• MoneyMinds
  • Posts
  • Unpacking gifting: 5 ways to give better gifts to your loved ones

Unpacking gifting: 5 ways to give better gifts to your loved ones

Spending money on other people makes us happier!

Spending money on other people makes us happier than buying things for ourselves. Yet we often get it wrong when we try to find the right gift for others. Here’s how you can get it right.

The most wonderful time of the year is here!

The festive (and gifting) season is around the corner!

And because science has proven that giving to others makes us happier, it will truly be the most wonderful time of the year.

There’s one shadow looming, however.

This study reports that eight out of ten people seem to be anxious about finding the right gift for their loved ones.

Let’s see if we can remedy that today.

5 ways to give better gifts

1. Give experiences over objects

We already spoke about it last week, but giving experiences works!

In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, participants were given $15 to buy a friend either an experiential or a material gift. In addition, the recipients were asked to rate the strength of their relationship with the giver before and after receiving the present.

The results? Those that received an experience rated their friendships higher!

According to one of the study’s co-authors, Cassie Mogilner Holmes: “Experiential gifts evoke greater emotion than material ones and it’s that emotional intensity that makes us feel more connected to the giver,”.

She continues: “If you’ve given me the gift of dinner at a restaurant or a museum membership or concert tickets, I associate the emotions I feel when I eat the meal, see the painting or listen to the music with you. You’re in my head, whether you’re physically with me or not.

2. If you buy stuff, tie it to an experience

There’s nothing wrong with gifting objects, of course!

I’ve received a beautiful new suitcase in the past (thanks Ale!), which I enjoy every day on my trip through Mexico.

Science does tell us that tying the object to an experience greatly amplifies the perceived value of the gift.

I’m not loving the suitcase just as an object, but because it allows me to travel and see the world more conveniently.

In another experiment, Holmes and Cindy Chan at the University of Toronto had participants gift coffee mugs to their friends.

There were two different designs: one that said “My Coffee Mug” and one that said “My Coffee Time”.

The cups that emphasised the experience of drinking coffee, rather than just the object, were better received!

You can apply this principle to almost any gift.

A new TV becomes about “watching our favourite show together”, a bottle of wine about “great dinners together”, et cetera.

3. Give people what they want

We might surprise the receiver with an unexpected gift when coming up with gift ideas. We think this is more thoughtful than simply giving people what they asked for.

Yet, a study by the Southern Methodist University/University of Texas at Austin found that friends were happiest when they got gifts they asked for rather than alternatives.

Children are a lot happier on their birthdays than adults. One of the reasons for this might be that children actually get asked, throughout the year, what they’d like to get.

So don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones what they would like to receive!

Do it tactfully, however. Phrase your question in a way that shows you’re interested in the to-be receiver.

“’Is there anything you’re really loving right now?’ is going to generate better ideas than ‘What should I buy you?’”, according to Laura Jennings, the founder of the gifting site Knack.

Want to give me a gift? Can you think of three people who might want to read this newsletter and forward it to them? Thanks 🥰

4. It’s time to give the gift of time

Norton and four other researchers came up with more fascinating insights in 2017. For example, they found that: “People feel happier when they spend money on time-saving services (like housecleaning or grocery delivery) than on material items such as clothes and wine.

Yet people don’t usually spend as easily on this category because they feel like they should be able to do these tasks themselves.

Buying a month of weekly house cleaning for your co-worker might send the wrong message, but you get the point here.

It will surely be appreciated if you can find a way to gift time.

5. Presentation matters

Remember when you received a beautifully wrapped gift that you couldn’t help but savour every moment of unwrapping it?

Slowly removing the ribbon, gently pulling the paper, and waiting a little moment before revealing the contents?

The wrapping and how the gift is presented are part of the experience of receiving a gift.

Even the most simple gift can be made more remarkable by wrapping it in excellent paper or by adding a lovely hand-written note.

Extra points if you add cute stickers like my grandma always does.


One of my favourite tips when it comes to gifting is this one:

It’s better to give an expensive gift in a low-price category than a cheap gift in a high-price category.

Let me illustrate that with an example.

A bouquet of flowers might cost €10 on average.

A new pair of running shoes will probably cost at least €80.

Now, what do you think is nicer to receive?

A €50 bouquet of flowers (probably one of the highest quality bouquets), or a €50 pair of running shoes (that probably aren’t that comfortable)?

You, as the giver, will have spent €50 in both cases. But I guarantee you that the receiver will be much happier with the flowers!

If they like flowers, that is. But you get the point:

Buying a higher quality gift of a lower price category product/experience will be better than doing it the other way around.

I love using Reddit for this; the subreddit ‘Buy It For Life’ (r/BuyItForLife) is filled with great tips and good deals for high-quality products.

Why it matters

According to the site Nerdwallet, Americans are planning to “spend $823, on average, for a total of more than $178 billion in gift spending” in 2022.

I couldn’t find the figures for Europe, but it’s clear that the festive season represents a large part of our spending. December is an expensive month.

While giving is excellent and makes us happier, we shouldn’t waste money on gifts that aren’t wanted by the recipient!

After today’s newsletter, you’re fully prepared to ace giving this year.

Happy gifting 😉

And, don’t forget:

If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence

Thich Nhat Hanh