When it comes to giving gifts, we all know someone who stumps us.Rachel Green, of the hit sitcom “Friends,” is perhaps the most notorious example of this problem. For holidays and birthdays, she handed out a wish list to her friends and didn’t try too hard to hide her scorn when presented with a gift that wasn’t on the list. Recall the episode in which boyfriend Tag gave her a Razor scooter for her 30th birthday.
The rest of us are likely not so lucky to have friends and family who distribute lists detailing what they want. But as the holidays approach with their characteristic speed and rigor, so does the question of what to get for Uncle Mel, who drives a Rolls Royce and vacations in Cabo half the year, or your 16-year-old cousin, who shops at Hot Topic and is the first to read novels that become pop culture phenomena a year later.
Thankfully, there are at least a few things that everyone appreciates.
1. Make a donation in their name.
It’s the season of giving. Everyone likes to see a good cause supported, and it doesn’t hurt if their name is attached to it. So pick an organization in need — bonus points if you can track down one that your gift recipient supports — and send a little money their way. Only Ebenezer Scrooge would frown upon this act of goodwill.
2. Give a gift card.
This is perfect for the truly picky gift recipient. A gift card opens up a portal of possibilities, all particularly suited to their own whims and wishes. The gift card is then no longer a standard-issue generic present, but a very personal one. If you want to add more of your own touch, stick the card in a handwritten and heartfelt letter expressing your admiration for the gift recipient and appreciation for their place in your life.
3. Make something for them by hand.
If you’ve got a flair for anything do-it-yourself, exercise your creative skills by making a gift. Whether it’s a hand-painted picture frame or a bench constructed with reclaimed wood, the friend or family member who receives it receives something thoughtful and special. And it’s pretty hard not to appreciate the time and effort that went into it.
4. Go for themed gifts.
A few months after my aunt started her job as a college grants writer, she directed my family to open the Christmas gifts from her all at the same time. As we unwrapped them, she claimed this was the only year she could give these gifts. We had all gotten shirts, baseball hats and other paraphernalia from the college. So I repeated the same idea when I traveled to Ghana for a study-abroad program, returning with souvenirs from the trip for all my family. This holiday season, go theme-crazy if you’ve got a new job or a cool trip to celebrate — or if a group of friends really appreciates the Grumpy Cat memes and would dig the merchandise.