It is almost a fact of life: men have extreme difficulty buying gifts for women. A lack of interest in extended shopping trips combined with women who are notoriously hard to impress can make for some difficult decisions for men when it comes to birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries and other special events. There are women in every man’s life: wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, girlfriends and friends, and even after years of buying gifts for them, many men find the process of finding the right present for their loved one to be something akin to rocket science. There is a careful line between practicality and sentimentality that must be tread, and there is only so far a traditional box of chocolates or bubble bath set will get a man. This easy-to-follow guide offers some helpful hints and tips for any man looking to treat the lady in his life, and lists some thoughtful and unique gift ideas that will truly epitomise how much they care.
Many men consider women to be mysterious and intriguing creatures, and have no idea how their minds work, so the first step in finding the perfect gift can be the most difficult of them all. It is important for a man to identify a woman’s interests before he even thinks of buying her a gift. This reduces the risk of fatal gift-giving mistakes, such as buying a box of milky chocolates for a woman who is lactose intolerant, or offering a sky diving session as a gift for a woman who is deathly afraid of heights. Men should find out about hobbies, interests, likes and dislikes before they even start searching for a gift. It sounds simple in theory, but in practice, it can be difficult to ask the right sorts of questions without arousing too much suspicion and making it obvious that they are carrying out a gift-related inquisition. Enlisting the help of a friend or other family member can greatly assist men in this department; men should perhaps recruit someone close to the gift recipient to do some covert digging around to establish what they’re interested in, and what kind of gift would be suitable.
In other situations, a little observation can go a long way. If a man spends a lot of time around a woman, it can be simple to pinpoint gift ideas in everyday life; a husband can easily spot whether his wife’s favourite cashmere jumper is becoming a little threadbare. Attending a family function or party could be a perfect opportunity to establish what state a sister’s digital camera is in, and whether she could do with a replacement. Keeping an eye on a daughter’s television-watching habits can result in handfuls of ideas about who their idols are, what films they enjoy and what music they’re currently listening to.
Of course, there are other considerations that should be made other than interests or necessities; age also plays a part. A young woman with an interest in fashion might appreciate a new pair of six-inch killer heels, but an older woman might see more use for a year’s subscription to her favourite fashion magazine, or tickets to a high-end fashion show. A woman who loved the music of the 1960s might be less enamoured with a collection of CDs of tracks from the present day, whereas a gift card for an online music retailer might be perfect for a tech-savvy young woman.
Taking the age consideration into account, and armed with a brief knowledge of interests and hobbies, the man searching for the ideal gift for a special woman can begin his mission. In finding a truly special gift, it can often be an issue of thinking outside of the box. If a young woman loves music and the idea of being a pop star, don’t just buy her a ticket to see her favourite artist; hire a recording studio for her to record her own song and have a shot at fame. Many studios offer sessions by the hour or by the day. For a sister or friend who takes a keen interest in keeping fit, don’t just replace her old trainers, why not send her on an adventure weekend, complete with spa facilities to help her unwind afterwards? If a close work colleague has a passion for tennis, don’t just buy her a racket or a lesson, buy her a ticket for a local tournament, or even, budget permitting, the Australian Open! When men are first struck by a gift idea, they tend to simply act on it straight away, but a little extra thought can really go a long way in the quest for the perfect, unique and memorable gift for a loved one.
Another aspect to bear in mind is that many women have a fiercely sentimental streak. Generic gifts such as flowers and teddy bears are all well and good, but a truly individual gift which is personal to them will get a far better reception than a cuddly toy with an impersonal ‘I Love You’ message. Photo frames or collages full of memorable pictures make wonderful gifts for women and can demonstrate a real sense of time and effort being put into the process, from the printing process to the assembling of the collage. Nowadays there are electronic photo frames which accept SD memory cards; for a gift that will really impress, fill up a memory card with hundreds of their favourite pictures and attach it to a digital photo frame. Rather than a static photo, the frame changes every few minutes to show a different happy memory every time.
Of course, there are a few areas which should be fiercely avoided when men are buying gifts for women. Unless a man is fully versed in the language of women’s clothing, understands his loved one’s style and knows all of her clothes sizes, a man should never attempt to buy a woman clothes singlehandedly. Buying clothes a few sizes too big or too small can result in serious offence, and will go down as a memorable gift for all the wrong reasons. Even relatively failsafe garments such as scarves can have a downside, and no man, upon just giving his wife, daughter, sister or friend what he presumes is a thoughtful gift, wants to hear the woman in his life utter those immortal words: “Did you keep the receipt?” Another tip to bear in mind is that sales assistants in many women’s clothes shops are just that: sales assistants. They don’t know the woman you are buying for, and will often tell any man who is out of his depth exactly what he wants to hear just to make a sale.
Jewellery is also a tricky area for the boyfriends and unmarried men of the world. It’s true that diamonds really are a girl’s best friend, and a woman loves nothing more than being presented with jewellery on her birthday or at Christmas, but the silent implications of rings in particular can send very mixed messages and result in uncomfortable moments when they’re opened. Only give a ring if you’re sure of what it represents! That said, the safer options such as necklaces, earrings and bracelets make great gifts, and many men choose to personalise these gifts even further by opting to integrate birthstones or add special engravings.
On the subject of personalisation, there are many generic gifts which can be transformed from ordinary to extra special with a little personalisation. A jewellery box may seem like a pretty standard gift for a woman, but opting for something relevant and personal to the woman in question can make it a much more striking gift. A woman who grew up with a love of ballet or dance might love a trinket box which, when opened, shows a traditional spinning dancer, complete with tutu and twinkly music. Alternatively, many companies offer the opportunity to customise the music which plays upon opening the box. This could be a favourite song, a piece of music that they particularly love, or the music from a ‘first dance’ song; presents that invoke the memories of a wedding make for fantastic for anniversary gifts. Personalisation in this way is a sure-fire way to make a gift truly unique. Luxury leather purses embroidered with the recipient’s name, an engraved champagne flute or even a food hamper with all of her favourite sweet goodies reveal thoughtfulness and earn serious brownie points with loved ones.
These tips barely scratch the surface of the multitude of gift options out there for women. The key is to think outside of the box and really get to know the woman in question, taking age, interests and personal observations into account. No man wants to be labelled boring and unoriginal, but following this handy advice and using a little bit of creativity can ensure that a man gets a reputation as a thoughtful and considerate gift-giver. The process may seem long and arduous, but the feeling of seeing a loved one’s face light up on receiving the perfect present is always worth it.