10 Rules for Delightful Gift Giving

10 rules for delightful gift giving
You have picked out a present that will surely bring a smile brighter than the Hope Diamond.

Your loved one slowly unwraps the gift, feeling your excitement, savoring the moment, knowing this will be DELIGHTFUL.

They lift the lid of the box, and. . .


No excitement. No delight.

Instead there’s a flicker of disappointment and puzzlement as they gather their thoughts and figure out what to say, as they wonder what you could have possibly been thinking.


Having spent my life in search of gifts that play the heart strings like Itzhak Perlman plays the violin, and having made both tone deaf and perfectly pitched choices of my own, I can offer solid suggestions for helping you find just the right gift for that special person.


Following are my ten rules for delightful gift giving, along with some examples of ideas gone wrong and some fresh suggestions as well. 


1. Understand that what is important to you is not necessarily important to them.

Yes, this can be an especially painful revelation, and one that took me years to get. It’s like wishing someone would be as excited about Fiesta Tuna Salad for breakfast as I am. It just isn’t going to happen because I want it to.

For example, our large family does a Yankee Swap at Christmas. One year I created a custom photo book of our Fourth of July celebration, which took many hours to complete. Almost every single person present was also there for the Fourth, so I figured it was a safe enough bet. After all, it is rare that any of the other gifts appeal to all forty or fifty of us. My gift was the “last kid picked.” You know who got it? My blind uncle whose spouse is blind, too. Well then. . .


2. Meet your loved ones where they are

This can be tough, too. You may love economical and practical gifts, while someone else loves frivolous and faddish. Remember to look at the gift through their lens, not through your own. My admission here, I am embarrassed to say: When our girls were early elementary age, we gave them monogrammed soft-side luggage. Oh, yes. Go ahead and laugh. I still cringe.


3. Just because you love crafts doesn’t mean they’ll love your creation

When we are little, of course, this is true. Who among us doesn’t love macaroni necklaces or a bejeweled clay plaque? Be discerning, especially if you are creating decorative or clothing items.

A long time ago, we had our individual family portrait done as a gift for our siblings and parents. My husband—an accomplished craftsman—made gorgeous cherry frames for them. Years later, we discovered by accident that one of my brothers had—gasp!—painted the frame black. Black! We had failed to take into account his more modern, minimalist decorative style. Oops.


4. Make sure the gift is sized appropriately for the recipient.

This stands true for the home or the individual. I have sewn for decades, and folks tell me I do a beautiful job. However, tailoring clothing to fit is another matter completely.

One year I was so excited because I made a collared, buttoned shirt for my hubby and a lovely dress for my mother in law. While the clothes looked great on the hanger, neither fit at all. I didn’t and still don’t have the skills or patience to redo them. What was I thinking? Major gift fail. :-(

If a family lives in a small space, and shares suggestions for themselves or the kids for small things, believe them, and give accordingly. They will love you for it. We always did.


5. Be aware of the why that drives your giving

Are you dumping a truckload of money just for show, or are you squeaking as you spend because you hold onto those dollars so tightly? To paraphrase that old adage, it isn’t about what a gift costs, it’s truly about the thought behind it. Whether writing a letter of love from the heart or spending some of your earnings to buy your mom and dad a “thank you for being great parents” house, check your motives.


6. Be comfortable with your choices

If your inclination is to run for cover when your gift is being opened, it’s time to re-examine what you are doing. You may be out of sync due to one of the above reasons, or you may have stepped away from what is normal for your family. Perhaps you are pounding away at debt, or just  building more sound money management practices in your home. Talk to the rest of your loved ones. It may not be a comfortable conversation, but better to be preemptive than to spring it on folks the day of your gathering.

A few years ago we gave my mother-in-law a family portrait for Christmas because she had told us it was something she wanted. My daughter and I do a nice job with photography, and my family was going to handle it all: scheduling the gathering in the fall (her favorite time of year), dressed in khaki and light blues (her favorite color combination), and handling the shooting, editing, and printing. The rest of the family received certificates for individual family portraits and a large print of the whole family.

The gift was not, shall we say, an immediate hit, mostly because everyone is camera shy. I suspect we would have gotten the same response if we had asked everyone to pile into the car so we could go drive off a cliff. Should we have warned them beforehand? Even in retrospect, I think not. We knew this was likely, but also understood that when all was said and done, everyone would love having the pictures. And they do.


7. Look to their love language for clues

Do you know the love language of your family members? You can learn about them here and here. Understanding what makes everyone tick and what it takes to fill their tank will go a long way towards giving gifts that will be treasured. Think of it like this: If your car takes regular unleaded gas, and you fill it with diesel, it just isn’t going to be happy, and neither will you.


8. Listen closely year round

I know time is short, but think back to anything that irritates those hard to buy for folks, because that is your land of opportunity. Do they dislike any tools they own, whether for cooking or home maintenance? Are they delighted by anything they have borrowed? Is there an item that would make their lives simpler or more enjoyable by owning it, even as small as a good-quality potato peeler or bigger, like warm and fuzzy fleece sheets? (Those are a slice of heaven, by the way, if you live in a colder climate. Flannel cannot even compare.)

Think about giving experiences as opposed to more stuff, including visits to the old home town, meaningful events, or places they are not comfortable with traveling to by themselves.


9. Be a cheerful giver

This ought to go without saying, but when you give stingily, bitterly, haltingly, or selfishly, you are missing out on the true spirit and benefits of giving. In my mind, there is absolutely no benefit to either side unless it is done cheerfully and without reservation. Remember the admonition from 2 Corinthians 9:7: Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


10. Expect nothing in return

Giving is not an opportunity for quid pro quo. It is an opportunity to absolutely dance in your shoes, be tickled right down to your toes, because you are so excited and thrilled to be in a position to give, to delight, surprise, thank, celebrate, honor, help, or for just no reason at all other than because you enjoy being able to give for its own sake. As Leo Buscaglia said, “Only when we give joyfully, without hesitation or thought of gain, can we truly know what love means.”


There you have it. 10 pretty simple rules to turn you into a thoughtful and delightful giver.

It’s just really about paying attention, listening well, and putting the focus on others so you can strike the right note every time!


Looking for some ideas to help you get started? Check these out: Gifts from the Heart

Question: Do you have a story of triumph or tragedy about giving or receiving gifts? Time to share!


Sharing at NOBH, The Better Mom, Finding Heaven, PYHO

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up for updates and get my FREE ebook: Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy
Just imagine. . .Responding with gratitude rather than grumbling, and enjoying more happiness and contentment. And rest assured I won't share your address!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. This is a great post! My husband is a wonderful gift-giver and I just struggle sometimes. #3 hits home about crafting gifts – I have put a lot of love into a crocheted gift that has not been received well. And what a great reminder to evaluate what your motivation is in giving. Joy to you!
    Mikah recently posted…Common BlessingsMy Profile

    • Mikah, I feel your pain about your crocheted gift. :-( I hope your Christmas is very merry this year as you become a more delightful giver!

  2. This is possibly the wisest and best set of guidelines I’ve read about gift giving. You’ve reinforced some things I know and added new ones. Best of all, you’ve diagnosed why some of my gift-giving attempts have been such epic fails. Now I feel empowered and hopeful about this year’s attempts to share joy. I’m visiting from Be Not Weary, and I’m glad I did :)
    Lori recently posted…Does Your Past Disqualify You? A Lesson from the Peabody DucksMy Profile

    • Lori, you have left me almost speechless. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so glad to be of help to another who has had epic giving fails. :-) I’d love to have you check back and let me know how your giving was more cheerful and intentional!

  3. I echo Lori’s comment–these guidelines are so wise and helpful, Kim. Thank you!
    Jennifer recently posted…A Christmas tree, tangled lights, and a thermosMy Profile

  4. This is a wonderful post! I love your guidelines!
    JDaniel4’s Mom recently posted…Snack for Kids- Christmas Tree Themed BentoMy Profile

    • Why, thank you very much, JDaniel4’s Mom, and I appreciate the tweet share, too! Hope you found ideas to make your own as you plan your giving this year.

  5. What a great and fun list!!

    Oh there is nothing worse than working so hard something and it being like crickets when it is finally opened!!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, and wisdom!!
    Meredith recently posted…The courage to believe . . . to ASK!My Profile

    • Oh, those darn crickets. Gulp. I’ve heard too many in my day. . . You are most welcome, and thanks for jumping into the comments and adding a smile to my day, Meredith!

  6. oh, this is awesome. i need this reminder. . . for one person in particular. i am cringing already :-)
    i pray there will just be ONE Christmas before we both go meet the Lord in which there will be no awkwardness between us in our gift giving. . . where we will BOTH be better in our giving and receiving :-)
    great thoughts, Kim!!!
    HopeUnbroken recently posted…of plundering dark places togetherMy Profile

    • It’s funny how our posts take shape, isn’t it, Steph? While I began with an idea of helping, I didn’t realize until I got deep into the list how many cringe-worthy moments I had had in my life. Fortunately, I have many folks who practice grace in my life, so the cringing doesn’t last too long, although some of these moments are great fodder for jokes that I, too, can laugh at later. Live and learn!

      Yes-praying for that one Christmas as well for no awkwardness! Thanks for coming by, Steph! Always enjoy your smiling face. :-)

  7. Your first example made me chuckle…it is so true…I’m realizing more and more that to buy, pick, or make the best gift, it really requires I know what floats that person’s boat because ultimately it is about them, and not about me…Thanks, Kim :)
    Dolly recently posted…Alphabet of Thanks Series: Whom does Jesus call "D"aughter?My Profile

    • Glad to provide a laugh today, Dolly, and glad I can laugh about it myself. I like your description of gift choosing: what floats their boat. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This is excellent advice! I hope its ok if I link it to my Gift GIving post today? Also, I need your email address so I can send you those 365 quotes!!
    hilljean recently posted…HillJean’s Holiday Handbook: Gift GivingMy Profile

    • I’d be delighted to have you link it to your post. I’m glad yours is linked here so folks can mosey on over and see your great suggestions. You can send those quotes to kim at toodarnhappy dot com, thanks so much!! Thanks so much for dropping by, Hillary!

  9. I have a hard time coming up with good gifts for my husband, He’s really hard to shop for, so I am using your list and planning to do some more thinking.

    Over the last year, we have developed a good group of friends – I’m at a place where I am willing to ask our friends not to exchange gifts. Better to keep it about being together, don’t you think?

    Anyway, thanks for your list. I agree with the others. You are very wise.

    • Aww, you make me blush Heather! I’m hope you are able to come up with an idea that just suits him to a tee! I agree on the friends discussion. It can be hard, depending on where everyone is, but I think it’s important to chat about it. I hope it goes very well for you!

  10. Very helpful, Kim. You’ve given me a lot of suggestions I’m going to use, my friend!

  11. Great tips I will need to remember that not everyone has the same love as I do for homemade or organic :)
    brittney recently posted…Christmas cheer…My Profile

    • Yes! And hopefully folks buying for you WILL remember and pay attention to your love of homemade and organic! (You can leave this post up on their computer, or share it on their FB page. :-)) While I didn’t talk about being a cheerful receiver, it is important, too. That being said, I am always so excited when someone actually listened to me and paid attention to what was important to me. Thanks for sharing, Brittney!

  12. great post! thanks for perspective.

  13. This should be one of those pop up that comes on as soon as you log onto a shopping website and should be posted on the doors to all of the stores. There were things in here that you touched on for me as a receiver and made me open my eyes to when I give too!
    Thanks for making the shopping a bit easier and a whole lot less stressful!
    Kristen recently posted…A Love of ReadingMy Profile

    • Ha ha! The image that creates is priceless, Kristen. Thanks for the laugh and your sweet words. I just noted to Brittney above about being a receiver. If I LOVE it when they pay really listen to me, then won’t they love it just as much when I listen to them?…
      Glad to have helped ease your stress this Christmas!

  14. Great tips! I have really been trying to do #8 this year, so that I avoid the pressure of last-minute shopping (which seems to produce a lot of gifting fails for me!) I am going to try to relax and have fun this year!
    Kim recently posted…He’s a Giver, AmericaMy Profile

  15. Hmmm, rushing makes for fails… I agree, Kim! Nothing like last minute to make choices that are less than what we had hoped for. I hope your listening this past year yields wonderful fruit of happy giving and time to spend on what’s really important to you! Thanks for flying on over!

  16. There are certain people I hate getting gifts for- even if it seems like the perfect thing, they don’t give any reaction and it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have bothered. If I didn’t get them anything, they’d be vocal about that. It’s hard to want to give to them, especially with a very limited budget in the first place.

    One year, my mil gave me a key-finder(not my only gift, for the record). It was actually a nice thought- I am forever misplacing my keys. But, to find your keys, you have to whistle- something I cannot now and never have been able to do! LOL
    Shell recently posted…The Last Year of Magic: Pour Your Heart OutMy Profile

    • Sounds like you’ve got some hard to please folks. My sympathies! Perhaps a “10 Rules to be an Delightful Receiver” are in order. :-)
      I love the story of your key-finder. How funny it required whistling, which you can’t do. Ah, it’s about all the little things. Thanks for the LOL, Shell!

  17. Thank you so much for your wisdom in this list. I really enjoyed the reminder about looking through the lens of the receiver. My three year old is going to be getting a mix of the things he wants and toys I want to enjoy with him. Everyone wins that way! I really want to gift my MIL a laptop because her old one is on the frtiz and she’s been so generous to us this past year. But she’s asked for tools. Sigh… I guess a trip to Home Depot will be in my future. I’m stopping by today from PHYO.
    NJ recently posted…Things I Can’t Say- Random EditionMy Profile

    • Toys to enjoy with your three year old-that certainly is a win! There are so many fun choices to be had in that area! Your heart is certainly in the right place for your MIL. I have no doubt she will be over the moon delighted with the tools you give her! My MIL doesn’t own or want a computer at all, and doesn’t understand why folks even need or want one… Thanks for popping on over from Shell’s!

  18. Great tips Kim! Now that my children are older most of the time I ask for them to tell me if there are some things they need/want since two don’t live at home any more. That helps tremendously.

  19. What a fantastic post. Great tips. Such useful truths. I know what you mean about the recipient not loving the handcrafted thing so much. I make cards sometimes, and some in my family just love them. But I think some actually think I am trying to save money by making my own cards (which is not why I do it, and as anyone who makes such things knows, the supplies and tools are not inexpensive!) They meant no harm–we are just on different wavelengths. But now I’m used to that, and tailor my gifts more carefully! So glad I found your great blog. New follower.
    Pam recently posted…Joy BlocksMy Profile

    • Thanks Pam! We love homemade cards and know how much work and expense they take. Glad you are saving them for those who appreciate them, and thanks for following!

  20. These are great tips, Kim! Thanks!
    adrienne recently posted…I have a secret fort.My Profile

  21. Great tips! I especially like #8. I always try to make a mental note when someone tells me about something they wish they had or something they need to replace, even if it’s in the middle of March! :) Happy Sharefest!
    Mommy’s Always Write recently posted…I Won the Lottery!My Profile

  22. Thanks, and it sounds like you are on top of things already! Making that note is a huge help, especially when you get to surprise that special someone. They are so delighted that you remembered! I imagine you are a delightful gift giver already! Thanks for stopping by from SITS.

  23. Fabulous rules, Kim.

    My general principles for gift giving are: be thoughtful, be sincere, be generous (in spirit).
    Alison recently posted…Being The BabyMy Profile

  24. I love these suggestions, KIm! Especially that we need to meet the recipients in their own space. I have learned this with my kids over the years. and that when I give the “right” gift, less becomes “More.”
    ilene recently posted…Got Energy? {Product Review}My Profile

    • Just love your wisdom and how you pay such close attention to what makes your kids tick, Ilene. I hope your comment inspires other parents to really be intentional when giving to their children!

  25. Oh my, I loved your examples and I could relate!
    Thanks for the reminders….especially about their language of love!
    Lisa recently posted…New Year’s Resolutions…yep, right around the cornerMy Profile

  26. Ooh, these are positively helpful ideas – and spot on with the “love language listening”. I find that more often than not, I’ve confused what I’d want to get with what they would. Or assumed too much. And you know what they say about that! 😉

    (I see this post is from last year, but it is a fantastic one!)
    Missy recently posted…The Iris of My EyeMy Profile

  27. I am so with you on this. I’m a gift-giver. It’s my favorite thing to do, but sometimes the receiver isn’t quite so thrilled. And that sucks. But I guess its good to prepare in advance and not expect anything–not even a huge reaction in return.
    Hillary recently posted…25 Family Activities For DecemberDec 02ndMy Profile

  28. Very nice post. I absolutely appreciate this site.
    Tiffiny recently posted…TiffinyMy Profile


  1. […] I’ve listed the basics below, but I elaborate a bit further on each at the original post: […]

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge