Getting presents probably ranks neither very low nor high on my love-language scale, but I still looove receiving gifts from people who love me. Whether large or small, presents are especially exciting to me when snugly wrapped in good old fashioned paper. Add a bow or some ribbons, and my shoulders might even bounce a little at the sight.
As a gift giver, however, I can tend to be the last-minute shopper who struggles to make her purchases meaningful. So I’ve stepped back from my usual M.O. and tried to examine some broader approaches I often overlook. In addition to making a habit of looking ahead toward which celebrations are upcoming so that I can make sure my presents are genuinely thoughtful, I’ve thought of nine types of gifts and how they could each bring a different flavor of joy to the one opening them.
The type I’d consider my default is RETAILED gifts. The fact that brand-new presents can come shiny and perfectly packaged appeals to my city-girl (or “yuppie girl,” as my husband teasingly calls me) frame of mind. I’ve never really thought about it before now, but I imagine I feel like I’m giving someone my best when I select something new – whether in trend or quality – from a big department store. I love the idea of something really, really nice… just for you.
The GIFT BASKET is another form of gift-giving that, to me, feels like one giant hug. If you look in the dictionary of Stephanie’s Associations, you’d find the word “generous” in bold type below the description of a gift basket. Gift baskets can be pricey, but don’t need to be. Even an inexpensive basket is a brilliant way to lavish joy abundantly upon someone. They are extra classy – even professional, if the need for that arises – and very customizable.
HAND-MADE gifts have got a calibre all their own. When conventional presents require only money and perhaps a minimal amount of energy to acquire, hand-made gifts are next level; because no other type of gift requires the same level of time, care, creativity, energy, or thoughtfulness. Especially when made-from-scratch presents involve memories or any kind of sentiment, I find they are extra special to the recipient.
Then you have THEMED GIFTS. My friend Beth is the most thoughtful gift-giver I know, mostly because her top love language IS receiving gifts. For my birthday this year, she filled a bag with tissue paper and a variety of pregnancy and baby articles for me to use and wear. (At the time, I was pregnant with my first baby whom I later miscarried.) My heart swelled. I thought, what a neat way to give presents! And I’ve vowed never to forget it.
Now, THRIFTED GIFTS can either be tricky or delightful. The dangers are: giving someone a cute article of clothing that smells like a stranger’s cat or else something with broken or missing parts, and giving it to someone who wouldn’t necessarily feel special being given a second-hand item. But the rewards can be such a win! Unique treasures or antiques that can be difficult finds can surprise someone in the most beautiful way. Sometimes things that are normally expensive (which the recipient would never splurge on a brand-new version) can be tucked away on the shelves in like-new condition. Thrifted gifts can be thoughtful in their own way: “I saw this and it made me think of you.”
For those whose primary love language is acts of service, you might want to consider gifting FAVOR COUPONS! “Cash in this ticket any time on a weekend for a manual car wash!” or “Present this coupon any Friday afternoon for a home cooked meal!” If the occasion is especially indulgent, perhaps you could give the person an entire booklet of big and small favors… of course being available and willing to promptly follow through.
PERSONALIZED presents are just thoughtful and classy. To give a one-of-a-kind gift to someone, such as a photo album or something monogrammed, is incredibly special. For Christmas last year, Austin framed my favorite photo of us and wrote dozens of reasons why he loves me across the wide mat inside the frame. Little did we know that my Dad did something very similar for my Mom for Christmas! If you’d like to know how well something like that would be received: Mom and I both cried. Happy tears, of course.
We’re all familiar with this one: the GIFT CARD. My husband howls in laughter at one of The Office episodes where Michael Scott declares: “Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point you and say ‘hey man, I love you this many dollars’ worth!'” And Austin mockingly quotes it each time we select a gift card meant for someone we care about. But gift cards can certainly be thoughtful in their own right, especially when you don’t know someone well or can’t fit something bulkier in your luggage. Some consider gift cards to be a little impersonal… just kind of convenient and not requiring much thought. It might be considerate to avoid gifting people whose love language is presents with cards, but I personally love receiving gift cards because it’s like a gift within a gift: I can decide what to get with the gift! Gift cards were especially welcome when I was a college student without an income.
And finally, you could give your loved one AN EXPERIENCE. Our maid of honor gave Austin & I an incredibly thoughtful wedding gift: she registered us for a marriage workshop. (It was a powerful and life changing present. We still talk about how connected we felt to one another because of that experience!) So why not dream up ways for your loved one to make special memories… especially if you can experience it with them? Whether it’s a trip, a thrill-seeker’s adventure, some grandiose form of entertainment… the sky is the limit. Be sure to document as much of it as you can! And find a creative way to “wrap” it up and gift it to them.
Michael Scott was right about one thing: presents are a great way to show someone how much you care. Whether you give someone a gift card or spend a month creating their present by hand, it really is the thought that counts. For me, the goal is to increase my connection to others through the way that I celebrate with them.
What is your favorite type of gift to receive, and which kinds are missing from this list? Let me know in the comments below!