I detest gift cards. This week's blog prompt poses the question of how to make giving gifts personal. The first and foremost suggestion I have is not to give gift cards.
The challenge of giving a personal gift is knowing the recipient well enough to anticipate what he or she likes and wants and probably does not have. For instance, I love fur. I love to stroke it and sink my fingers into it. However, I love fur best when it's still on the animal. I have a moral objection to furs such as fox, mink, ermine, etc., because those animals aren't killed for anything but their fur. We don't use their flesh or bones. In the same way, I have no objection to leather, because we eat cattle, goats, pigs, and deer. Their bones are useful, too. In short, if we're going to use the whole animal, then let's use the whole animal, including its hide.
With that understanding, someone who knows me well would know that I like fur, but I don't have any and don't want any.
I also love jewelry, especially jewelry with colored gemstones. Someone else can have the diamonds; I especially like emeralds. And rubies, amethysts, aquamarines, pearls, peridot, lapis lazuli, etc. I'm a bracelet junkie, but I don't wear rings. Someone who knows me well, will know that I prefer bracelets over necklaces and dangling earrings over studs.
However, it's impossible to always know well the persons to whom we give gifts. That's where investigation comes in. What does he or she want? Ask. Ask spouses, siblings, parents, cousins, friends, etc. Sometimes they don't have good ideas either, or perhaps they're struggling--like I do--to think of a suitable gift for the person who pretty much has everything he or she wants. Like my husband. Like my parents.
That's when we segue from "stuff" to "experience." For instance, that recipient might appreciate tickets to a concert or play. My elder son loved his gift of driving a high-end sports car around a race track. These gifts don't sit unused and collect dust on a shelf, they build memories. I think they make wonderful gifts.
Sometimes a compromise between "stuff" and "experience" works well. I'm thinking of food. If your recipient is an cheese aficionado, then maybe a subscription to the Cheese of the Month Club is just what Santa ordered. You can find a subscription delivery service for practically anything, from flower bouquets to beers.
Of course, books make great gifts. If you look around, you're likely to find a holiday bazaar or craft show in your locale or some other type of event at which you'll find at least one local author selling his or her books. If you know your recipient reads within a certain genre, buy the book and get it autographed. It's always a kick to get a book signed by the author, even if that author is someone completely unknown by the world. And if you buy a book for yourself, too, no one will blame you.
Speaking as one of those authors, come to the Writer's Block Author Fair on December 14 at the Franklin Park Mall, Toledo, Ohio. I'll be there! Buy a book and I'll be happy to sign it.