How to buy a good gift

Advice to make sure the gifts you buy won’t be gathering dust by Boxing Day.

We’ve all been there: scratching our heads, making lists, scouring shops, browsing online for that perfect gift. Finding the right gift at the right price is one of the biggest challenges of Christmas.

Sadly, many of us fail despite good intentions. According to research by eBay, more than half the nation (54 per cent) has received at least one unwanted gift, with an average value of nearly $73, and nearly one million of us are expected to sell unwanted gifts online after Christmas Day.

Patsy Rowe, author of The Little Book Of Etiquette (New Holland), says presents can make or break a relationship. “Presents say, ‘I have thought about who you are and what you love, and here is something I think is you.’ When we get it wrong, it sends a message that we don’t care about the other person.”

eBay’s research shows that although many of last year’s worst Christmas gifts simply lacked sufficient thought, others were inappropriately sexual, tacky, cheap or just plain useless.

“Some of the most common unwanted gifts were curtains from Ikea, Christmas jumpers, business shirts, foot spas and aromatherapy diffusers,” says eBay’s Sandy Culkoff.

So much stress

Not only are unwanted gifts a waste of time and money, they also have negative health effects. “We give gifts because giving makes us feel good about ourselves,” says psychologist Dr Mary Casey, CEO of health organisation Casey Centre. “But if the gift-giver is feeling unsure about whether their gift will be liked or not, from a health perspective the event can be gut-wrenching. In the lead-up to giving the gift, feelings of uncertainty and other negative emotions can set in.”

Etiquette adviser Anna Musson, of The Good Manners Company, says choosing a present is an art. “Rather than dashing out in a mad rush, sit down with a list of names and invest a few minutes thinking about what you would like if you were your father, Aunty Sue or your niece.”

Showing love

Think about whether the person is sporty. Do they love books? Have they expressed a desire for adventure, but don’t have time to book something? Would they really use your gift? Would it offend or embarrass them?

Westfield gift expert Margaret Merten says a gift “should be something they secretly would love but probably wouldn’t splurge on themselves”.

If you’ve ticked all the boxes and are really doing it to show you care, then giving becomes a positive experience. “We get a buzz out of the other person’s reaction – whether it’s a smiling face or a hug,” Casey says. “It can make you feel worthier and improve your emotional state.”

This way gift-giving can be therapeutic both for the giver and the recipient. It can have a positive effect on a person’s mental, spiritual and physical health.

But what if you are facing the stress of buying for someone who has everything, or giving out of obligation? Donate to a good cause, Rowe says. You could save an elephant habitat in India or adopt a penguin.

“Not only is it a great and unusual gift for friends or loved ones, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving,” Rowe says. Even with the perfect present, the dilemmas aren’t quite done. Is it okay to re-use wrapping paper? Yes, says gifting guru Bianca Kristallis of Pamper Hamper Gifts. “There’s nothing wrong with recycling old packaging – just make sure the wrapping paper isn’t scrunched.”

Presentation is important, she says. “Slacking off at the last hurdle ruins the all-important first impression.”

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Zac Zacharia (Managing Director) has been assisting clients to create wealth and secure their futures for over 14 years.

He is also an accomplished presenter and educator

Co-authoring the popular investment book, Property vs Shares.