Three simple tips for giving awesome holiday gifts this year

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News at Northeastern

Here are three tips to help you give awe­some hol­iday gifts, with insight from assis­tant pro­fessor of mar­keting Mary Steffel, an expert in the psy­chology of gift-giving.

Don’t be afraid to give the same gift to mul­tiple people

Steffel’s paper on gift-giving, pub­lished in the Journal of Con­sumer Research in 2014, found that shop­ping for mul­tiple recip­i­ents led givers to choose unique but less pre­ferred gifts for the loved ones on their lists.

Iron­i­cally, givers are most prone to pass up more pre­ferred gifts in favor of unique gifts when they put extra thought and effort into their selec­tions. Those who go with their gut are more likely to get what­ever their recip­i­ents want most, even if that means get­ting the same gift for more than one person.

Don’t over­think it,” Steffel notes. “People often make gift-giving mis­takes because they put too much thought into what they’re buying.”

If three people on your list like the same book, then buy each of them the same book. If they like the same watch, then buy them the same watch.

You can still per­son­alize the gifts you give. Stick a unique book­mark in each copy of the book, Steffel says, or inscribe the ini­tials of the recip­ient in the band of each watch. You could even wrap each gift in a dif­ferent way, using dif­ferent col­ored wrap­ping paper or fancy bows.

Give more ver­sa­tile, less per­son­al­ized gift cards

Givers tend to buy highly per­son­al­ized gift cards for par­tic­ular stores or brands, Steffel says. But her research shows that recip­i­ents prefer to receive ver­sa­tile gift cards that can be used to buy what­ever they want or need.

Instead of picking up a gift card for, say, Apple, select a Visa– or Mastercard-backed gift card.

If you aren’t sure what a recip­ient wants,” Steffel explains, “then you may be better off giving a gift card that could be used just about anywhere.”

Just ask

Many gift-givers refuse to ask their recip­i­ents what they want for the hol­i­days, Steffel says. They feel like it is their job to be par­tic­u­larly cre­ative, to show off how well they know the people on their shop­ping list by buying the “per­fect” gift with no inside knowledge.

Givers often make the mis­take of trying to wing it,” Steffel explains. But that is not nec­es­sarily the best approach to take. As she puts it, “The ideal way to ensure that recip­i­ents enjoy your gift is to just ask them what they want.”

(Published with permission from News at Northeastern.)

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