Home > The Art of Gift-Giving: Six Rules To Stick To

The Art of Gift-Giving: Six Rules To Stick To

Gift-giving seems easy, right? WRONG. Take it from me, the receiver of a few terrible presents in my time. With the risk of seeming like an ungrateful brat, I sometimes wonder what goes through a person’s mind when they are shopping for others.  When unwrapping a terrible present such as an unwanted self-help book, only a Oscar winner can truly conceal the resentment that soon takes over.  A bad gift can instill doubt about whether or not the giver knows you, dislikes you or put any thought or care at all into their offering. 

Common sense and good manners would dictate that you err on the side of caution when presenting someone with a nice treat.  If your friend is a diehard crazy cat lady, don’t buy her a dog calendar. If your girlfriend has specifically asked you for a bracelet from Tiffany, DO NOT BUY HER A CORDLESS SCREWDRIVER. And my personal favourite…and I also witnessed this firsthand, when giving a gift to a recovering alcoholic, make sure it isn’t The Art of Drinking.  Idiotic. The person who received that last gift still wonders if the gift-giver was trying to undermine her and just looking at the book in her bookcase would bring back the painful sting of opening it. She eventually threw it in the garbage.

If you are shopping for an acquaintance, keep the gift giving safe! A nice bottle of wine is always appreciated, along with presents such as gift cards to popular stores.  When shopping for a co-worker, I make sure that I know a little about him or her before hitting the stores.  And steer clear of embarassing gifts – it’s never funny and why hurt someone’s feelings during the holiday season? For instance, I went to a Secret Santa work party where someone was presented with a pair of red lace panties…in front of everyone…in front of our boss.  WHY?? Why would someone do that?  I have seen it all – from my poor husband being gifted with one of those 10 cent plastic combs you buy at gas stations, to a beautiful fashionista being gifted with a freaking Dust Buster. NOBODY WANTS A VACUUM CLEANER GIFT (except me…who was thrilled when I received a hot pink Kenmore…I mean, hot pink!)

Here is my guide to being a great gift giver. Adhere to these rules and I promise you will not be subjected to stink eye, re-gifting or a revenge gift down the road.

  1. Give the person exactly what they asked for! Why is this concept so hard to grasp? My mother does not understand this tenet at all, bless her heart. You could ask her for a red sweater from Banana Republic in size small, and she will get you green pants from The Bay in size large because “it was a great deal and baggy clothes are in”. No. Nope. STOP…and hand over that gift receipt. Now, I know that shopping off a list that someone gives you is not the most thoughtful way to give a present, but those things will be greatly appreciated! There is a reason this person is asking for specific things. Think of it as shopping off a wedding registry. A bride wants a full set of china, not 12 of the same crock pot. Just stick to the list!
  2. Keep the person’s personality in mind. What would the person buy for herself? I have been guilty of this…buying someone something that I would love myself without considering what that person would really love. My dad is a diehard soccer fan and loves photography. Maybe I should have gotten him a soccer jersey or camera equipment instead of that terrible mug that said: “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Forty.”  I’ll never forget the look of sheer disgust on his face (our family does not believe is sparing one’s feelings – hahaha!)
  3. Do not go overboard. Most people really love easy, fun presents. There is no need to break the bank when it comes to gift-giving. You may think you are a hero for giving a Louis Vuitton bag to your loved one, but it may end up embarrassing her…especially if she only got you a box of Turtles.
  4. People love thoughtful gifts. My sister was once given a silver necklace with a rough, greenish-grey stone as a pendant. It wasn’t too much to look at…but when she was told that the stone was sourced from a meteorite that crashed into Earth, she was in shock. My astronomy-obsessed sister has yet to take that necklace off. Most people love gifts with a little story behind them. I would take a thoughtful present with an interesting story behind it over a Birkin bag any day. Ok – I just lied to all of you, but seriously…thoughtful gifts are awesome.  A friend of mine gave his fiancé an opal engagement ring. The opal belonged to her beloved late grandmother. He scored some serious points…and the opal is so beautiful and set so perfectly in her ring that it is her most prized possession.
  5. How about gifting someone with an “experience” instead of a material object? A lot of people love great experiences like concerts or trips to the spa. Fond memories from being pampered or rocking out to one of your favourite bands is going to be remembered for life. That special edition Kat Von D lipstick that you lost promptly after receiving it? Not so much.
  6. At a loss for a great gift idea? Cold, hard cash warms the coldest of hearts. Seriously though, most people would love cash or a gift card so that they can buy whatever they want. So, instead of buying that poor person a miniature stapler wrapped in an iPhone box (how cruel), maybe $20 in a greeting card is a better choice.

Ever gotten a terrible present? Did it make you wonder if the gifter hated you? Please share your experience in the comments!


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Dominique Baker
Dominique Baker

Dominique is a Canadian-based fashion and beauty influencer with a strong voice in Ottawa’s black community. Since launching her blog Style Domination in 2015, she has amassed a global fanbase. Dominique shares her life through beautiful imagery and compelling story-telling that speaks to her fans on a personal level. She’s been featured in The Guardian, Flare, The Kit and Cityline. She also hosts events for Dress for Success, the Gem Conference, and has been named a United Way Person 2 Know for the past three years.

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Leave a comment

  1. December 7, 2015 / 11:04 am

    Bahhahhaha at “… I just lied to you all ” hilarious ?? But thanks for the gift buying tips!! Very funny and helpful post. ?

  2. December 7, 2015 / 12:55 pm

    Number 1 is so on point hahahaha! me and my boyfriend just made amazon wishlist, and set our budget to 200 and then another 50 for a surprise one and in that way we dont over spend and it’s easier for us to pick the gifts. But, the element of surprise is still there because we don’t know what the other picked from our wishlist.

    • December 7, 2015 / 3:05 pm

      WOW! That is exactly what my husband and I are doing! We set a $250 limit for gifts for each other (neither of us really needs or wants anything) and then we give each other a guide for things we may actually hope for. Works really well, doesn’t break the bank and we can focus on what really matters – getting drunk on Christmas Day. JUST KIDDING! Thanks for reading! xoxoxox

  3. December 7, 2015 / 1:15 pm

    Such a great post… and so funny 😀 (but sadly so true…!) Love, Kathleen

    • December 7, 2015 / 3:03 pm

      Haha – thanks for reading, Kathleen. I had fun writing that one! Wishing you a Christmas/Holiday full of love, happiness and presents you actually want! HAHAHA!

  4. December 7, 2015 / 1:55 pm

    Haha I loved reading the funny gift stories!! These are all great tips! I made a Pinterest wish list to link to things I’d like and my husband, in laws, and family are all using it. It kinda sucks that I know what I’m getting, but I’m also thrilled. There’s still always the random gifts thrown in there that you don’t want though. There’s always somethin!

    • December 7, 2015 / 3:02 pm

      Haha! Jeez – what a smart idea, the Pinterest Gift Board. I may do that. I always receive a few nice gift surprises every year, and a few weirdo presents too…usually from my crazy, lovable mom. Thanks for reading! xo

  5. December 7, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    oh my GOSH, someone got The Art of Drinking for a recovering alcoholic?!!! Are people DENSE? 😮
    I think the a-hole that gave the red lace panties for a coworker was for the sole purpose of embarressing her.
    Your #1 is such an easy concept – the person ASKED for something. GET IT FOR THEM! It makes life easier for ALL persons involved! 😀

    • December 7, 2015 / 3:01 pm

      I totally agree! I have no idea what that person was thinking when she gifted that dumb drinking book. An awkward silence descended upon all of us when it happened. At least we can look back on it now and laugh..sort of! And the red, lace panties? We can’t help but think it was someone in the office that had a crush on her. We never found out who the culprit was! Thanks for reading as always, babe! xoxoxoxox

  6. December 7, 2015 / 3:26 pm

    Haha! Such a great post! I normally will go with gift cards because then the person can get what they really want. My boyfriend and I just told each other what we wanted and that’s what we got each other lol. He got his new video game and I’m getting a new lovely palette of my choice! 😀 xo

    • December 8, 2015 / 12:57 pm

      Awesome, Katie! That’s the way to do it. I find guys really hard to shop for anyways… Glad you’re back!!

      • December 9, 2015 / 3:35 pm

        Thank you! It’s great to be back! Yeah though I am usually good at shopping for Ron because I know him so well…I should after being together for going on 4 years now! Lol!

  7. December 7, 2015 / 4:46 pm

    This post is excellent! Well said my friend! BTW, I want those leggings…just saying…

    • December 7, 2015 / 5:11 pm

      I want those leggings too. It will be our little secret. Thanks for reading!

  8. December 8, 2015 / 12:03 am

    What a funny and helpful post…
    You make it so easy and funny ….

  9. December 8, 2015 / 4:56 pm

    Love this! I have received some shocking gifts in the past from people who shall remain nameless. I try to encourage gift cards or a nice meal out instead. Fingers crossed Santa doesn’t get you a cordless screwdriver eh! 😉

    • December 8, 2015 / 6:56 pm

      Hahahaha! No cordless screwdrivers for me! My hubbie is pretty good. He sticks to the list I give him! A dinner out – now that is a wonderful gift! Thanks for reading, babe!

  10. December 9, 2015 / 1:28 am

    I really love this list … Especially #2! I haven’t always been the best gift giver, but when I finally learned to put my own tastes aside and give the recipient what THEY wanted (even if I’d never buy it for myself), everybody was happier… Including me!! 🙂

    • December 9, 2015 / 1:00 pm

      There you go! And there is nothing like seeing someone’s face light up when they get something they really wanted! LOL! Like me when I got my kitten. Sigh – I miss him (developed allergies and he’s now happily living with a family friend). xoxox

      • December 9, 2015 / 5:53 pm

        Aw, that’s tough. I remember you were contemplating a puppy awhile back. Did that ever happen? 🙂

  11. December 20, 2015 / 10:43 pm

    Great post Dom!! I’m on the same page with you when it comes to #1. I sent my family my wishlist and at the bottom I wrote: If it’s not on here I don’t want it ?. Oh and the worst gift I’ve ever received: a thermos (for my 14th birthday I think). Not even a cute one with a nice print on it or whatever. Just your standard grey Thermos….WUT!?!?

    • December 20, 2015 / 10:50 pm

      I just lol’ed!! A thermos?? That’s just mean. Glad you liked the post – thanks for stopping by, babe! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! Hope Santa spoils you!! xoxoxox

      • December 20, 2015 / 10:54 pm

        I know right?! It’s every 14 yrs olds dream. Thank you! Merry Christmas to you as well!! If he’s been reading our posts I think both of us will get spoiled!

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