie’s wedding shower years ago; it was well-attended by more than 100 women at a local restaurant. It was getting to be near the end of the gift opening portion of the shower, and my gift still had not been opened. I thought maybe this would be the one where my gift wasn’t duplicated. Alas, one or two gifts before mine was the same coffee pot I had purchased! Darn.
What I never understood was, how does this happen? If everyone followed the rules and shopped from the registry, it shouldn’t happen. The problem is, many people do not shop from the registry or do not tell the store clerk they are shopping from a registry to have the item checked off. Then last year a friend of mine told me another scenario: a shower goer pulls up the bride’s registry online, finds an item in her price range, then comparison shops for it elsewhere for a better price. Now, I’m all for getting a good deal, but that messes up other shoppers who go by the list. Well, my friend figured that one out, too: she called the store where the registry was, said she was the bride and asked them to show the item had been received! Sneaky, yes, but also helpful to other gift givers.
Not shopping from the list (and/or not manipulating the registry afterwards) also causes more inconvenience for the bride, who has to return duplicate items. Which leads me to another rule: always include a gift receipt with your shower gift, whether the item was purchased at the registry store or not. This way, if your gift turns out to be a duplicate the bride will have an easier experience returning the item for an exchange or credit. Tuck the receipt in a small envelope and place it in the gift box or inside the card or note.
So here are the rules of the road – really, just common courtesies – when shopping for shower gifts:
1. Shop from the registry list at the registry store.
2. Turn in the registry when paying for the item, so the list may be updated.
3. Include a gift receipt with the gift, just in case.
If everyone who is attending a wedding (or baby!) shower this season could follow these 3 simple rules, other party guests will be spared egg on their face for a duplicate gift, and the recipient’s inconvenience will be minimized.Read More