Research says more than a third of Americans return at least one of their holiday gifts. Make sure your present isn't among them!
Step 1: Think about your recipient Think about your recipient's wants and needs. Make a list of their interests and hobbies before you go shopping.
Step 2: Research online Think back to a novel or unusual thing the recipient might appreciate, and start hunting for it online. Did your mom love a shade of lipstick that was discontinued? Did your dad collect a kind of comic book when he was little?
TIP: Keep a gift journal and note anytime a friend or relative mentions something they want or like.
Step 3: Personalize a gift Consider a personalized gift. There are websites that will put a person's monogram or photo on everything from mouse pads to spatulas. Plus, they won't be able to return it, so they won't know how much you spent!
TIP: A fistful of scratch-off lottery tickets is great in a pinch. Hey, ya never know.
Step 4: Think age appropriate Research says you should go with electronics or clothing for anyone age 13 to 28. Oh, and luxury items like jewelry or name brand leather goods, if you have a big budget.
TIP: If you don't know the person's style or size, stay away from clothes and get them a gift card to a mall or shopping complex, a book or music store, or a local movie theater.
Step 5: Give a voucher If money is tight, make them a homemade voucher they can redeem for one of your services—washing their car, babysitting, help with a term paper, a sexual favor.
TIP: Attach the voucher to a related but inexpensive item, like a package of air fresheners for the car wash or a bottle of massage oil for the sexual favor.
Step 6: Make a donation Got a philanthropic friend? Make a donation in their name to charity. Just make sure it's their favorite charity, not yours.
TIP: Sounds obvious, but it bears repeating: give the person something they like—not something you like, or something you want them to have.
Step 7: Buy an intangible Buy them something they can look at but can't have, like naming a star after an astronomy nut, planting a tree in a nature lover's honor, or starting an athletic scholarship in a baseball fan's name.
Step 8: Send flowers If none of these suggestions seems right, send flowers. A study shows receiving flowers dramatically brightens a person's mood and keeps it elevated for several days.
FACT: "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, is usually between the 4th and 8th busiest shopping day of the year—not the busiest, as often claimed.