A Guide To First-Time Gifting For New Friends

When buying gifts, we all tend to go through the same process. We think about what we have bought that person in the past and how well it was received, using our prior experience to influence future purchases. By and large, this is a sensible method of gifting; it allows you to capitalize on successful choices by repeating gifts along the same theme, while also allowing you to exclude gift types that had previously been less than a roaring success.

Unfortunately, this reliance on experience is not always available for every individual you may be planning to buy a Christmas gift for this year. Over the course of the past 12 months, many people will have made at least one new friend, and will thus be buying a gift for that individual for the very first time – a tricky prospect that nullifies the “previous experience” method of gifting the majority of us have come to rely on.

If you are experiencing such a scenario this Christmas, then you’ll be relieved to know there are ways of simplifying the process and ensuring your first gift for the new purpose in your life is as well-received as possible. Here’s what you need to consider…

Do you need to get this person a gift?

This may sound like an odd consideration, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind. Over recent years, more and more people have decided to forgo Christmas gifts, either entirely or by asking their friends and family to donate to a charity on their behalf. It may be that your new friend feels the same, which would mean there’s no need for you to worry about finding the perfect gift at all.

Of course, finding out whether someone is expecting a gift is far easier said than done. If you receive any obvious signs – such as a request for charitable donations rather than gifts – then the problem is solved. You may feel that you should perhaps make a donation and give a gift, but this is one instance where you should take the individual at their word: if your new friend says they prefer not to receive gifts, or donations only, then it’s best to trust them and comply with their wishes.

However, if no such information is provided, then you have two options:

  • Directly ask the individual if they would like to receive a Christmas gift from you – a good idea, but undeniably awkward
  • Or, you could just decide to buy a gift anyway, assuming (almost certainly correctly) that a lack of instructions otherwise means your new friend would be happy to receive a gift from you

If you do find yourself needing to buy a gift, then you can now move on to the next step, which is…

Compile a three-item list

The best gifts always have a personal touch that demonstrates how well you know them, so write down three things that you know about your new friend.

  • The first inclusion should be related to their occupation – i.e. they are in the military, a school teacher, digital marketing, and so on
  • The second inclusion should be related to a hobby you know they engage in regularly – i.e. they like to knit, golf, or play ping-pong
  • The third inclusion on your list should be related to something you know they enjoy – i.e. a TV show, movie, or series of books

This list now serves as the jumping off point for further gifting thoughts.

Prioritizing your list

When you have your list in mind, you’ll need to prioritize it. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to directly advise on this, as everyone is different. Ask yourself what your friend would most appreciate; a gift related to their occupation, their hobbies, or something they love.

It can be difficult to judge this decision, but think back over conversations you have had with them for clues. Some people, such as military personnel and teachers, take great pride in their career and see their work as a vocation rather than an occupation; in these cases, you could opt for custom military patches so they can add to their uniform, or beautiful stationery to help ensure the time they spend grading papers is as pleasant as possible. By choosing these gifts, you’re showing that you value their occupation to, and know them well enough to know it is a source of pride for them.

However, for some people, work is just, well… work, and they won’t particularly want to be reminded of it when receiving gifts. In these cases, you can default to the second and third sections of your list, working through your options until you find something that is directly related to things that they specifically care about.

The thorny issue of budgeting

Until now, we’ve focused on the gift itself, but finding the perfect item is just one aspect of first-time gifting; you’ll also need to decide how much you will spend.

For many people, the process of deciding how much to spend on a gift is extremely concerning. Many of us worry that we will spend too much (and thus look unnecessary or extravagant in the eyes of our new friend) or too little (and thus look overly parsimonious). Unfortunately, there is relatively little you can do to remedy these concerns outside of asking your friend what they personally consider to be an acceptable amount of money to spend – something that most of us, understandably, would prefer to avoid.

Thankfully, there’s no need to make lists or wrack your brains here; the advice for setting a budget for your new friends’ gift is simple: spend what you feel comfortable spending. Consult your overall budget for Christmas gifts, work out how much you have available for your friend, and then find something that fits neatly with your chosen gift idea accordingly. For example, if you’d decided it was best to buy a gift based on your friend’s love of the Harry Potter novels, you could buy a Harry Potter fridge magnet if your budget is restricted; or you could buy a replica wand if you have a little more freedom. This applies to all three of the areas we considered when compiling your three-item list, as all should be flexible enough to provide options that are suitable for every budget.

In conclusion

Hopefully, the above should help ensure you find the perfect first-time gift for the new person in your life this Christmas – happy gifting!


Arnel Ariate is the webmaster of Money Soldiers.

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