How to Buy a Christmas Gift for Someone You Don’t Know


credit: Jocelyn Kinghorn

It’s a burden we all have to bear come Christmastime. A lot of us are afraid of giving gifts to people we don’t know all that well, and more often than not it’s because of the relationships we think we’ll jeopardise or the false impressions we’re worried we’ll give. No, buying the right gift is not easy, but there are some things we can take into consideration in order to stave off that potential awkwardness.

Forget expense for expense’s sake

It doesn’t matter if someone is barely an acquaintance or a soul mate, a common mistake of gift buying is the old ‘I’m not sure it’s relevant but it looks expensive’ chestnut. Too many times a purchaser will pick up, say, a pair of oven gloves marked down by 30% just because they’re marked down by 30%. And the recipient doesn’t even enjoy cooking. The same goes for alcohol – what might seem like a harmless purchase of a bottle of Shiraz is actually the recipient’s pet hate. Or, perhaps worse, they’re allergic to alcohol.

A simple solution might be to receive a tip from a partner or a friend of theirs, even if it’s just to point out that their wardrobe is already bursting with unwanted scarves. With the aim of buying something for your child’s teacher for instance, a quick phone call with the headmaster would go a long way in aiding your decision.

Establish a need

Another favourite is buying something someone doesn’t need. Sure, Susan’s wristwatch is showing its age, but does she really need a replacement? Perhaps it’s a century-old heirloom she’d rather hang onto, or was a gift from her husband that she cannot be seen without. Maybe it’s more apt that, as you know Susan works long hours in the city, an hour-long massage is what’s required.

One size doesn’t fit everyone

Try to avoid purchasing clothes. Yes, someone might be a businessman who attends lots of meetings and needs to look smart, but is there a chance he already has an uncountable number of shoes? Even if that’s not the case, what are the chances you’ll find the right size? Even including the receipt with the gift could cause a problem if they turn up to the store only to find the item is long out of stock.

Instead of clothes, gift cards for a department store might be the best way forward. Just make sure the shop from which you buy the gift cards has a branch located close to the recipient, and that it possesses a wide selection of items to ensure he or she doesn’t leave empty handed.

One for all and all for one

If you’re buying for a parent then you can, if you’ll pardon the expression, kill many birds with the same stone. A weekend getaway is not something they’re likely to forget, and theatre tickets could help a family share their appreciation for the stage, but even if it’s as simple as a chocolate making set or a board game, it’s something that can be enjoyed by the family together.

Along a similar vein, buying a group gift such as an evening at a cocktail bar for a colleague will not only benefit them socially, but is likely to earn yourself an invitation to the event as well. Remember, it’s not the value of the gift that counts; it’s what the gift means and the potential it has to create a meaningful moment for your recipient.

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