How to Give Practical & Meaningful Gifts

With the Holidays right around the corner, it felt important to me this year to re-evaluate how I give gifts. When I did my big purge of our stuff at the beginning of this year, I got rid of A TON of stuff. Stuff that was given to both Jake and myself that we neither wanted or needed. Particularly at Christmas.

I’m sure you can relate.

Over my last two years of blogging, I’ve shared a variety of gift guides for how to shop for the people in your life and sharing ideas of what to give them. But this year I’m changing it up!

This year, I want to help you get the people in your life PRACTICAL gifts. Things they actually want, need, or can use. Not just empty filler stuff that will go in a closet somewhere the next day never to be seen again.

So, here are my best tips for giving gifts people will WANT this year, and actually appreciate!

Tip 1: ASK THEM!

I feel like this is so simple but I have to say it. Some people don’t like to get people what they ask for because they think it ruins the surprise. But I’d much rather know I’m getting something I want than to get something I don’t want for the sake of being surprised.

Ask your friends and family to create wishlists and send them your way. You should also create your OWN wish list to give others. Amazon has this nifty feature that lets you have a universal wishlist on their site even for items from other retailers. You just need the extension and you can create a wishlist from any website and keep it all in one place! It’s super handy.

Tip 2: Set expectations

Let people know you want to get them something they really want and to think about a few opinions if they don’t already know. I feel like telling people this makes them take you more serious than they do when you just ask what they want this year.

You should also set your own expectations with them when you have this talk. Let them know you’re trying to cut down on things you don’t really want or need in your home and you’d like to help them do the same by only getting them something that will bring them value in some way.

I ask my family to please not get me any big gifts that aren’t on my list because I will most likely get rid of them if I don’t like/use it. Harsh, but it works. Since I’ve started setting this expectation I haven’t gotten anything I didn’t want so it actually does work.

Tip 3: Go for experiences

Do they love concerts? Travel? Do they love getting their nails done? A massage? My sister got Jake a Groupon for Axe Throwing this year for his birthday and he was PSYCHED. Since I know my dad doesn’t read my blog, I’ll share that I’m getting him and my step-mom a history puzzle subscription box so they can do date night every month because they both love those kinda things.

Groupon is a great place to find a way to gift experiences, and you can also get them a gift card to their favorite place if you know there’s somewhere they go often.

Side note: if there is something expensive you want to gift someone, see if someone else will split it with you. My sister and I do this ALL THE TIME. This year we’re getting our mom concert tickets that are a little pricey so it’s way better to split it. You can also gift them money TOWARDS things, like money toward a trip they’re planning, etc.

Tip 4: Hobbies

Think about what they enjoy doing and take note if they mention needing something for it. I know this can be tricky because some people are super picky about the brands/equipment they like to use. But if they make a wishlist, that can easily solve this issue 🙂

Jake’s mom and step-dad love gardening, so we’ve gotten them nice tools before. You can also give a gift card for a place you know they love to shop so they can pick it out for themselves.

Tip 5: Consumables

Get them something they can eat! This year, my brother-in-law is really big into tea so I’m going to make him a themed gift basket full of different teas, a mug, and a strainer. It won’t be very expensive and it will look like I put a lot of effort into it. Plus, he’ll actually use it!

Jake’s mom and grandma both make us all goodie bags every year and we love them because they’re full of things we can eat! Who doesn’t love food? Grandma’s Christmas cookies anyone?!

Coffee, popcorn, hot cocoa, tea, candy, cookies or your own assortment of healthy options are some theme ideas for you here. You can be really creative!

Tip 6: Get Personal

I love getting personalized gifts. I think they feel really thoughtful because someone spent the time to make it personal for you. I’ve given engraved/personalized picture frames, card holders, wallets, mugs, cups, you name it. Of course, try to get them something you know they actually would want or use. But this is a really nice way to put a special sentimental touch on an otherwise ordinary “useful” gift.

My family has a tradition that every year, we get each other at least one personalized Christmas ornament. My sister and I joke that it’s always more than one. I shared some of my favorites at the bottom of this post!

Check out Etsy, Things Remembered, and even Groupon for great personalized gifts.

Tip 7: Don’t be afraid of gift cards or cash!

These are things people DO APPRECIATE GETTING!! You can also give them along WITH other gifts to make it feel like more. But I’ve never met someone who didn’t appreciate getting either of these. Gift cards are a great option when someone is super picky but you know WHERE they like to shop. Jake’s younger brother always gives everyone Amazon gift cards and I’m 100% happy with it.

Bonus Tip: Wrapping non-traditional gifts

I know a lot of people want people to have things to open on Christmas and that’s why they get mounds of stuff. But there are two ways to make opening non-traditional gifts more enjoyable.

  1. Give them in a really nice card. Putting a gift card or some cash in a cash and writing a heartfelt/funny/sweet message in there makes it personal for them. You can also let them know your thoughts on what the card/cash can go toward if they want.
  2. Wrap the card in a box. Jake’s family does this and I think it’s hilarious. They wrap the card in a bigger box with either filler or a box in a box in a box sometimes just to give them something to open.
  3. Make them find it. Hide their card somewhere in the house and make them search for it. Much more fun than opening a box.

Bonus Tip: Always give gift receipts!!!

If you DO decide to get them something they didn’t ask for, always give a gift receipt. That way if they don’t like it, it won’t just sit in their closet collecting dust. They can exchange it for something they DO want. This way, your money is still well spent!


I hope these tips help you give a meaningful Christmas this year filled with love and treasured gifts! If you have any additional tips to share on this topic, please leave them below in the comments!!

I’m also sharing some of my favorite personalized ornaments from our family tradition that will hopefully inspire you to start your own tradition!

The ornament Jake used to propose to me. Read the story here
A wedding photo with our names and wedding date on the back
From my nephews
In memory of my sweet Lexi

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