Keep a running list of gift ideas.
One of the best things you can do to up your gift giving game is keep a running list year-round of gift ideas that come to mind. Once you start keeping a running list, you'll be surprised at how quickly it fills up. Then when it's time to do your gift shopping, chances are you'll already have a great set of ideas to draw from.
Don't be afraid to purchase gifts “out-of-season.”
If you happen to stumble upon the perfect gift for a friend or family member months away from their birthday or a holiday, that doesn't mean you've hit bad luck; it simply means that you have the opportunity to save time later by getting the gift right now. Then, hide the gift away somewhere safe until it's time to pull it out for gift giving. The only exception to this is when you think the gift is something they might need to return or exchange; in this case, you should be sure to purchase the gift so that the return or exchange time window is still open when the recipient receives the gift.
Pay attention to interests.
This is much easier said than done, but pay attention to those things your friend or family member expresses interest in throughout the year. If you’re out shopping with your mother three months before her birthday, for example, and she tries on a pair of shoes she absolutely loves, only to decide that she shouldn't make the splurge, you might consider returning to that exact store within the next three months to get those shoes for her. Or, if your brother excitedly shows you his beloved vintage bike that he repaired to new condition, you might consider finding a copy of the catalog that the exact bike was in on EBay. Pay attention to the things your friend or family member expresses interest in throughout the year, and you're sure to gather some thoughtful ideas.
Pay attention to need.
It also helps to pay attention to those things that you notice your friend or family member needs. If you and a friend often go camping, for example, and you notice that he or she has a sleeping bag but no sleeping pad, you might get him or her a much needed sleeping pad as a gift. Or if you notice that your dad has developed an interest in photography but has no lens filters, lens filters could be the perfect gift.
Do some research.
With all of these tips, it's important to note that some research might be required. If you know your son is passionate about listening to music and could use some over-ear headphones, for example, you'll probably want to ask around and get some recommendations as to which headphones are best. Or if you have a friend who bakes and want to get him or her something incredibly useful, it's a good idea to talk to someone else who also happens to be an avid baker. Don't be afraid to ask around and do some reading as you seek to understand your loved one’s interests better.
Ask a close friend or family member.
Can't think of what to get your sister? Try asking her husband or one of her best friends. Sometimes others will have multiple gift ideas for a person when you are lacking.
Go in on gifts with others.
Gift giving is usually more about quality than it is about quantity. So if you and your friends can only think of one big gift to get one of your friends, consider going in on the gift together to make the cost reasonable for everyone. A higher priced gift need not be ruled out when there are multiple people who are willing to pitch in.
When in doubt, keep it simple.
When it comes to gift giving, don't overthink it. Keep it simple, and remember that you don't have to spend a great deal of money on your gift. You might even consider forgoing shopping altogether and instead putting together something homemade, such as a batch of baked goods or a canvas print of a favorite photo. Something thoughtful will pretty much always trump something expensive.
Let's discuss: How do you decide on the perfect gift?