A Quick Guide to Gifting

Searching for the perfect gift? Learn from Hugh Upsher's mistakes

By Hugh Upsher

Giving great gifts to people you care about is an art form. It is something that involves patience, resourcefulness and the ability to read people’s minds. If a cat can get two of these three things right by placing a dead bird on their owner's pillow then you have no excuse. Obviously for humans, the process will be a tad more nuanced.

A gift might be utilized as a tool of compensation after being kak to someone who deserves much better. It could be a form of appeasement to a niece who believes the world is owed to her. The best form of giving, however, is to reinforce an already strong bond with someone special. Like buying yourself another pair of sneakers, because you felt like it.

Pro Tip: Don’t be me

As the youngest of three children and a former art student, I can safely say I have given awful gifts all my life. Growing up there was a trend of not having the same spending power as my older sisters; this created a pattern of my family having lowered expectations of me. There was a time in my life where I would give my sister a second hand Ryan Adams CD for Christmas, but not before copying it for myself because it was already out the plastic wrapper.

To compound my problem, I may have taken the assumption that a drawing could pass as a thoughtful, yet cheap, gift a little too far. My family and friends have always been polite enough to hide their disappointment, so the problem with my strategy was never fully apparent. Making someone a drawing as a gift is by no means a bad thing, but at least put it in a neat frame. Or maybe consider making it the card for the real gift you buy the person with your adult money.

For a special someone

The best-case scenario is that your significant other tells you exactly what they want, and then forget that they told you. If that doesn’t happen there is no shame in flat out asking what they want. Worst-case scenario is that they list a bunch of things they don’t want and then ask you to surprise them. Consulting with his or her best friend can avert this existential crisis. Make sure not to leave it for two days before Christmas, as the best friend will say mean things like “What the hell were you thinking” and “Why are you so shit?”

For the folks 

Your parents have been around the block long enough to know what they like. They are also at the stage of their lives where they don’t mind being brutally honest. You would think that getting a variety pack of craft beers for your dad is a good idea, but he may remind you that the craft beer industry is a scam. You may think about getting some new music for him to play in his car, but nothing comes close to Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones in his opinion.

You may think your mom might appreciate a word puzzle game like Bananagrams, but there is a real chance she’ll give it back a month later saying she never used it. Biltong and chocolate tends to work just fine.

My days of last minute bargain hunting are thankfully behind me now. When people first told me that giving is a much greater feeling than receiving, I thought it was a total scam. But seeing someone gaze at your present for the first time after unwrapping it does give you an undeniable fuzzy feeling. As long as that thing you are giving is not shell art or a branded T-shirt you got for free at an event.