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Picking the perfect gift

Start by making your gift giving list as early in the year as you can

Knowing which occasions you need to remember is key. Do you need to buy an anniversary gift, or a birthday present to take to a party you've been invited to? Put it on the calendar, and set an alert. The sooner you start making decisions about what to buy, the less stressed you will be.

Start listening for clues. When you hear your friend or loved one mention things they like or need or are interesting, write it down, put it into a file, or email yourself with the information.

Do a little strategic window shopping with your subject. Take a stroll through some nearby shops on your way to night on the town or to a restaurant, and then visit the store on your own to take notes, or make purchases.

During downtime waiting for your kid to finish soccer practice, or in a long line at the drive through, pull out your phone and browse best seller and most wished for lists on your favorite websites.

And always remember this gift is not for you! Are you not the snow globe kinda gal? Well, Aunt Ester thinks they’re the bee’s knees. Focus on what will bring the recipient the most joy, and not what it would look like covered in dust on a shelf in your living room.

Look around their home without poking into private places. What kind of books do they like? What kind of art are they drawn to? Do they use a found something, for something else? Are they using broken coffee cup for a sugar bowl? Could your friend use some desk accessories in their home office?

Look at their social media accounts. Do they have a board on Pinterest with clues? Maybe they are a foodie who would enjoy a kitchen gadget or a cookbook, or maybe a gift certificate to a local gallery with handcrafted tabletop collections.

Even if you don’t live in the same town, you can still buy local. Many of even the smallest shops and galleries have gift card options, and some have a shopping cart website featuring their best selling products. If the gift you purchase isn’t a good fit, the recipient can easily exchange it for something that is a better choice for their lifestyle.

Finding the perfect gift doesn’t have to be hard. If your time is running out, sometimes simply someone what they want gifts you the easiest and most thoughtful gift for them.