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3 Tricks for Buying Thoughtful Gifts

Author: Naomi Liddell

When I was 15, I went shopping with my Dad to a very cool, hipster-before-hipsters shop in Belfast called Cult. While I tried (and failed) to convince him to pay for clothes that I was way too young to wear, I had exclaimed how much I loved the music that was playing. It was a DJ mash-up of everything from Destiny’s Child to Iggy Pop and I just loved it. 

About 6 months later, under the Christmas tree was a CD (remember those?) called 2manyDJs. It turns out, that unbeknownst to me at the time, my Dad had gone back to the shop a few days later and asked the staff what the music could have been. He then bought the CD and stashed it for Christmas. My Dad is the best at buying thoughtful gifts.

More recently, I have befriended my yoga teacher. She is an incredibly kind and thoughtful soul. We’ve only really been friends a matter of months. Which makes it all the more lovely that she not only remembered my birthday but handed me a gift bag containing my favourite biscuits (dark chocolate gingers, of course), some decaf tea (of the brand that I drink) and bamboo socks with a little note to ‘put my feet up’. I was blown away by how sweet and thoughtful this gift was. 

I hate to admit it, but I don’t think I have historically fallen into the thoughtful gifter category. I tend to remember a few weeks before. Think “I really must get that sorted this week”. Guaranteed… I’ll then forget about it until two days before. I’ll panic-buy something that I *think* they’ll like, pick up a card in ASDA and hope that if I post it, it will arrive on time. 

This really was a trait about myself that I was keen to change, so last year, I implemented some tactics. And here are the three simple things I did to make the gift buying process not only easier, but much more thoughtful. 

  • I have 3 week reminders set up on my calendar for upcoming birthdays or important dates. If I don’t have time to act on it when I get the reminder, I set it again for a few days later or when I know I’ll have time.
  • I have a little note on my phone with a list of my nearest and dearest. If at any stage, they mention something that’s their ‘favourite’ or they would like to do/try/buy, I try my best to jot that down under their name so I’ve got a little running list of ideas.
  • If I’m browsing online and I see something that I know would make the ideal gift, I pin it to a secret Pinterest board I have called ‘Gift Ideas’ – unique labelling, I know. I then pop the name of the person I’m thinking of in the description box. This came in very handy at Christmas when I did a lot of online shopping for a lot of gifts.

These tips worked for me when my brother told me that his favourite Zippo lighter was confiscated on a trip to Vietnam (don’t ask), so for his 30th I bought him a Zippo with his much loved Beatles lyrics etched on the side. They also worked when my Mum mentioned last year that she had none of our wedding photos framed. For Christmas, I bought a big gallery frame that would suit her decor and filled it with all the best wedding pictures of our family. 

All thanks to the handy little notes in my phone. 

I honestly wish I was one of those people who just naturally remembered everyone and could conjure up the perfect gift with zero effort, but for me and the way my brain works… That’s just never going to happen. So lists and notes it is. 

Do you have excellent gift buying skills? If so, what are your trade secrets?
Who is the most thoughtful gift buyer you know?

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Naomi can’t decide which she loves more: adventuring with her boys or being left alone in a luxurious bath with a great book.
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14 thoughts on “3 Tricks for Buying Thoughtful Gifts

  1. I love gift buying, even more so than gift receiving, and I’d like to think that the thought I put into the gifts I buy are reflected in the pleasure my nearest and dearest get from them.
    One of my pet peeves is being asked to contribute to a specific gift – such as a smart watch, but every year my brother and sister in law do just that. With two young children they don’t spoil themselves and if there’s something they really want they ask family to club together so they can get it for their birthday or Christmas.
    The last few years I have been blown away by the gift giving skills of one of my best, MALE, friends! A gift giving savant, he created a photo book for each of our 40th birthdays with pictures of us dating back over the 35 years we’ve known each other. I was the last of our friends to turn 40 and this gift was the one I was most looking forward to. His gift giving skills don’t end there, for my last two Christmas presents I have received the most fantastic gifts – a subscription from Birchbox which brought me an amazing selection of beauty products over 6 months. Then,this year he managed to surpass that by gifting me a subscription to Reading in Heels, every month I eagerly await a box filled with little treats like chocolate, lip balm and best of all, a new novel!
    I don’t know how he thinks of these amazing presents, he’s single and lives in Japan, but I am in awe of how he knows just what to get.

  2. Morning Leona! Now I have my wee lists I have to say I take huge pleasure in gift giving!
    But your pal sounds so wonderfully thoughtful 🥰 And that reading in heels subscription sounds excellent. Must look it up!

  3. I love gift giving but always end up stuck for ideas. My husband never wants anything apart a new pair of pjs or some pants, my mum usually just says she’s happy with a box of maltesers, and my dad just looks bemused at the mention of birthdays. It was my birthday last week and my dad was charged with buying a bottle of bubbly and dropping if off for me while my mum was at work. He was very proud of himself and wished me a happy birthday for the wrong day ha ha, bless him.

    I love buying gifts for friends and I love the challenge of finding something different but personal for them. This year I felt very spoilt as my oldest friend was visiting from Saudi Arabia a few days before my birthday and she took me out for dinner.

    This post reminded me I need to thinking of a birthday present for my brother…

    1. Aw Claire! Bless your lovely Dad! Haha. Aren’t those kind of memory/experience presents often the best ones?

  4. I am such a planner for birthdays! I am sad enough to have a spreadsheet that I update throughout the year, noting everything that has been mentioned in passing ready to be gifted at birthdays and Christmas. Although my husband is rubbish at remembering what he has said, so I often get puzzled looks that have to be backed up with “but you said in April you really wanted royal blue socks for Christmas so voila!” 🙂 I adore gift giving, I have no clue what I want for myself, much to the frustration of my family every time my birthday approaches, but the satisfaction of giving is wonderful. I have a box of things under my bed that I add to throughout the year too (and note on the spreadsheet of course, colour coded and everything…!!) particularly for Christmas as I buy things in the January sales for stockings. I also look at upcoming birthdays when I look at the calendar for the week ahead for food planning – I tend to look a couple of weeks ahead for important events to make sure I haven’t forgotten anyone. Not that it doesn’t happen mind, despite my best intentions occasionally I forgot to post a card or some such. And I also have a box of cards ready for any occasion so we don’t have to think about buying them. Currently full of Scribble and Daub, Caroline is wonderful (and she posts all her deliveries for free which I think is incredible for a small business owner).

    1. Annie I almost want to see this spreadsheet in real life. THAT is impressive. Here’s me with my paltry little phone list haha!
      I also am now taking some inspiration from your underbed gift stash! I do have a card stash, although I haven’t heard of Scribble and Daub?! Off to have a butchers now.

  5. Gorgeous post, Naomi! I love these tips, I’ll definitely be doing them. They seem so simple but will mean so much to someone.
    My best friend is a writer and every year I buy him a new moleskin notebook with an embossed quote (it sounds expensive but it’s about £15!) The quote is normally something to do with anything we’ve done that year – a gig we’ve been to or a book we’ve read. I genuinely look forward to deciding on what to write on it.
    The most thoughtful gift I have ever received was from my husband. The valentine’s day after my dad passed away with cancer, he gave me a card and in it had the confirmation that he had signed up to donate money to Macmillian every month. So easy, didn’t cost a lot but it meant so much to me and will help other people. I have since done the same for other friends! xx

    1. Oh Alice, that gift from your husband has given me chills! How kind and thoughtful during what must have been such a difficult time.
      That Moleskin gift is amazing. I may need to pinch that idea for my husbands next gift 🤔

  6. Great post & tips Naomi. I had an app for recording Christmas presents & have been meaning to look for one for birthdays too. I often buy things in advance and then forget what I’ve hidden away!

      1. I use Wunderlist app. I have birthday lists, Christmas lists, meal idea lists, packing lists, shopping lists, you name it lists, all in one app. Love it!

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