The Art of Shopping for Relatives

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How many of you would agree with this statement: I like to give people gifts, but figuring out the right gift is tough.  Every time a birthday, anniversary or Christmas comes around, I find myself scrambling to figure out which gift is best for each person.  The last thing I want to do is give a gift that ends up in the closet unused or still in the package next year.

Add relatives to the mix and picking the right gift just got even harder, or at least it does for me!  How do you buy something for your parents who have everything, or for your brother who has all the latest gadgets that are out of your price range anyways?  Here’s what I’ve learned about giving relatives good gifts that will be useful, fit their personality, and stay within your budget.

Study Their Facebook Pictures

Ok, ok, it’s a little stalker-esque, but you can learn a lot about what a person likes just from Facebook pictures.  It’s not that I don’t know my relatives, but I moved out of the house six years ago, so I don’t get to interact with my younger brothers and sisters that often in person.  Their Facebook pictures give you the insider’s look into what they like to wear, where they enjoy going, and what they like to do.

If my family was unsure of what to get me, they could see that my wife and I enjoy going to baseball games, that we have a dog and like to travel.  Just from those things, you can come up with an entire range of good gifts that won’t break your budget.

Wrap and Give the Essentials

Don’t tell my relatives, but we are doing something a little different this year for Christmas.  Instead of trying to find a $20 gift, we’re putting together a gift basket of essentials like razors, deodorant, soap, lotion, and toothbrushes.  Before you write this off as a lame idea, understand that my brothers and sisters are nearing college age, so the last thing they want to spend their own money on is bathroom essentials.  Plus, my wife is awesome at couponing, so we’ve built up a nice supply of the ‘good stuff’ at a discount of about 75%.  It’s no iPod, but at least it’s something affordable that they can put to use!

Gift Cards and Cold Hard Cash

I know some people who think gift cards are impersonal, but some people think it’s the best gift to receive.  I personally enjoy getting gift cards, especially gift cards to Amazon (hint, hint…).  Just be sure it’s a place where they will actually shop.

How many of you get a gift card each year to a place you never shop at?  Why did you end up with a gift card there? Probably because your relative likes the store and figured “everyone else must too.”  Don’t do the same thing to them :).  If you’re not sure what they like, stick with flexible gift cards like Amazon, Walmart, or my favorite Visa.

As for cold hard cash, try ditching the age-old trick of putting a $20 bill in a card.  Be original and stand out with something creative.  I remember one Christmas when my Dad took twenty-five one-dollar bills and twisted them into the shape of a tootsie roll.  Then, he simply wrapped up the bills in wrapping paper and twisted the ends together.  No one had any idea what it was and everyone had a good laugh when tootsie roll shaped dollars fell out of the gift.  Now that’s a memorable way to give cash!

How do you shop for your relatives?  Where do you get your inspiration?











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6 Comments
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  1. Great post Tim! I love the facebook idea. I agree, a little stalker-ish, but extremely relevant.

  2. While the giving of “bathroom essentials” seems like a good idea, it’s something to be careful with. I’ve gotten “gifts” like this before and they end up going to other people because I can’t use what I’ve been given due to sensitive skin.

  3. I love shopping for relatives

  4. Rebecca K

    I love the ideas for picking out a gift for someone, however, I don’t like to purchase gift cards. It’s not even that I think it is impersonal, I just know that I am a crazy coupon/deal shopper, and I can typically get someone a gift and spend less than I would on purchasing the gift card. For example, my husband thinks we should spend about $100 on a wedding gift. However, there are certain stores that have 20% or 30% off coupons regularly, so I get the $100 gift for $80, saving myself $20…. and making my husband happy because I got a gift worth $100 (and still saved him $$!). I also do this with family Christmas & birthday gifts (I hate it when they just ask us for gift cards… which sometimes does happen….).

  5. Don’t forget that family members with limited incomes might like the gift of essentials! A few months of cable or Netflix, help with the pharmcy bills while being the Medicare “donut”, trips to the hairdresser can be much appreciated!

  6. Yes, the use of Facebook for identifying what they want is really effective. Usually, we post the pictures that we really like. Like the mobile phone that we are desiring to have or any thing that you like. Giving is really a big help for many people especially for those who has limited income.

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