How To Actually Buy People Gifts They Want

Be honest: you’re mostly looking at holiday shopping guides for yourself. You’re not grabbing at discounts on Switch RPGs because it might be grandma’s last Christmas and you want to do something nice. Sure, maybe someone in your life is a gamer and these lists help. But probably not, because I have found that a whole lot of people are absolutely terrible at giving gifts. You know the phrase “It’s the thought that counts”? Usually the people saying it put no thought into a gift.


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Fortunately, one of the few human skills I have is being good at buying presents. Which is ironic, because I’m basically an anti-social recluse who’s terrible at remembering birthdays and anniversaries. I guess life really is about navigating the contradictions within ourselves. That all said, I am – no joke – very good at this. I won’t just kill you with kindness, I’ll give you so much goddamn cheer that you’ll be erased like you never existed at all. I want people to be crushed under the weight of it all.

But since a lot of people are apparently weirdly bad at buying gifts, here is how to not be that thing I just wrote before the comma.


Know Your AudienceTrans ghost girl Vivian on stage showcasing her drag-like aesthetics to an audience of toads, goombas and koopas.

This applies more to children than adults. Kids are usually pretty specific on what they want and pretty mad at what they don’t want. If you buy your kids an old first edition book that they don’t want, they’re going to wonder why God hates them and why they didn’t get a PS5. So, take this advice as for people older than the standard driving age. Kids, man.

Find Something They Didn’t Know They Wanted

A gift with a Great Biscuit and three different incense in front of it with Pikachu to the right

I know this is the broadest advice possible, but I mean it. A good gift is buying something you know someone wants. A great gift is buying something the other person didn’t even know they wanted. The amount of money you spend here does not really matter unless your gift is for an a-hole or you’re proposing or both. Feel free to spend money! But spending money for the sake of spending money is stupid and tends to just add pressure to the gift. The trick really is to find something the other person does not know exists.

Actually Listen To People In Your Lifekamila listens to headphones and reads a book while missile is curled up on the floor in ghost trick: phantom detective

You know how your family and friends talk? Listen to them. Look at their social media. People reveal what they want all the time without knowing it! Listen for a beloved family memory, a comment on a movie they loved, a wish they could get reservations at a fancy restaurant. Pay attention! All year. This is so much easier than it sounds. Literally half of the conversations any of us have is about what we want from life – what they want to eat, what they want to that day, what they want to accomplish. You might not be able to fix their lives, but if someone mentions they want to take up writing more, maybe – I dunno – look at writing-related stuff they don’t own. Connect the dots. I can’t do it for you. I’m too old.

Ask People They Know Too

Panam and the Aldecaldos veterans in a campfire in Cyberpunk 2077.

Another obvious one, but lord knows people find it impossible to do. Just talk to people they know. You can do this. I believe in you. You have that power in you.

Related: Best Gifts For Your Dungeons & Dragons Group

The More Specific The Gift, The Better

ariel gonzo and frogo funko pops

Everyone here is reading this because they like games. But that’s a very broad category. Which is why a lot of us have received gifts that feel like random selections from an Amazon search for “nintendo playstation toys.” If someone doesn’t own any Funko Pops in the year of our lord 2023, they might not care for one. On the flip side, if you notice someone has a ton of coffee table books about games, they might enjoy another one. This requires some thought – the thing that we say is important – but the more narrow you get with an interest, the better. If they only ever talk about playing cyberpunk-themed TTRPGs, heck, they might not need a D&D book. And this applies to anything. If you know someone’s into dogs, don’t just randomly throw some dog poop into a cart and say, “DONE!” Consider the type of dog, how many dogs, what the person likes doing with their dog. Think, dummy! Just because there’s a board game sale on Amazon doesn’t mean you’ve locked up your gifts for everyone.

But Don’t Be Weird About It

Weird barbie holding 2 pairs of shoes

Calm down for a second. How well do you know this person? If you’re close friends, go ahead and spring for a deep cut gift. But if you’re not close friends, keep it relatively surface level. A gift is supposed to show that you’re thinking about someone, but not so much that they’re terrified about it. Don’t drop serious money to impress a co-worker at Secret Santa. Feel free to listen up and check their social media for what they like, but – I can’t stress this enough – don’t be a creep. And unless you’re 1,000 percent certain you are definitely in a romantic relationship with a person you’re giving a gift to, do not do a giant swing gift. Please. It’ll cost you money and it’ll make them feel bad.

Too Much Money Makes People Feel Bad

Kiryu throwing money in Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name.

Yeah, lemme hit this one. We all think that spending an butt load of money is a shortcut to good gift giving. But just because something costs a lot of money doesn’t mean someone actually wants to own it. And if they don’t want it, they’re going to feel bad you spent so much money on it. I once received a $150 metal Ninja Turtle statue that I had no space for in my tiny ass apartment. I felt intensely bad giving it away because it cost real money that people need. Sure, some people just want an expensive gift because it’s expensive. But those people are bound for Hell in the afterlife, so I don’t need to address them.

Gift Cards Are Good, Actually

xbox gift cards

For some reason, Baby Boomers hate gift cards. They think they’re not personal enough. Which is true in certain situations! If it’s your anniversary or your first Christmas with a loved one, maybe don’t just give them $25 to Amazon. In fact, the rule behind good gift cards is the same as good gifts. True, gift cards narrow what you can spend money on. But that narrowness encourages the person to buy or do something they might not otherwise spend money on. For example, if your partner has been stressed and has talked about needing to relax, then consider a gift card to a spa. Notice I said ‘partner’. Don’t be weird and get that for a coworker.

Don’t Buy A Gift For Someone Because You’d Like It

Sonic Superstars' Blue Blur holding a chilli dog.

Finally, you are not the main character of reality. Your tastes aren’t the default for society. Just because you like something a lot, it does not mean another person will. Then again, maybe they will! If you’ve got similar interests! Just make sure you’re not just getting it because you hope you can brute force your interests onto someone else. Even if you both love video games, don’t buy them one so ‘we can play together’ if they don’t like that genre! I know half of the people reading this will do it anyway, but I can only help so much.

That’s all I got for you. I honestly hope it helps. Listen to people. Get them something they didn’t know existed. Don’t be a creep. Don’t just buy things you like and assume others will. That’s all. Good luck. God bless. And none of you will listen to this advice.

Next: Best Gifts For The Legend Of Zelda Fans

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