I've always tried to be an overachiever when it comes to gift giving - there's nothing quite like seeing a person's face light up when they've opened a present from you that they love. Equally, the polite smile that spreads across your loved one's face when they're less than impressed with your gift is something I never want to be the recipient of, which also drives my determination to put a lot of thoughts into my gifts.
Some of these tips come from personal experience, but a quick search on Google will also bring you a multitude of horror stories about people receiving nightmare gifts. I've read about people being re-gifted their own presents, and others receiving slices of toast and even a packet of Tic-Tacs for Christmas!
The general number one rule for being a good gift-giver is to put a lot of thought into the present you're buying - even if you can't spend a lot or don't know the person well.
You should always try as hard as you can to get a gift that the person will like, rather than a gift that's going to make you feel good or something that's more in line with your own interests.
I'm grateful for every gift I've been given but I've received presents from friends and even family in the past that just didn't resonate with me at all - they weren't things I could use or had any interest in and so it sort of made me feel like there wasn't much thought that had gone into choosing the present.
It didn't feel like the gift was for me, it felt like they were just swiped from a shelf and handed over because it was easy and convenient.
Similarly, there have been presents I have received that I have absolutely adored, purely because it was clear that the person made an effort to know what I like and get me something I would enjoy.
I have a cousin I was close to as a child. When she moved to another country, we didn't get to see or speak as often and we grew up in separate worlds. Then she returned to England when we were both adults and we immediately bonded over our shared love of make-up and cosmetics. Last Christmas, she got me a lipstick kit and I absolutely loved it because she really chose that present according to what I liked. Even the colour was perfect - she bought me the only colour I mentioned I didn't have.
A present doesn't need to be extravagant to make an impact. It just needs to be thoughtful.
Avoid money and gift cards
Part of putting thought and effort into a gift is actually setting the time aside to find or make it. A gift card, or giving money as your present can give off the impression that you didn't have time, or couldn't figure out what to get.
That's what gift cards are for - convenience. But a thoughtful present shouldn't be about convenience, it should be about going out your way to gift someone with something that means something to them.
Now don't get me wrong - I don't mind receiving a gift card as a present once in a while, and I have resorted to giving them as gifts many times. But it's never my first option - it's always a last resort or an emergency.
If you do have to give a gift card or someone is insisting on one - you can still put some thought into it by picking one that the recipient can really enjoy. For example, if you know the recipient really loves clothes shopping, you could give them a gift card for their favourite clothing store, rather than an Apple gift card that they may not enjoy as much.
Packaging is just as important
I may consider myself as a pretty thoughtful gift-giver but when it comes to wrapping, I am the absolute worst. I can't wrap presents to save my life, but I am making an effort to learn because, over the years, I've seen that people appreciate that. The presents I have made an effort to wrap nicely have always received a better response. If you're as hopeless as me, Google and YouTube are your friends. There are very helpful online tutorials that show you how to wrap gifts. If all else fails, pick up a lovely gift bag and some tissue paper, rather than just handing over an unwrapped present.
The bottom line
It will always depend on the occasion and the individual, but being a good gift buyer comes down to being thoughtful, observant and mindful. As long as the person can see the effort that's gone into their present, you'll never have to worry about them not liking it.