Bad Gift Giver Guide: 7 Ways to Give Better Gifts

Are you a chronically bad gift giver? Find out why, plus snag a few tips and tricks to up your gift-giving game this holiday season.

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Great Gift Giving is Easier Than You Think

Are the presents you give regularly met with polite enthusiasm or stiff smiles? Despite your best efforts, do carefully-curated gifts get allocated to a junk drawer or hall closet? Don't despair! There's likely a very simple reason why. Read on to learn the most common types of bad gifts and how to avoid missing the mark this gift-giving season.

Bad Gift #1: The Too Practical Gift

Yes, everyone needs new socks now and then. But do they really want them as a gift? Practical presents such as basic clothing, personal hygiene products or utility items like ironing boards and toasters aren't necessarily bad (you did pay attention to your loved one's needs, after all), but they definitely won't be talked about for years to come. 

What to Give Instead: A Two for One Gift

Give your practical present a boost by pairing it with something your loved one really wants, but wouldn't normally buy for him or herself. For example, if the reason they need new socks is because they're an avid runner, wrap up the socks with a pair of new running shoes.

Bad Gift #2: The Over-the-Top Item

Do you often spend a lot of money on luxurious gifts only to get less-than-mediocre responses from your loved ones? It's possible you're a 'showstopper' gift giver. In other words, you buy the most expensive version of a gift because you imagine it will elicit an enthusiastic response. But in doing so, you lose sight of what the recipient actually wants or needs. Think about it this way: would a new mother appreciate a $200 handmade crystal baby rattle or a $20 toy her child can actually play with?

What to Give Instead: An Experiential Gift

If you simply must go over the top, give a gift the recipient can use and enjoy. Fun experiences like a weekend trip somewhere special, tickets to see their favorite band or a day at the spa are great alternative ways to 'wow' your loved one. But remember to give them an experience they, not you, would enjoy. Check out these 15 fun experiential gift ideas >>

Bad Gift #3: The All About Me Gift

The 'all about me' gift is one that's purchased because the giver thinks it's attractive, fun or useful. The problem with this gift, however, is that the recipient likely does not reciprocate those feelings. This is because their likes, dislikes and wants were never truly considered when the gift was purchased. For example: a wife buys her husband a new watch because she thinks the one he wears now is ugly. When the husband opens the gift, he's confused and disappointed because he already has a perfectly good watch.

What to Give Instead: Something From Their List

This might sound like common sense, but if someone gives you a wish list, stick to it! Unless you're doing so for a specific or meaningful reason, going off-registry or off-list is a major gifting faux pas. The greatest presents are always ones the recipients actually want. However, if the gift is for someone that wouldn't normally give you a wish list, reach out to their close friends and family for ideas. 

Bad Gift #4: The Last Minute Gift

It's 5 p.m. the day before the holiday and you have yet to buy a single present. In a mad frenzy, you dash to your local convenient store and buy up anything of value: candy, razors, cheap electronics. It goes without saying that these less-than-stellar gifts aren't going to be the hits of your holiday party.

What to Give Instead: Cash

If you're going to procrastinate (and be honest, you probably will), simply give your loved ones the cash you would have spent on those unwanted last-minute gifts. For a special touch, present the bills in a pretty vase, creatively-wrapped card or alongside a small gift like a book or favorite candy.

Bad Gift #5: The 'It Was on Sale' Gift

We've all fallen into the 'that's such a great deal' trap. You buy something just because it's on sale and think 'oh this would make a great gift for someone.' When the holidays finally come around, you try to assign the discounted gift to a random person on your list, only to realize that nobody really wants that half-price As Seen on TV garden hose. 

What to Give Instead: A Thoughtful DIY Gift

The purpose of buying a sale item is to save money. But if the gift isn't something the recipient actually wants or needs, is it really worth the money saved? If you're pinching pennies this holiday season, take the time to handcraft something useful and unique you know your loved one will adore. This handy cookbook and tablet stand, which could pass as an expensive store bought piece, is a perfect, cost-efficient gift for the cook in your life. Get 70 more handmade holiday gift ideas >>

Bad Gift #6: The Regifted Gift

Unless you know someone who would truly enjoy it, a regifted present will more often than not land you on the bad gift giver list. If you didn't want the gift, why would someone else? Not only is regifting thoughtless, but also runs the risk of hurting feelings and damaging relationships if discovered.

Bad Gift #7: The Assembly Required Gift

One reason many great gifts eventually end up, unused, in a drawer or closet is because the recipient simply doesn't have the time to cook it, build it or learn how to use it. For instance, your best friend may love cookies, but that doesn't necessarily mean she wants to bake a batch from scratch. Therefore, a curated basket full of cookie baking ingredients might run the risk of never getting used.

What to Give Instead: A Homemade Food Gift

We usually regift for one of three reasons: we're in a hurry, on a tight budget or giving to someone we don't know that well. Since you'll likely be baking or cooking at some point this holiday season, why not set aside a few extra cookies or casseroles to be given as thoughtful, low-cost gifts? You can even include the recipe for an extra special touch. Get 40 homemade holiday food gift ideas >>

What to Give Instead: A Ready-to-Use Present

In addition to thinking about your loved one's wants and needs, take into consideration their free time as well. If you're gifting a piece of furniture, put it together beforehand or offer your assembly services as part of the gift. If you're buying something tech-related, do your homework to see how user-friendly the product is. And again, unless the recipient truly loves to bake or cook, skip the large basket full of from-scratch ingredients. 

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