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How to Be a Better Gift Giver, According to Experts

There’s a science to picking the perfect present.

multiple red gift boxes with blue bows
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From Mother's Day to baby showers, housewarmings, birthdays and more, gift-giving season never ends — and finding the perfect present can be an all-consuming mission. But you can learn to make better decisions about what will delight your loved ones — while making shopping easier for you! Take the guesswork out of it all with our science-backed expert advice and clever tricks for good gifting.

1. The thought counts — really.

        “Whenever there’s a multi-giver situation, givers think that how their gift compares to others’ gifts matters a great deal,” says Julian Givi, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, who studies gifting and consumer decision making. “But in the eyes of recipients, it doesn’t matter that much. We find that people just care about being cared about.”

        2. Put care into how the present looks.

        “Presentation is at least half of your gift,” says Lash Fary, author of Fabulous Gifts: Hollywood's Gift Guru Reveals the Secret to Giving the Perfect Present and founder of Distinctive Assets, a company that handles product placement for top awards shows. “You don’t have to be the most amazing gift wrapper. Just take the time to do it and that alone will have an impact.” For extra credit, he suggests adding a beautiful ribbon or a fresh flower.

        3. Think long-term.

        “When people are trying to decide between two types of gifts, they often choose the wrong one,” says Givi. “Givers tend to focus on what makes a great gift in the moment. But the key is to take a step back and think about what’s going to be good down the road.”

        4. Trust your gut.

        “If you see something that reminds you of your son or your husband or your best friend, that’s something to pay attention to,” says Fary. “Buy it, and set it aside for them. There’s nothing better than when the person opens a gift and says, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so me!’”

        5. People love a spontaneous gift.

        When there’s no special occasion, expectation for the type or quality of a gift is removed, Givi found. Another bonus of a just-because gift: It’s clear that it’s voluntary, which “suggests that the giver cares about the recipient.”

        6. Use your words.

        “Never underestimate the power of a note,” says Fary. “The more you can add something sentimental or make the person feel something, the more value it adds to the gift.”

        7. Shop during the off-season.

        A looming birthday and an empty shopping cart can be anxiety-inducing — and can lead to resorting to a last-minute gift that lacks meaning. Save yourself the stress and turn shopping into a year-round activity: When you see an appropriate item on social media or in a magazine, just buy it, even if you give it later. Or, make a note on your phone so you're not scrambling for ideas when the time comes.

        8. And if you're still stuck ... defer to the experts!

        Shameless plug: Good Housekeeping's product and shopping pros make it their full-time jobs to find the absolute best gifts for your money, no matter what the occasion. So check out our inspiration-packed gift guide section to find the perfect present for everyone on your list.

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