Buying personalized, thoughtful gifts for your loved ones can be a pretty intimidating prospect. There’s always the lingering fear that you’ll end up being the sweater-giver — that one family member who always managed to give the absolute worst gifts, but had no clue regarding their cluelessness. You don’t want to be known as the sad relative or friend who manages to come up with the worst gift ideas; you want to be known as that relative or friend who is known for always having the best gift ideas.

The key is to stop stressing so much and focus on what you’re trying to say with the gift. Find out what the recipient enjoys and cater to that. The best gifts come from a desire to express your appreciation and/or love. Really, any gift is about expressing gratitude and thoughtfulness. With that in mind, coming up with great and affordable gift ideas for both casual acquaintances, new lovers, and long-time friends isn’t actually that difficult!

Pay attention to the details. For instance, techies tend to be very opinionated on electronics brands, so don’t buy an Apple fan an Android device. Similarly, don’t go buying a fan of mystery books the latest and hottest romance novel, and don’t buy blockbuster comedies for a fan of classic film noir.

Remember, too, that great gifts don’t have to be expensive. Someone who enjoys exercise and outdoor activities would appreciate a sturdy reusable water bottle made of recycled materials. Add a harbinger clip for easy hands-free carrying and a few packets of those powdered water flavors, and you’ve just created a thoughtful, personalized, and inexpensive gift.

Likewise, a homemade gift almost never goes amiss. Browse DIY projects online and find something within your talents to show your appreciation for the recipient. Perhaps you could hand-write or type up a letter on thick parchment paper, telling the recipient what kind of positive effect they’ve had on your life. Tie it with a ribbon and attach a flower, memory-laden photograph, candy bar, or small stuffed animal.

These same tips apply for anything the recipient likes, be it motorcycles, cars, sports, photography, fashion, make-up, literature, film and so forth. Find something that relates to them and give it to them.

If you really cannot figure out your recipient’s preferences, remember that some so-called “stereotypical gifts” are stereotypical because they work. Flowers, candy, music, films, books, and gift cards remain perennial favorite because it’s really hard to go wrong with them. You almost have to try to screw it up, like intentionally forget a serious allergy or never once glancing at their bookshelf to ascertain their preferred authors/ genres. If you’re really at a loss as to what type of flowers, candy, music, films, or books your intended recipient prefers, then just buy or make the funniest, cleverest card you can find and tuck a generous gift card to their favorite store or restaurant inside of it.

In the same way, avoid the stereotypical “bad gifts,” such as anything that smacks of chores, work, or necessity. Sure, your husband may really need a new office chair, or your wife may have been complaining about the broken bathroom scale for months, but don’t choose a special gift-giving occasion to replace these types of necessities. Unless, of course, the recipient has specifically and repeatedly asked for some appliance or tool, ie: “I really want a blender for my birthday!”

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