Ask LH: How Can I Find An Original Christmas Present?

Dear Lifehacker, I suck at buying gifts, and I know too many people who just don't seem to want anything. How can I give better gifts without resorting to gift cards or other junk that no one really likes? Thanks, Gift Grump

Dear Gift Grump,

I think everyone has at least one person in their lives that's impossible to shop for. That said, it's not impossible to crack the puzzle and find something they'll enjoy. You just have to be willing to get creative about the process. Here's what we mean.

Ask Friends And Family

An obvious starting point: ask other friends and family for suggestions. Apart from offering inspiration and insider knowledge, they may be willing to join forces with you on a more expensive item that they know your recipient will really enjoy.

Do A Little Harmless Stalking

The internet is a powerful tool to learn about someone, and there are plenty of ways to harmlessly inevestigate people so you understand them a little better. Look at what they've said on Facebook or Twitter. Check out the pages they've liked recently on Facebook, or items they've posted to Tumblr or Pinterest. Even if the person you're shopping for is a family member you know very well, they may end up sharing information online that you're not aware of. That can occasionally be surprising, but it does provide new leads when it comes to choosing the right gift.

Offer Experiences Instead of Gifts

If you're really stumped, consider offering them an experience instead of an object that will take up space in their lives. Think of something they've always wanted to do, even if it's something as simple as tickets to a band they love or a night for them and their spouse at a jazz club. If you're especially close to the person, choose something you can enjoy with them.

Give Handmade Gifts That Mean Something

Break free of the idea that the only gifts that are worth anything are the ones you have to run out and buy. Instead, consider giving something handmade and useful. Food items make great DIY gifts, because you can make a large batch and give them to multiple people. If you want to buy or lack any craft skills, head to Etsy and shop around for something unique. Bonus: if you do well and make something really great, they'll love it so much they'll want to know how you did it — or they'll ask you to make more next year.

Turn To The Web

If you're still stuck, you can find inspiration through web services designed to spark some ideas and help you figure out what to give the people closest to you. Here are a few to check out:

  • What F**king Gift Should I Buy? takes a fun approach to finding the perfect gift if you're having a hard time coming up with ideas. Swearing abounds, but so do solid gift suggestions for all types of people.
  • I've Got 99 Problems But A Gift Ain't One is also fun, and while the recipients they suggest are off the wall, the gifts themselves are really interesting and unique — things I wouldn't have considered giving. Some of them are useful, some are funny.
  • Etsy is a great source for handmade and unique crafted gifts. If you need suggestions Etsy has a gift idea page to get you started.

When you're really stumped for a gift idea, do a little digging or try something off the wall that you wouldn't have normally considered for the person. With luck, everyone on your list will love what they unwrap from you.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    gift giving isn't about purchasing what people want, it's about giving them something you think would bring a smile to their face

      I tend to smile when people get me a present I want...

      The downside to that is when you get a gift from someone who thinks they know you well, but in reality they just give you something *they* would like

    I like to agree with @n7of9.

    Forget about money, buy or make them something that they'll appreciate.
    I'm not sure if you're particularly close with this person, or what relation you have to them, but I can safely say that some of my all-time favourite presents are from close family/friends/partners that are handmade and have sentimental value.

    Whether it's something that brings back a particular memory, or just something cool like a hand-sewn teddy - handmade gifts always makes me smile, and know that the person really cares, because - to me - putting thought in to something that cost them $10 to make is worth multitudes more than them having gone out and spend $100 on the first thing they looked at.

    Last edited 04/12/12 2:45 pm

    I think the most enriching gifts are the presents that people don't know they "want", but when they get them they think to themselves that they are super excited to use it, enjoy it and will bring a smile to their face. has some pretty cool gift ideas for your mates or dads which aren't the usual run of the mill stuff.

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