For some of us, gift-giving can be a joyful way to share love with those around us. For others, it can start to feel stressful. Am I giving the right thing? Will they use it? Am I doing too much or too little? Giving gifts during the holiday season should be enjoyable and, most importantly, meaningful. Meaningful gifts can look different for everyone, but with a bit of brainstorming, they don’t have to be stressful, expensive, or time-consuming. We chatted with several members of the MUD\WTR team to get their best holiday shopping tips for choosing meaningful gifts.
1. Be Intentional
Ishell Winzer, Office Manager at MUD\WTR, says her strategy for choosing meaningful gifts involves being mindful.
“Take your time. Be intentional. Think about what that person would love to have and do some research," says Ishell. She explains that when you’ve planned ahead, it’s easier to shop than going to the store with a “blank canvas.”
Matthew Held, Director of Research and Development at MUD\WTR, takes a systematic and fail-proof approach to meaningful gift-giving. With his relatively large family, he says it’s easiest to make a spreadsheet. He’ll fill the spreadsheet with everyone’s names and “start filling in one or two gifts, budgeting, and making sure everything is fair and equitable.” Planning helps him brainstorm, start the process of shopping, and keep track of his plans.
Speaking of planning. Ishell adds that it can be helpful to think about potential gifting opportunities year-round.
“If I see a leather jacket in the summer that I know my brother would love to wear in the winter, I get it for him and wrap it up for Christmas," says Ishell. Spacing out holiday shopping throughout the year can help the process feel less overwhelming and make budgeting easier.
2. Set Expectations
Elizabeth Limbach, Director of Communications at MUD\WTR, shares that it’s helpful to be candid with friends and family about your hopes for the holidays. This especially comes in handy when people ask about her kids. Instead of telling friends and family that her kids will appreciate anything, she’s more honest about the things they love, and the things they don’t.
Ishell agrees that being open about the type of gifts you'll actually use is important. Early on in her marriage, she learned her husband’s love language is gift giving. Remembering this during the holidays helps her manage the stress that can come from finding a balance between giving and receiving.
“At the beginning of our relationship, it would stress me out to get tons of gifts from him," says Ishell. "Now during the holidays, I make a list for him.” She feels better knowing that both she and her husband get what they need out of the gift-giving experience.
3. Get Creative
There are many ways to make gift-giving meaningful and, most of the time, all it takes is a bit of creativity.
Matthew says that lately, he’s been enjoying making homemade gifts. He says that "last year was a bunch of bourbon caramel and cookies…I’ve tried whittling spoons, recording music, and making personalized gifts.”
In this way, Matthew says the whole process is more enjoyable. He gets to do something fun and creative, and the receiver gets something they know was made just for them. His advice? Find something you want to learn and turn it into a gift.
“It could be anything," says Matthew. "If you want to learn how to code, make a digital Christmas card. If you want to learn origami, make a bunch and give them to people on a string to decorate their tree.”
4. Buy Gifts That Are Usable
Everyone on the MUD\WTR team agrees that the best gifts are the ones people actually use. Elizabeth says that she loves gifting and receiving experiences. These gifts can be highly specialized and unique, “I’ve gifted botanic garden and art museum memberships to people, concert tickets, movie passes, wine-tasting passes, and more,” she shares.
For those who like the act of physically opening a present, the team recommends giving something that can be consumed. Matthew says in his own life, he feels like he has a lot of stuff, so he loves giving and receiving consumable gifts. Matthew loves giving food and meals, while Elizabeth often gifts bath bombs.
Before you purchase anything, spend a few extra minutes thinking about whether the receiver will really use the gift. Ishell says she always would rather give someone one gift they’d love than many they don't want and will never use.
Make Holidays Meaningful, Your Way
Ultimately, everyone has different expectations for both gift-giving and receiving. At the end of the day, you and your loved ones get to decide how to make the holiday season meaningful for you. So, take some time to reflect and make a plan that feels good for you. And while you're getting your plan together, sip on one of your favorite MUD\WTR drinks. What? We had to do it.
As a writer and teacher based out of the Washington, DC, metro area, Abby Grifno has had work featured in the Washington City Paper, Bethesda Magazine, and others.
Read More: 5 Ways to Slow Down During the Holidays