How to figure out exactly what your friends and family want for Christmas

Despite being a holiday, Christmas can be pretty stressful, and with so much to arrange it can be easy to overestimate just how much time we have left to get those all-important presents. Friends fans will remember The One with Phoebe’s Dadwhich saw Chandler and Joey buying their friends’ gifts from a garage, and while your own emergencies may not be quite so drastic, the feeling of rushing to buy some last minute gift for someone is all too familiar. Luckily, with a little bit of planning you can ensure that your gifts are meaningful and won’t end up in a pile of items to be returned or re-gifted.

christmas cards

Ask around

It would be great if we could just ask people directly what they want, but part of the fun of giving gifts at Christmas is seeing the joy on someone’s face when they’re surprised with the perfect present. Instead of asking them, approach partners, friends, colleagues and anyone else they might have told about a particular item. Remember this is a favour and not an interrogation, so don’t be too frustrated if all they can think of is a new stapler!

Think outside the box set

Everyone loves a good box set, but the increased popularity of these festive must-haves means that you can ask five people for a recommendation and get five different answers. If you’re set on the box set route, a certain amount of covert investigation is in order. Find out about their existing DVD collection, whether it’s through a fake-casual conversation, a sneaky look or by conspiring with someone they live with. Once you’ve got this information, find a series that’s similar to their current taste or buy the next season of one they already own. Alternatively, for something that’s a little more flexible, give them more choice with a subscription to a streaming site. This is an ideal gift for a loved one who enjoys finding new shows and films to watch or someone with a varied taste.

Pay attention

When an occasion like a birthday or Christmas comes around, people subconsciously (or deliberately) start dropping hints about possible presents. These can be as obvious as pointing out things they like when you’re out together, or simply mentioning something in passing. You can also look over their shoulder when they’re browsing online: this level of sneakiness might get you in trouble, but they’ll be grateful when they open one of those on-trend leather jackets they were admiring rather than yet another bath set.

Take an interest

If you have a loved one who has recently taken up a new hobby, it makes sense to choose a gift to help them get better or to complement this activity. For example, if your friend is just starting to learn to play the piano, an encouraging gift could be a book of sheet music for them to play once their skill level has improved. Not only does this show that you’re paying attention, but it assures them that you have faith in their ability to stick with their new project.

Ultimately it really is the thought that counts, so put it in now to nail those perfect presents well before Christmas Day!