How to…buy the perfect present

It is wedding season, it is birthday season (well it is always birthday season) and so the pressure is on to find that perfect gift. Luckily, dott is on hand to give you some expert advice from James Young.


1. Research

By that I mean figure out what they want, what they like at the moment (what have you picked up on in conversation?), or what they need (be careful here, everyone needs a razor/epilator/beard trimmer but unless you’ve discussed this explicitly beforehand DON’T do it).

Generally, most people “need” something but needs are often very, very dull. Instead the best present, the holy grail of gifting, is the present that they want, but wouldn’t buy themselves – that “thing” that they saw once but couldn’t 100% justify to themselves! This is obviously easier said than done, but let’s see how we go.

Play around with a few ideas, ask some friends, scour your memory for any shred of useful hints; and if that fails either a) go rare or niche, b) go homemade and personal, or c) go luxury (budget depending).

a) If something is much harder to come by it shows you’ve gone the extra mile of thoughtfulness to go get it. Rather than just buying that CD they want (which in itself is still a very nice idea), why not get the limited edition version with the artist’s voiceover? Or, do they have a turntable? If so, buy them the vinyl version, or a “B-side” of an album the artist brought out in their early years? You get the idea.

b) Homemade personal things are great as they are usually a much more direct way of saying how much you care about someone. To give an example, one year I received a CD which had a selection of happy birthday greetings on it in the form of internet animations, a cut up mix of a song, and a stop-motion video (this last one took an inordinate amount of effort and unless you are really keen to take out a good few evenings of your life on it, I would advise against it).

c) Luxury things are good, although only really a last resort – you are just equating your love with how much you spend. This can be very flattering but for me seems a bit focused on money rather than what really matters i.e. your relationship with that person.

2. Find the best vendor

The first port of call (and even if you haven’t got a perfect idea yet) look around on the Internet. This will put you off the hideous array of online gift stores and it will give you the widest array of options, prices and you are likely to happen upon something slightly rarer than what you can get down your local high-street.

3. Wrapping and card

Wrapping may seem like a waste of money, but if something is nicely wrapped it already starts the “they’ve cared about me when getting this present” thought process. Now, wrapping is terribly overpriced for what it is, so strike a healthy balance - avoid something that is glitzy and looks like it has been wrapped by a five-year old. Although, if you’re heavy-handed like me, don’t worry, it’s just going to be thrown in the bin anyway. Just make sure the better wrapped side of the present – where you actually folded the crease rather than mashing it with your palm – is handed to your recipient face-up, front and centre.

Cards: I care the least about these but that’s because I’ve got away with the “I don’t really write my emotions down” character trait. But if you can, saying more than just “Happy V-Day” is a must as your recipient may keep the card for looking at later! Here, homemade cards are lovely – if you’re artistic or good at arts and crafts. If not, go beyond the Tesco value range, and buy one from a stationer or a well-priced card store.

4. The giving part

Some presents are just so wonderfully personal that you don’t need to say anything as they open it, but most of the time a little explanation shows your thought process. Things like “remember that thing we saw in the store the other day”, “I thought this would be great for…”, or, how niche the item is - “it’s actually an album they made when they were just starting out that was never released commercially until now”. You get the idea.

On that note, this might all seem a bit “much”, and your friends might hate you for how soppily perfect your presents are. However, the recipient won’t. Presents ARE unnecessary, BUT most of us give them, so they might as well be good ones!

Author: James Young

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