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The Best Gift for the Person Who Has Everything

The Best Gift for the Person Who Has Everything

What do you do when you ask someone what they’d like and they say, “Nothing.” Even worse: they mean it.

They say they don’t want anything and they’re probably not just trying to be polite. They really don’t want anything. But it’s often those people who don’t want (or even need) anything who are the most generous–and you just want to give back. In an odd way, it’s not fair: they just give and give and don’t want anything in return. This is when you have to get strategic.

It’s time to bring out the big guns: patience, research and a bit of snooping.

If you’re with them, study them, learn their habits, see what they like, see what bothers them. Use your own knowledge and experience where you have had successes and see if it applies to them.

Little known fact: this also applies to those you (think you) know well … hint, hint: your spouse.

If they don’t want “stuff” or material objects, what can you make for them or provide? For example, a night out that you planned. For family, especially parents, a photo book with photos from a recent weekend you had together. I just created an iMovie for my mom’s retirement party (took me DAYS to build–was worth every minute).

Try getting out of the souvenir or gift section and get back to the “real life” section of a shop or market. Back to the research: what do they miss in their daily routine? What is a tool or a trick or a service that you know of that they would benefit from? By the way, this is hard to figure out!

Warning: they might not recognize the full potential of the gift for some time.

The winner for the dorkiest gift I ever gave was also the most memorable–and satisfying. Several years ago, they didn’t have these bag clips in Holland. Not the “chip clips” but the stronger ones that will hold any type of bag closed. As I tend to do, I wrapped it up pretty and with lots of fanfare and told my mother-in-law that she would love these things. She smiled politely and certainly wondered what in the world her nutcase son-in-law was up to this time.

The next summer she quietly asked before we came if we could “bring some more of those bag clippy things.” I secretly was so pleased that I had found something that she really appreciated, actually used every day, and even to the point to ask for more.

Years later now and I see the clips everywhere. I could even learn from where she uses them. I did a quick photo trip around the house to see what I could find. It was impressive.

The best gifts take work, time, and imagination. They’re worth all the effort.


  1. cindydwyer

    Loved this post. My husband and I first started giving small gifts or tokens when we built our house and had younger kids. With a mortgage and daycare money was tight. We found that we really enjoyed giving thoughtful gifts, rather than just spending money to buy something – anything! – to open. One of the most memorable gifts Rick gave me was getting up with Lia every morning for a week. Her tiny little internal clock had her up every day by 5:00 am, so this was an amazing gift!

    • Bradley

      Those are the hardest ones–and the best: they don’t cost any actual money, but they cost time and effort. But look at the benefits, years later and you haven’t forgotten it. But that expensive tchotchke from … where was that again? Yeah, exactly.

      Thanks for stopping by, Cindy. Glad I could remind you of a wonderful gift from your husband.



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