Gift Giving 101: How to Give a Thoughtful Gift They'll LOVE

Gift Giving 101: How to Give a Thoughtful Gift They'll LOVE

Here's something I bet we can all relate to:

Gift giving is hard!

Spending money on ourselves is easy. We generally KNOW what we like and what we'll be excited to have.  

But when we're buying gifts for someone else, a big part of the fun is usually the element of surprise. We want to choose something for people that they are going to be surprised to receive -- and that means we're choosing what to buy for them without them telling us directly what to buy.

There's also the waste factor: The amount of gifts that are purchased every year only to be immediately discarded is staggering. (I did some research and the exact estimates vary, but it's in the BILLIONS of dollars every year spent on unwanted gifts that are thrown away... 🤯. Yes, that's a waste of money, but it's also HORRENDOUS for the earth).

So. This mini-guide is here to change that.

If you want to give thoughtful, intentional gifts that will delight and reduce the waste of unwanted gifts.... we've got some tips for you.

Here are the stages we're going to talk about:

  • centering the person we're gifting to
  • brainstorming
  • planning the gift
  • the wrapping

At the end of this post, you'll know how to give a gift that your lucky person will truly enjoy.

Let's get into it!


We're starting this guide off with the #1 most important piece of the puzzle, and that is to center the person who is actually going to be receiving your gift.

I'd recommend getting out a pen + paper, and taking some notes about the person you're buying for.

In fact, take your piece of paper and split it into two columns. On the left-hand side, answer the questions below, and then in Part 2, we'll fill in the right-hand side.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What does this person LOVE to do?
  • What hobbies does this person have?
  • What are this person's values?
  • Where does this person spend their money?
  • How does this person spend most of their time?
  • Does this person seem to prefer physical gifts or experiences?
  • What is this person OBSESSED with?

You may not have the answers to all of these questions, but the more you can take note and really reflect on the specific person you're buying for, the better your gift will be.

Once you've scratched out some answers to these questions on the left-hand side of your paper, it's time to move on to part 2.


Now that we've really spent some time and energy thinking about the person we're gifting to, it's time to start coming up with some gift ideas. 

If you're following along with the exercise I recommended, you now have a piece of paper split into 2 columns, and on the left-hand side, you've answered a bunch of questions about this person's hobbies, values, activities, etc.

Now, we're going to brainstorm gift ideas for each of these answers.

Here are a few examples:

Info about our giftee Relevant gift idea
Loves to go to the farmers market Re-usable produce bags
Enjoys swimming
Coffee table book of aerial views of pools
Values include racial justice
Donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center
Loves supporting woman-owned businesses Self-care products made by local woman-owned businesses
Is obsessed with office supplies Super high quality notebook

As you're brainstorming, let yourself get creative! Just about anything can be gifted, including:

  • Physical products
  • Food + treats
  • Supplies
  • Gift certificates
  • Donations
  • Experiences
  • Something handmade with love

Keep going until you've run out of relevant gift ideas for all of the things you've listed about your gift recipient.

When you've got a good and full list, let's move on to part 3: planning.

PART 3: Planning

At this stage we know quite a bit about our giftee, and we've come up with a bunch of creative ideas that we know our person is likely to enjoy.

Now, let's narrow down our options with the following questions.

  • What's your budget? Eliminate anything outside of your budget.
  • How much time do you have to get this gift? Eliminate anything you won't easily be able to get in time.
  • Which of the things on this list do you think this person is likely to already have? Eliminate those.
  • In the case that our person doesn't like what we've chosen, which of these gifts would be really difficult to return/exchange/re-gift? Consider eliminating those.... unless you're fairly certain your person will love it!

At this point, there are probably still a few options left, and at this point I think you've got some great options.

To make your final decision you could ask another person who knows your gift recipient to get a sense for their thoughts... or you could just go with your gut and follow your intuition on what you think they'd be most excited about.

So! Make your selection, and then make a plan for getting it... whether that means physically going to purchase something from a store or ordering it or making it -- whatever it is, make the plan.

Then, let's move on to the final stage!

Part 4: The Wrappings

Let me paint two different scenarios for you when it comes to receiving a gift.

Scenario A: Someone hands you a grocery bag with the present inside, unwrapped. 

Scenario B: The same person hands you a present, beautifully wrapped. It has been tied up beautifully and includes a thoughtful handwritten card that you start with. After you've read the card, you unwrap your gift and see the present.

Now in this case, the present is the same either way. But in Scenario B, therre's so much more thought and care that went into the packaging and delivery of the gift. Packaging is another way of showing that you care.

Now, let it be known: I'm not suggesting you need to buy a bunch of brand new materials only to wrap something in it once. There are many sustainable, low or zero-waste ways to wrap gifts. (Might I recommend these oversized tea towels/reusable gift wrap from Chroma Rex (formerly Rex Made This)?)

You can use that same paper grocery bag but wrap it up around the gift so your recipient has something to unwrap. But just pay some attention to the experience of receiving the gift itself, because this is part of the magic.

Now, one final request for you in the packaging department:

Write a card! This probably comes as no surprise to you anyone who knows me (given that I have a greeting card company), but I think cards are non-negotiable. For me, one of the best parts of opening a gift is reading the card attached to it. (In fact, my main request for my birthday from my partner is that she writes me a birthday card -- that's at least as important to me as the gift itself!).


If you take just one thing away from this mini-guide on gift giving, I hope it is this: Put your recipient at the center when it comes to buying gifts. The gift that is going to be the most cherished and loved is the one that you picked out because it was exactly designed and thoughtfully selected for THAT person. There's no one-size-fits-all "perfect" gift to buy eveyrone in your life because everyone is different. 

With that, you have everything you need to minimize waste, avoid wasting money, and give better gifts by spending the time to choose a thoughtful, meaningful gift.

Happy gifting!


All photos are by Hallie Kathryn Photography and feature products we sell at