4 Ways to Give Truly Meaningful Gifts, According to Science

Buying someone you love a gift that expresses your truest feelings isn’t always easy. But when you get it right, the joy they show is worth it. Here’s how to discover a gift your recipient will love.

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The science of giving meaningful gifts
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The science of giving meaningful gifts

Nothing can put a dent in your gift-giving spirit faster than spending hours in long lines at the store or scanning websites trying to find the perfect present, only to later hand it out to the recipient and have them look mildly engaged. But what if there was an art to picking out a gift that had more to do with the person’s soul instead of a hefty price tag? Consider these strategies.

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Female running shoes
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1. Listen up

While you may think it’s a great idea to surprise someone on your list by giving them something you think is a meaningful gift, it’s best just to get them exactly what they have told you. For instance, weeks before the holidays, you heard them say they wanted the new Fitbit because they wanted to get in shape. But that seemed boring and predictable to you, so instead you bought them a gym membership. Well…that was the wrong move, says a 2011 study published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The researchers found that that gift recipients are more appreciative of gifts they ask for than those they do not. So forget about what you think they want and get them what they’ve specifically asked for.

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Flat-screen TV
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2. Size doesn’t matter

Still, the hardest part of this process is trying to show what you feel through your gift selection because as we know, actions speak louder than words. In the spirit of showing love, we might go big instead of thinking of what really makes the person happy. You might think buying your hubby the latest TV is perfect, but then when you get it home, it lights up the living room like a stadium and is totally wrong for the space. Instead, think smart and practical. For example, if he’s a movie buff, get him a year’s subscription to a streaming site and a selection of popcorn toppings!

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Canadian currency
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3. Keep it open

Many of us may consider giving cash or gift cards impersonal, but this may save you some angst by allowing the receiver to choose what they want, especially when it comes to picky tweens and teens. In a recent poll of over 7,000 Black Friday shoppers, 39 per cent said the recipient they were shopping for was “picky.” So save yourself the second guess and give a gift card to a favourite store.

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Audience at rock concert
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4. Create an experience

When all else fails, create a memorable moment! Log on to websites such as Groupon where you can nab the latest tickets for a play, purchase a surf lesson package, or even something unexpected like a flight lesson. These are things that can be experienced together as well as create a lasting memory. For example, if your guy is into NASCAR, just imagine the look on his face when you score him a ride at a race car driving school. That is something that won’t end up at the bottom of his sock drawer!

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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