Giving the perfect gift

Hello, ladies and gentlemen. The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes thoughts of gift buying. The holidays are supposed to be a relaxing time of the year, but often it can be the most stressful. This is especially true if you are casually dating, are in a new relationship or are on the way down the aisle.

The problem is that different stages in a relationship require various levels of gift giving. You wouldn’t buy a person you are casually dating the same kind of gift that you would purchase for a person you had been with for two years. At least, I hope not.

What is the perfect gift? At what point in the relationship do you give a certain gift? Are some gifts considered too personal? I have been asked these questions a lot lately. My answers: I don’t believe there is a perfect gift; the gift depends on how involved you are with the individual; and what is considered personal varies from person to person. So chances are, you will only find out whether it was appropriate after you have given the gift.

There are three things you need to know when giving a gift. First, know that you are never required to give anyone a gift. Gift giving is a gesture that should come from the heart — not out of obligation. Second, you have to know exactly what your relationship is. Are you dating casually or is it more serious? Third, don’t worry about timetables, because they are different for everyone. Dating a person three months may be casual for you. For someone else, it may be considered a serious relationship.

I do know that there are two gifts that a person should never buy. According to my mom, a woman should never buy a man a watch or a pair of shoes. If you buy a watch, it sets up expectations of time. Either you are looking for the relationship to end, or you are looking for a long-term commitment. The significance of the shoes is that he will either walk all over you or walk out on you. These may be considered old wives tales, but I have seen them in action, and I believe in them.

To help you do your shopping this year, I have compiled a short list of items for three distinct relationship categories: casual dating, under three months; sort of serious, three to six months; and a serious relationship, which goes beyond six months.

The casual dating period is a get-to-know-you time, so gifts should range between $15 – $25. Gifts in this category would include cards, books, CDs, movies/videos, gift certificates or stuffed animals. These are all very non-threatening types of gifts. You definitely do not want to buy anything personal.

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For those of you who are sort of serious, I would move into the $25-$40 range. You have known the person for a while now, so think about things they have mentioned. I wouldn’t go too personal. Let’s try things like cologne, small things for the apartment or dorm room, clothes or small jewelry.

In a serious relationship, the sky is the limit. This is the level when people spend money they don’t have. During the holiday season, rings are the most popular gift. You can buy tools, accessories for cars and homes, lingerie, DVDs and other electronics.

The prices given and the time lines I have drawn are not set in stone. You must decide how much is too little or too much.

The important part of giving is not how much you spend, but how much thought you put into the gift. The important part of receiving is not in the expense of the gift, but being thankful that the person thought of you at all.

`Til next week be safe.