Friday, 6 June 2014

Thoughtful Present Giving Made Easy

Celebrating other people's birthdays is genuinely something I look forward to above celebrating my own (though let's be real, I do still love my bday - I'm not that selfless). Sometimes giving really is better than receiving. (Minds out the gutter, come on.) Since starting uni, I've found that I love giving presents even more, as Lizzie and I always made a formidably thoughtful gift-giving team. My mum and twin are also exceptional present givers, so it's nice to keep it in the family.

The reason why I thought this post may be a useful one is that I wasn't always so confident in my gift giving abilities, and hopefully this may give you some ideas for the future.

For me, the key to good present giving is all about the preparation. Make yourself a list, perhaps on your phone or even in code in a notebook like yours truly, of all the names and dates of the birthdays/anniversaries/big occasions that are coming up over the next twelve months. Have a little session of jotting down any ideas that come to mind straight off the bat; with some people a little mind map of your in-jokes as well as their hobbies/interests may be needed.
Any time you have a flash of "Cor, _____ would love that tea set!", make sure you write that idea down, which is why it's good to have the list some place where it's always handy. Just make sure no one can find it! Also note down any time one of your loved ones mentions an item that they liked but weren't able to buy at the time.

With some birthdays I will put little reminder alarms on my phone that are set to go off a couple of weeks beforehand, especially useful for those birthdays that never stick in my mind. For my mum and my besties, I try to get one bigger/more expensive present accompanied by some smaller, often jokey ones. For uni friends and housemates, we tended to go down the route of a good few jokey gifts, some cake and their favourite bevvy, splitting the cost between a few of us and found this was far more fun and affordable.

Be weary of buying presents too soon. Some people - cough, Lizzie, cough - tend to have spending sprees just before their birthday, presumably because the devil secretly lives inside them somewhere.
I of course just but, in all seriousness, it pays to keep hold of receipts and buy their gifts in the period during which you can refund their presents (unless you know it is a present they don't have a hope in hell of buying before you do). I suggest always having a backup or two in mind.

Often gifts that mean the most aren't the most expensive. It really is the thought that counts: if you are strapped for cash it could be that getting creative is your best bet. I made one friend a little cartoon strip narrating her entire life that she loved way more than anything else I'd given. (She cried, it was adorable.) I also made Lizzie a scrapbook with all our jokes and a load of photos of us and our besties in it (she also cried, my artwork seems to do that to people, what can I say...)
If art isn't your thing, I urge you to consider writing them a letter. So few of us receive personal, hand written letters these days and you'd be amazed by how touching they can be. You could post yours to add to the fun - just make sure to photocopy it in case it gets lost in the post!

Here are some cheaper ideas we always fell back on if a birthday crept up on us and inspiration still hadn't hit:

  • Fake moustaches. Nearly all of our guy friends have been bought a set because we love them. Try looking in Poundland or Urban Outfitters for a set, and take pictures of everyone decked out in them.
  • Photo frame/album - decorate it if you can!
  • If all else fails, their favourite luxury snack or a bottle of an upmarket version of their favourite alcohol should go down well.
  • Dressing up gear for your night out - be it a costume or props - and of course a face paint set (again, Poundland!)
  • A mix CD. Never gets old.
  • A mug/silly cup/cheap and cheerful crockery (again, you can decorate these too!)
  • For nail polish lovers, Max Factor do some really good teeny ones; and the high street/drugstore is full of really good, affordable makeup suitable for present giving.
  • A customised T shirt/apron/hoodie/tea towel... you get the idea
  • Buy them a drink on their night out.
  • Treat them to dinner. If you both drink, get merry and cook them your finest dish, or if you can afford to, take them out.
Less cheap but still do able, buy your bro an experience together, like tickets to a concert or to the cinema. This one is especially nice when you don't get to see a lot of each other.

What's also crucial is just getting into the shops (or online if that's not possible, just make sure you're doing it in time for delivery!) and seeing what you can see. I also keep a mental list of fail safe shops that I can fall back on it times of need. Independent boutiques are my saviours in this case; there are a couple of places in my area that are great for finding unique presents that they might not be able to get so easily elsewhere on the high street.

So, those are all my suggestions for you! Phew, that was a long one... If you have your own ideas, pop them in the comments below - who knows, maybe I'll start using this as a sort of master post for when I'm lacking gift inspo...

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