How To Give The Best Gifts

by Jessie Gardner August 04, 2016

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on gifting, which for me, is basically like getting a birthday cake in question form. I could eat it up all day long! I have an obsession (call it healthy or unhealthy, I can’t help it) with giving and the exchange of energy that happens through the gift giving process.

I truly believe everyone wants to give great gifts. The intention is pure, good and thoughtful.

But then life happens and time goes “poof” and disappears, leaving and Target as the convenient hero, swooping in to save you.

The hustle turns our world upside down. We scramble a few days before that birthday, graduation, holiday, or meeting, praying to the gods that we are still within the Prime window of 2-day shipping. And gift wrapping?! Are you serious? You’re probably thinking, I can totally swing by Target on the way there, pick up a bag in the dollar section, throw in the gift, whisk by the card section, sign my name and BAM, done! Just in time to roll in fashionably late and add my gift bag to the mountain of other Target bags and navy blue Amazon wrapping.

It is the pressure of giving a great gift makes many of us shove this task under the couch cushions so we don’t have to think about it. We don’t have the time to think of something different, unique and creative, much less, have the time to actually put it all together and make Pinterest proud.  

This pressure seems to be impacting so many people (and maybe you too), so in an inspired effort to help lift this stress, here are 5 guidelines I follow to give a great gift, every time.

  • Listen & Log: As human beings we like to talk about the things we love, find interesting and make us happy. It’s amazing when you open the waxy doors of those ears, what you can find out about a person through pure observation. Start listening. For example, whenever I hear someone I care about talking about a book, a trip, a quote, an adventure, a store, a flavor, or a dream, I write it down. This way, whenever it comes time to giving, I have a list of ideas to work with. Being observant and paying attention to what someone shares is a golden key to unlocking great gift giving, mostly because you may be the only one listening.
  • Let Meaning Trump Cost. Every single time. Cost is often the first thing people think about when gift giving; about $75 - $100+ on a wedding gift, $50 for a birthday, etc. Imagine if we asked ourselves how much meaning and connection can we pack into this gift, instead of how much we think we need to spend? When we shift our mindset in this way, the measurement becomes meaning, not the amount spent. I find that I often end up spending less on the gift (than these arbitrary guidelines set by the gift gods) when I put more time into the written word and intention behind the gift. Think meaning, not material. This way of thinking is the stuff creating memories is made of - the kind that last a lifetime. So, here’s how you find meaning...
  • Remember the Magic & Stamp A Symbol On It. If you don’t have a log of ideas, try this. Close your peepers and think back to a memory you shared with this person. Where was the last time you were belly laughing to the ground, sharing the best meal of your life, a trip you went on together, the location of a great meeting, the source of that inside joke you’ve been laughing at for years, or maybe you just met this person at Starbucks a week ago and just had a meaningful conversation? Think about a symbol that represents that connection. Hawaii = Pineapple. Opportunity = Glass half full. Wedding = Knot. Love = Heart. Adventure = Map. Great meeting over coffee = Coffee cup. There are so many symbolic opportunities here, it's amazing what will come out when you brainstorm the symbols that bring these words meaning for you. The symbols are endless and at the end of the day, they are just symbols. It’s the shared memory, meaning and story you tell around that symbol that creates a great gift.
  • Hunt For The Symbol, Not The Event. Instead of searching “best birthday/anniversary/graduation/bridal shower gifts,” search for “pineapple” or “knot” or “map”. Etsy has an array of interesting products and rarely disappoints. Even Amazon can still be your hero. I know - sigh of relief! When you shift your search to the symbol and the desired feeling you want your receiver to experience, you’ve changed the game, entered creative waters and will make an impact emotionally not just materially.
  • Handwrite It Like You Mean It. It’s easy to let Hallmark do the work for us, but I pinky promise, this is the most important part of your gift. Lost is the art of the handwritten card which is why when you actually take the time to write one, it delights the receiver because it stands out and so do you. Authentically and truly communicating how much someone means to you is also a lost art. When you do it, you create a stronger connection and memory in the process. I keep a pad of blank cardstock paper at home and rarely write cards on anything but that paper. Blank page. So, what do you write? Write about what your gift/symbol means to you and the receiver. What memories bubble up? Why is it meaningful? You are setting the tone with this note. Be real. Give your gift as much meaning as you possibly can through your words. You are setting the stage for your gift here. So if you want a standing ovation, put time into the story. You are building anticipation and connecting emotionally with your receiver before they even open the gift. And once they fall in love with the experience you've given them in the card, the gift is a cherry on top. 

Here’s an example.

Say you have a best friend that lives across the country. You took a trip to Hawaii together over 10 years ago and no matter what, you always find yourselves reliving that trip. Her birthday is coming up in two shakes of a hula skirt and you need a gift.

  • Observe - Always talking about Hawaii trip and constantly trying to relive the dream.
  • Memory Magic - You ate pineapple every day during your trip while talking about life’s big questions. You laughed while eating pineapple, you cried, you danced, you lived... all while enjoying the sweetness of this local fruit.
  • Symbol - Pineapple (Hawaii, connected memory, and pineapples are actually a symbol of warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality). Search for what comes up in Google, Amazon, Etsy. AMAZING, fun, beautiful things.
  • Find Gift - Matching set of pineapple candles. One for you. One for her.
  • Express Yourself - Why is this gift so special? Capture the impact of your trip and the fact that you are still friends. Write it down. A simple piece of cardstock will do. Let's try it. Somewhere between the beginning and ending Aloha, I would write something like this...…
Happy Birthday!! You are sweet as a pina colada, rambunctious as a hula dancer and the best friend I’ve ever had. I want you to know this gift is more than a candle. It is a connection. Whenever I think about our trip to Hawaii, the unhealthy amounts of pineapple we ate together comes to mind. It also reminds me of those magical days, laying up in a hammock and making priceless memories together. Even though it seems like we are on opposite islands and I can’t be there to celebrate with you, I want you to light this pineapple candle, close your eyes, and know I’m right there with you in spirit. During your next trip around the sun, you’ll have ups and downs and when a rough swell comes and you need to exhale and escape back to Hawaii, light this candle. I have the matching candle to yours and will do the same. We are connected through this flame that will never dim, just like our friendship. And who knew, pineapple is actually a symbol of warmth and friendship. No wonder it's so good! So go enjoy today and thank you for your light, friendship, and shared love for pineapple.

See how we just made that candle into so much more?!

The opportunity to give with meaning presents itself on a daily basis.

It’s up to you to tap into your gift giving genius and think differently about what you give. All you need to do is listen more, search for the symbol and express how you really feel. Works like magic. Everytime. 

And if this all still seems like too much to wrap a ribbon around, keep us in mind.  I mentioned above, we are obsessed with gift-giving here at HeySoul and create gift boxes that basically do this for you at a click of a button. We also offer gift strategy, creative consultation, personalized products and assembly services for personal and corporate occasions as well. Don't hesitate to reach out, 

If you have a gifting story to share or are stumped on what to get someone, throw it in the comments below! We'd love to help!


Jessie Gardner
Jessie Gardner