© 2019 Nancy Owens Photo Credit: Courtesy Weaver Extreme

Do you struggle with the art of finding the right gift for people? Maybe there are one or two people on your list that you simply draw a blank on when it comes to choosing the right item for their birthday, Mothers’ Day, or other special occasion. It isn’t that you do not care, but somehow, every time they open the present that is from you, their reaction is less than joyous.

Keep reading to learn how to select the right gift for the occasion.

When to Give a Gift

Spontaneous Trinkets. We all like to give and receive for no reason at all. To receive an unexpected gift from someone just because they thought of you will usually delight people whom you know well and come in contact with on a regular basis, be it online or face-to-face. These are the occasional gifts that are usually small items that are meant as keepsakes, or some little gadget that the recipient has mentioned wanting.

Birthdays. These occasions require a little more thought if it is a close friend or family member. Still giving on this day may be extended to people such as coworkers, employees, neighbors and other people who cross your path on a regular basis. With these outer-circle recipients, you will focus less on the personal aspects, and select something that is more generic for that person.

Mothers’ Day. Gifts are appropriate if it is your mother, or grandmother, adult daughter, or spouse. Also appropriate would be to make a small, inexpensive gift to brighten the day of a mother whose family is far away.

Jewelry can be considered a personal gift, typically given to family and close friends.

Bosses’ Day, Administrative Professionals’ Day. This occasion may or may not be appropriate. Before giving actual gifts to your boss, employer, or employee take the time to think about how this could affect your work environment and check to see what the company policy is. These items should NEVER be expensive or highly personal in nature to avoid complications with human resource rules and regulations. If you oversee a pool of 5, 10, or even more office workers, giving each one a gift might not be feasible. Still, showing your people that you appreciate them can go a long way toward boosting moral. For this type of giving, set a relatively low-budget and stick to appropriate and generic items as opposed to giving personal items.

Christmas / Hanukkah. Know enough about the recipient to determine which holiday applies. Families have a multitude of traditions at this time of year, and if you are planning on purchasing something for people at this time, it is wise to get a little information a couple of months before these big holidays arrive, about the recipient’s color, aesthetic, style, and fragrance preferences before choosing. For example, you wouldn’t want to give a scented candle to someone prone to allergies. You will also need to decide if you know this person well enough to give a personal item, or if you should give a gift that is more neutral, such as an item for their desk, a book they have been wanting to read, or even a gift card for music downloads.

Easter. Most of the gift-giving during this holiday centers on children. People who celebrate Easter are typically of the Christian faith, and many attend early morning church services, then come home where the parents hide colorful eggs in the back yard and small children are told the stories of the Easter Bunny, who hides the eggs for the children to find. The Easter Bunny typically leaves baskets containing candy and trinkets in addition to the hiding of hard-boiled eggs. Gifts are typically small and inexpensive, such as a toy bunny or baby chic.

Weddings. If you are attending a wedding, it is always appropriate to bring a gift, unless it is specified otherwise. Second marriages may ask people to make a donation to charity instead of giving a gift. Most couples will register with various stores and retail outlets, creating a wish list from which people can select, knowing they are getting the couple something they need and want to start their new life together. If you know the couple well, and cannot attend the wedding, send or deliver a gift so that it arrives within a short time after the wedding. Other wedding gifts include gifts from the bride and groom to the people in the wedding party, such as bride’s maids, ushers, best man, and even exchanging of a token between bride and groom.

Anniversary. On this occasion, spouses typically choose gifts for one another, or select one larger, more expensive item for the household that they can both enjoy. These gifts are more personal and typically more costly, or time-consuming to make. Give plenty of thought beforehand and be alert to subtle hints from your spouse as to what they might be hoping for. The key here is to make the gift personal and meaningful. This means different things to different people. Know your spouse. Deliberately draw them out to be sure you know what kinds of things they will like and cherish.

Special Occasions. Gift-giving is appropriate when someone you know has achieved a milestone or major goal. The item does not have to be expensive, but should reflect the level of achievement or celebration. Examples of major achievement are promotions, retirements, graduations, and reaching a major goal.

Baby Showers. It is always appropriate to give during this occasion. Check to see if the parents have registered with any stores for clues to what they might need in your budget range.

Types of Gifts and Budget Considerations

Neutral or Generic Gifts. It is a good idea to keep on hand a few items and a selection of cards for those times when you suddenly find out that one of your favorite people at work is having a birthday. Typically they are given to people who are not in your close circle of friends and family. As you go about your life, be on the lookout for items that are inexpensive, but would make a nice gift for someone at the office, such as scented candles they can use at home, stationery, a figurine, picture frame, or other items that can be appreciated by a wide range of people. These items are appropriate for coworkers, neighbors, delivery people, or others you come in contact with and would like to bless with a small gift. You can find these items even at your local discount or dollar outlet.

Personal Gifts. These are the things you give when you know someone well, and want to give them something that is meaningful and highly personal to that person. Typically this group includes family members and close friends. However, at times people cross our path and we are prompted to give them something that is or becomes very meaningful to them. These types of gifts take time to find, and require that you know the person’s tastes, wishes, routines, and even their aspirations. They can be inexpensive, or very costly. The key is in knowing what that person would like that falls within your budget. Items in this category could be handmade and cost only pennies, such as a simple wood carving, or craft item, or they could be very costly, such as an exquisite, custom piece of jewelry designed specifically for the recipient.

Occasion Specific Items. Baby showers, weddings, birthdays, milestones, hostess gifts, house-warmings, promotions, career achievements, and more fall into this category. These items are usually specific in nature, such as when they are chosen from gift registries, or for a specific purpose, such as items for the home. They can also be either personal or generic in nature, depending on your relationship with the recipient, and how well you know them.


This article has given you some basic information about the process of knowing when it is appropriate, or even expected that you give gifts. Remember, when choosing items, to spend some time thinking about the categories listed above. Ask yourself how personal the situation is, how significant the occasion is to the recipient, and set a budget for the purchase. If you are in a tight squeeze financially, seek and stay alert for ideas and items that are low-cost. Realize it may take longer to find these items, but they are out there. Be aware of the recipient’s color and style choices, as well as other preferences they may have, including attitudes, opinions, and lifestyle.

While there is much more that can be written on this subject, you now have a basic sense of how to recognize and evaluate situations and occasions in which giving is appropriate and what level of personalization to put into the process.