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How to Choose a Birthday Gift They Won't Forget

Have a loved one with a birthday coming up but aren’t sure what to buy? We’ve all been in that boat before.

You may be worried that you’ll spend too little or too much, that the recipient won’t like the gift you’ve worked so hard to choose, or—worse yet—that you’ll inadvertently cause offense or embarrassment. These are 100% relatable concerns, and depending on how well you know the birthday boy or girl, they can be enough to make your head spin.

We’ll be honest: finding a great birthday gift often takes time and effort, whether it’s for a spouse of many decades or a newfound friend at work. But the tips below can help! We’re sharing a few creative ways to simplify your search for the perfect birthday gift.

Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm!

First things first: choosing the right gift starts with some careful brainstorming. Consider your relationship with this person and everything you know about them. Reflect on their favorite foods, weekly routine, hobbies or passions, life goals, most cherished belongings, and maybe even their deepest-darkest fears.

This reflection can certainly take time, but it will give you so many more possible directions for the perfect birthday gift! In almost every case, showing genuine interest is the very best gift of all, so the time you’ve spent to choose a heartfelt gift won’t go unnoticed.

Do Some Birthday Recon

This step can be fun: put on your spy hat and do some birthday gift reconnaissance! Start by looking through their social media posts from days, weeks, or even months ago. Go through your text message conversations and see if anything of note pops up. You could even check whether they have any public wish lists on Amazon or other online stores.

You probably won’t find something as obvious as, “For my birthday, I really want ____.” But you can definitely find some very important and helpful clues! For instance, look for things like:

  • New interests or hobbies they’ve picked up
  • Favorite meals they’ve posted on Instagram
  • Complaints about a certain thing being broken or never working right
  • Mentions of certain subscriptions expiring
  • Notes about new restaurants they want to try
  • Cherished childhood memories they’re thinking of
  • Day-to-day annoyances and pain points (like lost keys or a phone battery that always dies)

Each of these could be a golden nugget of birthday gift ideas. For instance, maybe you replace the broken coffee maker with a more high-end model or buy some special thread for their newfound embroidery hobby.

As you do your research, you could also reach out to their friends and family to get ideas, to make sure you don’t buy a repeat gift, or even to pool your resources for a pricier item.

Consider the Situation

In addition to your research, you can think about the recipient’s life circumstances and current needs to help you narrow down a meaningful (and actually useful!) birthday gift idea. Here are two examples:

  • Maybe the birthday girl is about to graduate college and start a new career—making a gift card to a high-quality clothing store a great choice. She’ll be able to stock her closet with business-casual outfits that give her rock-star levels of confidence. You could even arrange for an appointment with a personal stylist at a higher-end boutique.
  • Perhaps the birthday boy is in between jobs. In this case, something practical—like a tuition payment, school supplies, a grocery gift card, or maybe just cash—could make a big difference. Some people may feel embarrassed to accept a gift like this under normal circumstances, so giving it as a birthday present may help cut the awkwardness.

Ultimately, you know your loved ones best, so take a moment to think about their current needs as well as their personality and preferences. Would they prefer something sensible and necessary? Or would they feel more special with something luxurious that they’d never buy themselves?

Make Your Present a Production

If you’d like to invest a little more time into your birthday gift, consider turning your gift itself into an event. You can still wrap up a little something, if you’d like, or you could order a birthday card from Foxdog, fill it with a heartfelt birthday message (some great ideas here!), and have it sent as a nice complement to your gift.

Here are some fun ways to turn your birthday gift into a creative production:

  • Scavenger hunt: Give a series of cards filled with clues that lead the birthday boy or girl to their present. You can go along for the ride if you live in the same area, or you could make it a completely remote game and share the fun through video chat.
  • Gift puzzle: Divide your gift into smaller components and wrap them individually so that the recipient has to figure it out. (Of course, this only works for easily divisible things like a game console or a complete outfit. We don’t recommend cutting something up!)
  • Monthly gift: Instead of celebrating their birthday on just one day, turn it into an entire birthday month! Collect a month’s worth of small but thoughtful gifts (like a favorite candy bar or a gourmet spice mix) and leave them one little gift each day.

Offer a Charitable Donation

If you’re still totally drawing a blank for your birthday gift (even with all the tips and suggestions above), then maybe your loved one already has everything they want or need. In that case, why not give a charitable gift in their name? You can give to a cause that they already support, or you could do some research and introduce them to a new charity that’s in line with their personal values.

If you think your loved one would especially love this take, you could even coordinate with them to set up a birthday fundraiser! Platforms like Facebook and GoFundMe make it easy to set up a fundraiser and ask friends to donate. Sure, doing so might remove the element of surprise from your birthday gift…but you’ll be able to make a bigger impact and surely touch the heart of the birthday boy or girl.

Give a Fun or Interesting Activity

Experiences can be just as memorable—and often even more so—than a typical wrapped-up-with-a-bow birthday gift. Head over to the next article in this series for a deep dive into many more creative birthday gift ideas, focusing on fun activities and unique experiences.

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