I’m not a big gift guy. But I need to be. Gift-giving is truly an art form. In a social context, it communicates care. In a business context, it can pull levers better than any ad campaign or sales pitch ever could.
Gifts are magic. John Ruhlin is a guy whose entire career and business are about gift-giving. In college, he budgeted $500/month just for gifts. As a college student, this is a huge amount. Maybe not in a few years once inflation buries the dollar, but for now it is.
However, giving gifts to the wealthy is not like giving gifts to your friends. Unless y’all are already wealthy, of course.
It’s not about the amount of money spent. That’s an unsophisticated way to think about gifts.
It is DEFINITELY about quality though (and to be fair, price very often correlates with quality).
However, beyond the raw measure of cost, there are two ways to give gifts that have nothing to do with price tag.
- Care & Personalization
You don’t need money to have these two. Having money won’t help you if you don’t have these two.
You can’t buy taste. A fashionable person without money can look better than a rich person without taste.
You can buy coaching or a stylist. But if you don’t have taste yourself, how do you know what you’re getting is good?
This connects to a larger conversation about personal brand, but taste is one way to communicate what you think about yourself.
You can be expensive but in poor taste. I saw some jeweler years ago talking about a diamond-encrusted skull he was making as a custom piece for a rapper (maybe Takeshi?). This thing cost an incredible amount of money, but it would have an incredibly low resale value. Why? Because it was in extremely poor taste.
You can’t buy taste. If you did, Dubai wouldn’t be full of oil money millionaires covered in gaudy gold. They own way more than most will ever touch, but they’re just trying to impress other oil bros. Très gauche.
Care & Personalization
Nothing beats getting someone what they wanted but never voiced.
When you’re a kid, that’s usually because it’s something you can’t afford.
Adults can buy whatever they want.
What makes a gift meaningful is if it’s unique and personal.
For someone who has a gold watch, what is more valuable: another gold watch, or a vial of sand from the beach where they proposed to their wife?
The vial costs nearly zero dollars, but the time, effort, creativity, and personalization are what give it value. That vial means nothing to other people. It means a great deal to the receiver.
That’s the perfect gift.
Examples of Good, Tasteful Gifts
- A signed copy of the latest book from someone’s favorite author
- Doing a bunch of “okay” activities (dinner, a walk, a party) but strung together to make it a cohesive experience (like a scavanger hunt)
- Giving a grandpa the flag that was flown above the Capitol building in honor of one of his grandchildren, a solider who was deployed in Iraq (this is a real example)
- Taking an heirloom jewel and setting it in a newer, nicer band
- Getting tickets to the band at the top of their list on their Spotify wrapped
There are literally infinite ideas. The trouble is they have to all be particular.
Tasteful often means beautiful and in its presentation and simple in its consumption. Setting up a scavenger hunt is complicated, but all the recipient has to do is follow to the next clue. You’re not giving them a burden.
Keep it simple, earnest, and elegant. The more you do it, the better your art will become.