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How to Be a Better Gift Giver Well Beyond the Holidays

Wow people with some thought — and a little more heart

gift giving advice

It seems like some people just have a knack for giving awesome gifts. They know what recipients want, or they know how to read them well enough to figure out what they might like. If you’re a gifting pro, you probably live for holidays, birthdays and other major life events because you know the best ways to wow people.


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On the other hand, many of us might struggle with gifting and that’s OK. The good news — the process doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. With some helpful tips from psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, you can strengthen your gifting game and learn how to be more mindful about what you give.

Ways we express love

If you’re married, dating or single, you’ve most likely heard of “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.” In this best-selling book, Dr. Gary Chapman, PhD, shares what he believes is the secret to strong relationships —that they grow much better when we understand one another.

Dr. Albers says that if you’re kind of clueless when it comes to gifting, a person’s love language can help you find something that they’ll appreciate — and you might not even have to spend a cent.

Gift ideas based on the love languages

According to Dr. Albers, “The 5 Love Languages” basically, summarizes how we like to give and receive love.

They include:

  • Words of affirmation: Compliments, romantic sentiments, words of appreciation or acknowledgment, or even texts or social media exchanges fall under this love language.
  • Quality time: This involves spending time together and giving each other your full attention.
  • Acts of service: These are actions that make a person’s life easier — running errands, taking on a stressful task or even grabbing coffee for them during a hectic time.
  • Receiving gifts: This is pretty straightforward. Gifts or visual representations of love work for this love language.
  • Physical touch: Those who are receptive to physical touch will enjoy displays of affection, like touching, kissing, cuddling or hugging.

“If you can identify what someone’s love language is, you can match your gift giving to them. Before you go shopping, take a moment to pause and ask yourself, ‘What is my friend’s, relative’s or significant other’s love language?’ If you don’t know, think back to a time when you did something that really pleased them or you gave them a gift or did an action that just made them light up. Thinking about that might give you a better idea about what to give,” explains Dr. Albers.

Still struggling to understand how the five love languages line up with gift-giving? Here are some hints.

  • For words of affirmation, gift an affirmation jar filled with loving notes that the recipient can read during a tough day or have a custom journal, stationery or a word art picture made for them.
  • For quality time, you can actually gift your time or something that will allow you to create new memories in a safe manner. This could be a gift card for a vacation rental or a voucher for a virtual game night.
  • For acts of service, gift a subscription for a meal prep service, an oil change or you can get creative and create a coupon book of tasks that your loved one can get help with.
  • For receiving gifts, the sky really is the limit with this language. But you don’t have to spend a ton of money. Go for gifts that speak to the recipient’s personality, whether they’re store-bought or homemade.
  • For physical touch, six feet apart is still the best way to go, but you can still find or make gifts that speak to physical touch. Send a heated/weighted blanket or something that encourage self-care like body scrubs, lotions or gift cards for wellness services like massages or acupuncture.


Remember, you don’t have to “go big”

Don’t feel like extravagant gifts are the only way to someone’s heart. Sometimes a beautiful, handwritten note, a delicious goodie basket or a simple act of kindness can speak volumes. That’s why Dr. Albers recommends taking mindful and heartfelt approaches to buying gifts — especially right now.

“Really thinking about the five love languages is very important right now because many people are struggling financially,” she explains. “Giving tangible gifts can be really tough so it’s important to think outside of the box. Remember, what you give doesn’t have to be an actual physical gift. Your gift could be some wonderful words of appreciation or it can be a kind act.

“What I think many of us have truly learned during the pandemic is that reaching out to other people, and connecting with them, is really meaningful — and we appreciate it.”


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