Buying Appropriate Gifts (Your Advice)

How to choose gifts that are appropriate without spending a small fortune for events that we attend is often hard to decipher. The following reader is looking for help on how to choose these gifts:

Lately I have had quite a few events to attend where I was required to bring a gift. How do you choose a gift that is appropriate for the occasion, yet doesn’t cost a lot of money? Does anyone have any secrets or good standby gifts that are inexpensive but appropriate for the occasion?

I don’t mind spending a little bit of money for a nice gift if I know that it is something that people can use and will just end up in the back of the closet. That being said, I don’t have a huge budget to be spending each and every time I must attend one of these events.

I know that I’m being kind of general and all this, but the events have very. In the last two months I had to attend a wedding, a baby shower, a 50 year anniversary and a friend’s birthday party. I realize that there probably isn’t a single guest that would be appropriate for all of these, but I’m wondering how people approach the way that they choose the gifts to keep costs at a minimum while providing a gift that is useful.

How do you go about deciding on a gift for an occasion and do you have some basic gifts that you can default to which are appropriate for almost any occasion?

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9 Responses to Buying Appropriate Gifts (Your Advice)

  1. It feels great to give a gift that meets the receiver’s needs and style, right?

    Inexpensive and personal gifts are entirely possible, it takes thought and maybe a little time.

    One of my favorite ideas is a hand decorated tin or box of handmade soap. Who doesn’t use soap, and isn’t the scent a little treat? This is something one usually doesn’t spoil themselves with.

    To create: obtain a plain box or cylinder container (from the craft store, or just a used oatmeal or coffee container), spray paint or cover with contact paper, and hot glue artificial flower or greenery in pleasing groupings. Fill with a $1 scrubby, new washcloths, dishtowels or similar item and some luxury soap. Good handmade soap is fairly easy to find or go to for a nice variety of handcrafted soap makers.

    Many many other inexpensive and wonderfully creative gift ideas on which is an internet market place of handcrafters. I have a shop full of unique and inexpensive jewelry and notecards as well.

    Happy Bargain Hunting!

  2. Megan says:

    We regularly give gift cards – not so ‘thoughtful’ – but we live in another state from most our friends/family, so it works the best – we like to do the “Visa Gift Card” (purchased from my bank, also at Walgreens) because it can be used anywhere.

    I actually just did a post about gift giving on grads,weddings,babies,etc.

  3. Be creative in your thinking. Spend time with your friends and family, and make notes of their quirks, and the little things they like that other people might not notice. Think about how you can incorporate that into a special gift that they would love, and when the holidays/birthday come around, you’ll have ideas.

    For example, my partner’s grandparents are celebrating their 50th anniversary this month. On Saturday, she went to their house and digitized their old vinyl albums. She is now editing the tracks to remove static (using free audio software). The music will be given to them on CD and also played at their anniversary party. Not only do they get the amazing gift of music they love but haven’t listened to in years, they also got to spend quality time with their granddaughter.

    Another good idea is a scrapbook poster. Scan family photos and use free software to arrange them in a collage-type format. Use a printing service to print the collage as large as you’d like, and frame it with a yard sale frame.

  4. Karen says:

    When I was a poor graduate student, all of my friends were getting married, and my budget barely covered a trip to McDonalds. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a gift for $5 or $10 on most wedding registries. I became an expert at finding inexpensive but beautiful picture frames. You can often find them cheaply on sale, even very nice silver or wood frames, and it’s especially nice if you add a candid picture of the bride and groom (or anniversary couple, birthday boy, etc.)

    I was always a little embarrassed at sending such cheap gifts to my dear friends on a special occasion. But twelve years later, I’m sometimes surprised to see those $5 picture frames still in use!

  5. baselle says:

    You talk about giving “a gift”. One of my favorite tricks is to give a series of small gifts that tie together into a theme that’s personal. It might be who I socialize with, but giving a lot of little intimate things is often a bigger hit than one medium sized thing.

    For example, one wedding gift I gave a small library of personal finance books, all picked up from different used book stores. For a friend who bought a 1962 car, I found zillions of 1960s bumper stickers for him to put on it.

    So taking your examples, I would definitely hit more than just the mall – I go to every local yard sale and see what’s out there for lightly used baby clothes. For the 50th anniversary – 50 of something small, maybe integrate gold or gilt (golden anniversary), or go to the antique store and find things dating from 50 years ago. Imagine finding a ton of 1950s bumper stickers, perhaps. The friend’s birthday party should be straightforward if you know their quirks.

    Of course this takes time, foresight, a bit of luck, and the willingness to take a chance. Some of the best gifts I gave I thought, “they’re either going to love it or never ever speak to me again.”

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  7. Momandmurray says:

    If you know the bride, the perfect gift is a fire extinguisher. Wish her good luck with the new kitchen. Everyone needs one, but few buy one. It will make everyone laugh and it just might save a life later.

    Baby shower gift is a local restaurant gift card for their first night out after the baby arrives.

    Birthday gifts are the easiest. Candles. Men and womaen enjoy them and can put them to use in many different ways. The card is what makes the gift in my opinion . The more personal and humorous the better.

  8. Heather says:

    I will often give the gift of my services…it costs me time instead of money, and is usually very appreciated.

    For example, my mother loathes going to the grocery store. So I give her a coupon for grocery pick-up and delivery.

    For a recent baby shower I attended I gave the mom-to-be coupons for a home-cooked delivered meal for the month after the baby came, and a coupon for a free evening of babysitting.

    One of my wedding gifts to a friend was putting together the scrapbook of the event, something that many people don’t get to until years later if at all.

  9. Bobobuttercup says:

    I used to get frustrated at receiving soft toys and stuff that I can’t use, as much as I did love some of them. But when all fails, items of practicality and things people use are the best and can often be inexspensive.

    I did hint to people that they should’ve just got me a tin of Pringles all wrapped up and you know what, I would’ve enjoyed that a lot more than a soft toy that ends up in the cupboard. And it would only cost £3 incl some wrapping paper.

    Other ideas is to observe the things people use. This type of gift is mostly for people you know. Like knowing what type of body moisturizer my friend uses from Boots and getting a few nicely wrapped up. At least it saves them a trip to the local shop.
    And men increasingly are taking care of themselves so this could work well too.

    As with all the posts on the site – they point to thoughtful on a personal level gifts.

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