September, for me, is the beginning of gift-giving season and it doesn’t end until January. First, it’s birthdays (both parents, close friends, etc.), then it’s the holidays. I’m inept when it comes to giving gifts — I don’t know what’s appropriate or how to present it. But that excuse doesn’t work anymore. We’re supposed to be adults now. So let’s class it up together and make the people in our lives feel special.
First and foremost, always send cards because they’re expected (I’ve faced many a mean guilt trip for forgetting).
Think about your relationship with the person receiving the gift.
A handmade card with flowers will probably make Mom happy. If you can, take her out to dinner or cook for her. If you really want to make her heart swoon, get her a little something as well. A small piece of jewelry will usually do (broaches aren’t too expensive).
Dad is tricky. He usually has whatever it is that you’d buy him already and whatever he wants is too expensive (my dad wants a 1982 Delorean). In my experience, he’s like a little kid when I give him clothing and that sullen look of disappointment is what I’m trying to avoid. While he’s usually more accepting of gift cards it’s better to pick something out for him. Think about his hobbies and get an accessory to go with it and, if you can, take him out to dinner too — he likes to be pampered just as much as Mom does.
There are levels of gift-giving when it comes to friends and lovers. For an acquaintance, co-worker or someone you’ve recently started to date it’s usually appropriate to give a card or buy them a beer. For closer friends or someone you’ve been seeing for a couple of months, a handmade card and a bottle of Jameson, unopened and unwrapped should do it. Really close friends and serious relationships deserve pampering on a similar level to your parents. Get them a gift (event tickets are a good option, or something handmade), wrap it properly (I’ve recently found that wrapping the gift with one ribbon around it looks swanky and is much appreciated) and hang out with them that night.
People just want to feel loved, and while that can include a bottle of alcohol, joke gift and/or birthday sex, it doesn’t cut it to say it over the Internet. We’re adults now. Let’s be sincere in our convictions and say “I love you” with money.