How to Buy Gifts for the Closest People in Your Life

One of the most perplexing questions we face each holiday season is, “What gifts should I get for the people closest in my life?” It’s a question worth putting some thought into. The right gift shows you care and are paying attention to that person’s likes and interests. From your spouse to your executive assistant to your best friend, here are some holiday gift ideas that could make their year.

For Your Spouse or Significant Other. This is probably the most important gift you’ll buy for the holidays. Stay away from gifts that are hard to pinpoint, like clothing, or gifts that ultimately benefit you such as the bowling ball Homer Simpson got for Marge – with his initials on it! Look around and think about your mate’s tastes and interests. Is there something he or she consistently buys and will need more of, such as their favorite cologne or brand of golf ball? Get them more, and make sure it’s the right brand. Or book an overnight at a favorite hotel for a romantic weekend getaway. If at a loss, get a generous gift card at his or her favorite store… but personal is better here.

For Your Son or Daughter. This too can be tricky, as the wrong gift could be misinterpreted as clueless. Depending on how well you know your child’s personal taste, gift cards may be the smartest move here. That said, the fact that you know their favorite store, whether it’s Guitar Center or Hot Topic, will show you’re paying attention and love them for who they are.

For Mom and Dad. Parents can be some of the hardest people to buy for, especially if they seem to have everything already. Opt for sentimental instead of commercial. Give them a favorite picture of you or their grandchild in a beautiful frame, or buy tickets for a day at their favorite museum, garden or historical home. For most older people, experiences and memories are more important than “more stuff.”

For your Executive Assistant and/or Direct Reports. For your indispensable EA, you can’t go wrong with an American Express gift card, a gift certificate at a local spa or a gift basket from Harry & David. Since you don’t want to be seen as playing favorites, for direct reports, think all of the same or similar gift such as Starbucks gift cards, Godiva chocolates, or for something more meaningful, donate money to the charity of their choice in their name.

For your Boss. Depending on your relationship and pay grade, the gift for the boss will vary, but it should say professionalism. Go for timeless classics such as a decent bottle of wine or liquor (if you know they enjoy it), luxury home and travel accessories, the latest best seller like Steve Jobs’ autobiography, or on the higher end, a hot new e-reader or cashmere wrap from Nordstrom’s in her favorite color.

For Your Best Buddy or BFF. You have more leeway here, as most best friends are fairly forgiving when it comes to gift giving. Again, take some time to think about what the person truly likes. Like many parents, a long-time friend would probably appreciate an experience-based gift more than an item in a box. Make reservations for a restaurant the two of you used to hang out at, or buy tickets to a mutually favorite play or ball game. The effort will show you truly value him or her, and the history you share.

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