Choosing the perfect present for someone is difficult at the best of times. We can’t decide if being close to the person we’re shopping for makes the experience better or worse than if they’re just a passing acquaintance. Either way, it’s a lot of pressure for one person to withstand without some guidance. So that’s exactly what we’re here to provide — a simple gift guide for birthday presents.

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Birthday Presents (and Other Occasions)

Finding a good gift guide for birthday presents — or any other occasion, for that matter — is more difficult than you’d think. The last thing we want to see when we’re conflicted are endless lists full of choices. So, while our guide will contain specific examples of gifts, it should mostly serve to direct your train of thought. With that being said, let’s get into it.

1.   Lay Down Some Ground Rules

Before you so much as think of a vague gift idea, it’s important to establish some ground rules. Namely, there are two things you should consider — your budget and your relationship to the person you’re shopping for.

The purpose of the first requirement is obvious. You’ll need to know how much money you’re willing to spend. As a general rule of thumb, you never want a gift to send you into bankruptcy. But don’t worry — even if you’re working with an extremely limited budget, you’ll be able to figure out a gift by the end of this guide.

Next, consider your target, so to speak. Is the person in question a child or an adult? How do you know them? Presumably, the kind of gifts you’d get for a friend are wildly different than those you’d get for your parents.

If you’re shopping for an adult, you might want to think about your commonalities as well, or at least the things they like. For example, are you shopping for a friend you often share skincare advice with? Are they a known technophile or sneakerhead? Have they been on a zero-waste lifestyle kick?

Asking yourself these questions would make it easier to determine what kind of things you should be looking for in the first place. You can even write down your answers if you think it’ll make the process easier.

2.   How to Choose a Gift: the 4 Gift Rule

If you’ve ever tried to find a gift guide for birthday boys or girls, you probably know all about the 4 gift rule. The quick and easy blueprint for shopping for kids states that you should only get four gifts:

  • The first thing should be something they want — and if you don’t know the child well, you might want to ask their parents about this part
  • Next, you should get them something they need — like school supplies (again, ask their parents)
  • The third gift should be something they can wear
  • And lastly, you should get them something to read

Simple enough, right? It even has a rhythm to it — want, need, wear, read! Of course, in reality, there’s no need to get all four gifts, particularly if your budget doesn’t allow it. And even though the system was originally designed for those who need help shopping for kids, it works for adults too.

For example, let’s say you’re getting a housewarming gift for a friend. In that case, you’d probably gravitate toward getting them something they need — like a lamp or a space heater. But if their birthday is coming up, and they’ve already sent you a picture of a shirt they really loved but never got — that can be your gift right there!

3.   Consider Different Gift Categories

Usually, the process of finding the perfect present consists of hours of scrolling through lists of random items online. Our hope is always that this mindless activity will result in an “aha moment” when we’ll suddenly realize what we need to get. Sadly, that doesn’t happen very often.

With that in mind, we wanted to present an alternative. Instead of throwing ideas at you and seeing what sticks, we’re going to briefly go over a list of different categories you can choose from. So, in no particular order, consider getting:

  • Clothing or accessories like bags, pins, hats, or jewelry
  • Home decor (throw pillows, ring holders, and the like)
  • Kitchen appliances and other related items (some people enjoy getting bartending accessories)
  • Food and/or wine — if it works, it works
  • Gardening equipment or even a house plant
  • Something artsy like a painting, sculpture, or print
  • Hobby supplies like embroidery kits, rollerskating guards, or puzzles
  • Books (figure out their favorite author or genre and go from there)
  • Electronics and interesting gadgets (anything from the latest Apple Watch to a self-heating mug)
  • Fitness gear like jump ropes, weights, resistance bands, or even water bottles
  • Cosmetics or skincare products such as sheet masks, perfume, makeup, lotion, etc
  • Collectibles like coins, figurines, or other items that are related to a special interest of the gift recipient

At this point in our gift guide for birthday presents, you should have a pretty good idea of the kind of person you’re shopping for. Hopefully, the list above will have helped you narrow down the scope of products you’re considering. Of course, if you still can’t bring yourself to choose a present, there’s no shame in getting a gift certificate to a store you know the recipient frequents.

4.   Go for a Gag Gift or Novelty Item

If you’re shopping for someone you don’t really know, you can’t go wrong with a harmless gag gift. All you need is a vague idea of who the recipient is as a person, and you can find a gift they’ll appreciate.

Are they your hilarious yet slightly curmudgeonly coworker? An adult coloring book full of swear words might help them unwind. Or you can just get them a shirt that says “I know I swear a lot” and leave it at that.

Are you looking for a Christmas gift for a school friend who’s obsessed with Schitt’s Creek? We bet they’ll love this cozy hoodie with Moira’s rendition of “Bebe it’s cold outside.” If all else fails, you can go all out and get them a shirt with a custom design that references an inside joke between you two.

5.   Make It Personal

At the beginning of this gift guide for birthday presents, we promised you that not all our ideas would be expensive. And at this point, we’re pretty sure we delivered on that promise. If you’re strapped for cash, a pin with a meaningful image on it will be a wonderful gift.

Of course, you can always make your gift more personal. For example, if you know your friend appreciates art, you can get some supplies and attempt a DIY project. In the end, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

Besides, you can make pretty much any gift seem a thousand times better by packaging it nicely. Just wrap everything up nicely and put your heart into the card! We’re sure the lucky recipient will appreciate it!