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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Finding the perfect gift takes patience, observation and care

For The Spokesman-Review

I am a gift giver. A true gift giver. I show love by thinking of and giving what I hope is the perfect gift. My husband reprimanded me because I went over our gift giving budget last year, and I refused to apologize for it. It is my love language, and it is joyful to watch someone receive a gift that fits them well. So, in honor of the upcoming Christmas season, here’s a few of my tips and tricks on showing love through gift giving.

1. Be observant

To give a really good gift, you have to be observant. You have to know your audience even if it is just a little bit. The more you know your gift recipient the better your gift will be. What does your gift recipient like? What are they always doing when they aren’t working? What is something they have always wanted to do but haven’t done yet? Is this person always drinking a coffee? Does this person enjoy working out? Knowing just a tiny bit about someone’s life helps immensely in finding them that perfect gift.

2. Plan ahead

I am one of those people who usually has all of their Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. Sometimes even before Halloween. I know it is weird, but I have found that it allows me to truly enjoy the Christmas season knowing that all of the gifts are done and I can focus on other fun activities. I try to always keep Christmas in mind throughout the year and take advantage of sales or discounts. No one will ever know that you bought the item on clearance back in February. Just have a good hiding spot –and remember where that good hiding spot is!

3. Budget breakers

Gift giving can get completely out of control if you don’t set a budget for each person. The best gift that I ever got my husband was a Vitamix Blender. I had to be sneaky in how I bought it so he wouldn’t notice a huge debit from our bank account. I ended up buying it on installments to lighten the load. I know, this is the one of those “stupid tax” things that I did before going completely on the Dave Ramsey plan. The look on his face when he opened that blender was amazing. The installments of payments that I had to pay afterward, not so much. Stick to your budget, get creative, and don’t overspend!

4. Gift cards

Gift cards get a bad rap, but I would argue that gift cards are actually pretty nice gifts. It allows the recipient to pick out their own stuff, which I really appreciate. Seriously, thank you for saving me the embarrassment of having to feign my excitement as I unwrap a shirt that I wouldn’t wear. Ever. Gift cards are easy to figure out. What kind of store would your recipient frequent often? Are they a crafter? Do they enjoy going to the movies and would love to see the latest blockbuster? Or are they simply a college student who needs a gas card to get them to a friend’s house? Gift cards are a money saver for your recipient, and they will be used as long as you get the store right.

5. Theme gifts

Both of my sisters have done this, and I appreciate the self-confidence of those who decide to get all of their gifts at one single store. The challenge here would be to find the right store that would somehow fit everyone’s needs. My youngest sister bought from Barnes and Noble a few years ago, and everyone got either a book about their interest or something cool from the many other options in their store. My other sister took advantage of the Christmas in July sale at the Nike store this summer, so I am interested to see what gifts she got for everyone. Talk about a time saver though, one stop shopping for Christmas and you’re done!

6. Make a list

I have a running note on my phone that has a list of people’s names and gifts that I think they would enjoy. This list is my go-to place throughout the year when I notice that someone needed something or said that they would like something. Being mindful and aware of what others would enjoy is the best way to cut down on the stress of having to find that perfect gift.

7. Think outside the box

Having gift giving as a love language can be hard to deal with year after year. Every Christmas I find myself trying to one-up my gifts from last year. For example, my brother-in-law loves queso. LOVES the stuff. He would swim in a pool of queso if he had the chance (now there’s a gift idea!). This led to me staying up too late one night trying to find a Queso-Of-The-Month Club. And no, I couldn’t find one. Yes, I could just give him a box of queso and call it good, but the gifts that go just a little above and beyond the norm are ones that I have now painted myself into a corner in giving. Start with one idea about a gift and then see if you can expand on it to make it really special and unique.

8. Make it yourself

Handmade gifts aren’t just for kids anymore. Think of something that you already do that you could make for someone else. Handmade gifts mean so much more than a store bought one. Do you dabble in wood working and can make a cutting board or sign? Do you crochet or knit and can make a scarf? Do you enjoy cooking and could make dinner-in-a-basket for someone? Handmade items don’t necessarily have to be expensive, but they oftentimes take up a lot of time. Knowing that someone thought about you while making you something is what means the most. Time is something that we don’t give out freely anymore, but it is such a unique gift that means so much once given. It is also hard to forget who gave you this blanket when they straight up made it for you. Yes, this may be a little self-centered but it is nice to be remembered through a gift.

9. Know the don’ts

Vacuums are not a gift unless the person you are buying for has some sort of vacuum collection and would “just die” if they ever got the vacuum you are purchasing. Cleaning services are not a gift unless the person already has a cleaning service or has openly stated, on more than one occasion, that they would like a cleaning service. Diet books or shakes are not a gift. Just don’t go there. Towels are not a gift. One year I received towels when I was a younger mother with no time for herself. Imagine my disappointment when I opened my present of new towels instead of something that I could use just for me. I think that my towels were given with the best of intentions; I mean we did need new towels, but would you give new towels to the man of the house?

10. Wrap it well

This is something that I really struggle with. I put so much time and energy into thinking of the perfect gift that I totally miss the mark on presenting that thoughtful gift in nice wrapping paper. At this point in the game, I am just so exhausted that I don’t care enough to fold the paper symmetrically, I rely too much on gift bags when it should really be wrapped in a box, or I straight up write who the gift is for in sharpie directly on the wrapping paper instead of taking the two seconds it would take to use a gift tag. My goal this year is to really learn to enjoy this part of gift giving because I don’t do myself justice if I get the perfect gift for someone only to make it look like a pile of trash under the tree.

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois who writes about family and faith. Contact her at kristina@mamabearmoxie. com or visit her website at

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