My mom has certain rituals. She starts her day the same way every morning: a cup of java made of 75% percent skim milk, 25% Café Bustelo, brewed in her Italian stove-top coffee maker. Once a week, she plays cards with “las chicas,” a group of Puerto Rican ladies who love their wine almost as much as they love their merengue. Over the course of 34 years, I’ve bought my mom many, many gifts for birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day and just because. With every occasion, it seems to get harder and harder. Until recently, that is. Thanks to the amazing power of customization and the multitude of designers creating one-of-a-kind products available online, my gift giving has gotten significantly easier.
Last Mother’s Day, I combined her love of coffee and her adoration for her first grandchild to create one totes adorbs coffee mug with his photo on it (SO cute, I made one for myself). For Christmas, in addition to a personalized photo album commemorating her recent retirement party, I made her custom playing cards featuring (you guessed it) my kid (again), because, honestly … there’s no such thing as too many pictures of him. I once gave her diamond earrings, and she didn’t react the way she reacted to these two, pretty inexpensive gift ideas. She still texts me every time she drinks her morning coffee out of that mug.
So anytime someone asks me for gift-giving advice, I tell them to start with their recipient. To come up with a few truly personal gift ideas, start a new note on your phone or bust out the old-fashioned pen and paper. Write down words that describe your recipient and things you know about them. Do they rescue a new Beagle every month? Are they obsessed with music? Do they volunteer for a particular cause? Are they always jet setting from one place to another? What are their hobbies? Create a list of their interests and personality traits, and then create gift categories that correspond to those interests.
So, for example, when my mom was about to retire, I was going crazy trying to think of what to buy her. I knew travel was a big item on her to-do list, so I started browsing Zazzle for travel-inspired ideas. That’s when I stumbled upon luggage tags and passport covers. Not only could I personalize them with her initials, I could choose her favorite colors and even add a quote that matched the theme of her retirement party.
Beyond marketing my son’s trademark curls and dimples, I’ve started using this personalization strategy across the board in all of my gift-giving endeavors. My husband is an avid brewer of IPAs and a die-hard Star Wars fan, so for Christmas, I bought him a membership to a local brewery, accompanied by an engraved beer-tasting set and an R2-D2 beer mug. He was so stoked by the personal touch, he returned the favor, buying me an engraved business card holder (swoon!) for Valentine’s Day. This personalization thing seems to be catching on.