Tips for More Meaningful Gift-Giving

When it comes to holiday gift giving do you purchase off a list one-by-one, or do you go with your gut?

Purchasing mounds and mounds of material objects can seem a little hollow—no matter how luxurious or expensive the gifts. Plus, how much Christmas joy can you really find at your local mall? Santa would say, “Not much, ho, ho, ho”! Focus your holiday gift-giving on more meaningful and cherished presents from the heart…

Give Time, Not Material Objects

I would much rather be gifted an experience over a material gift any old day. In fact, my husband and I have a running tradition of giving each other gifts in the form of time together (i.e., concert tickets, crafty classes, workshops, mini getaways, and nature encounters) for every special occasion.

Before you worry about the kid’s stocking, researchers from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania reassure that children even find experiential gifts more meaningful because they build memories, and express, and forge love with the gift of time.

Give the Gift of Giving

If you’ve ever thought about buying a tree in the name of your mother, or making a donation to your boss’s favorite charity in his or her name—just do it! In fact, a 2009 report from Harvard Business School notes that happier people give more to people and organizations in need.

The study recognizes a positive circle of giving—in that the actual act of giving, makes individuals who give happier and more connected to their communities. So give the gift of giving this holiday season and bask in the glow of helping a loved one, help others.

Gift Handmade Goodies

Shiny and bright does not necessarily mean brand spanking new, according to a 2015 study published by the Journal of Marketing. Actually, the study found that it was quite the opposite when family members were gifted with handmade and homemade Christmas gifts.

So utilize your crafty skills and give the gift of homemade preserves, cookies, wine or beer, art, crochet scarves and mitts, and candles and soaps to your loved ones. Not only did the study find that people tend to consider homemade treats more loving—they also considered them worth more money.

Give Something Practical

When you purchase a gift do you really take the time to consider if it will be used? We often give gifts like designer teas, bath salts, body lotions, and candles without any thought for their practicality.

However, sociologists at the University of Virginia recommend giving gifts that the recipient will actually use. The U of V study found that gift-recipients always prefer getting more practical presents that are based on personal knowledge of their interests and passions.

Cherished Hand-Me-Downs

Never think of a hand-me-down or cherished family heirloom as an undesirable gift. In fact, a 2009 report from the Journal of Consumer Research noted that gifts with history are often received in high regard.

Notably, gifts handed down by family members—from generation to generation—are most often accepted with great symbolic value. So feel free to pass along your grandfather’s watch, your grandmother’s pearls, or a cookbook filled with mom’s favorite recipes to the next generation.

Most of All…Make it Personal

In the end, when it comes to gift giving use the motto: the more personal the gift—the more it will be cherished by the recipient. Personalization, according to psychologists at San Francisco State University, goes far beyond a price tag.

Taking the time to find a truly meaningful gift shows that you took the time and effort to track down something unique. It also displays deep care and true knowledge of the individual.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.