GUEST POST: How to Give a Gift Like Ted Mosby by Sami Jankins

Sami Jankins, one of my best friends, has allowed me to repost this great gift giving tip article that she originally wrote for The Good Men Project. With the holidays upon us, this article is going to be super helpful and shows some great tips for creating memorable gifts.


We’re all used to the standard holidays that are known to be the moment of sharing gifts – birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, as well as Christmas. I’m a year-round gifter. I like to highlight all of those special moments in my friends’ and family’s lives – moving, new job, or even as a thank you. Maybe I do this because I am a romantic. It’s also the first time I’m acknowledging that. Have I been influenced by watching movies and TV growing up? It’s entirely possible. I was named after Molly Ringwald’s character from Sixteen Candles, after all. I like making my family, friends, and whomever I’m dating feel special. However, I’m not the best at expressing these things verbally which is how I’ve become known as “the gifter”, “the grand gesturer”, or sometimes “the female Ted Mosby”. All of those moments that people assume only happen in movies, I try to make occur in real life, and with good success.

When I attempt to trace back where this gifting specialty came from, I land on shopping with my dad as the reason. Ever since I was a small child, my dad picked me up after work on Christmas Eve to go gift shopping for my mom. I could blame the fact that my dad is Jewish, and because he didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas the date to him was easily forgettable. This is not the case. The last minute shopping occurs before my mom’s birthday, their anniversary, Valentine’s Day – really, just pick a moment where gifts are being given. My dad is an amazing man who has always been there for his family, but he also has a truly terrible memory for remembering dates. Through his forgetfulness, I learned the skill of finding a gift that is unique enough to show you care as well as to hide the fact that limited time was put into picking it out. Gift giving doesn’t need to be expensive, and you shouldn’t have to spend hours in a store (I hate shopping). Also, those gifts you pick out just because have a high potential to hold more emotional value than gifts given at more traditional moments. Maybe aiming to impress a potential love interest with a blue french horn isn’t your thing, but hopefully with this guide, many more will feel comfortable thinking outside the chocolate box.

Look for unique interests that you could build from. My friend is obsessed with Game of Thrones, so much so that her Skype name is a take on Khaleesi. I went to Etsy – a great website to find the most random things and support small shops that are really putting effort into each of their products. While there I searched for Game of Thrones jewelry and found a necklace that is based on the heart tree. I personally have no clue what that tree has to do with the story-line, but the necklace was more important to her than a standard necklace purchased at any random jewelry store because that TV show has meaning to her. My mom is a retired librarian who likes pins. Last Christmas I got her a rose-shaped pin made out of book pages. Another friend who happens to be a huge Star Wars fan had a status update on Facebook about how he lost part of a screenplay he had been working on due to a faulty computer. For Christmas he got a flash drive that had the head of a Storm Trooper on it. What about a coffee mug for a coffee lover, but with lyrics to their favorite song on it?

One of the best gifts I’ve received was after one of my first articles had been published. I wrote about how you can find the silver lining in the lemons life gives you. Those lines resonated with my friend, and she found a silver lemon necklace for me. Sloths are my favorite animal. My friends have built upon this knowledge, and I now have sloth t-shirts, socks, and even framed posters of sloths. Take what you know to be a standard or practical gift, and then connect to the gift receiver’s already established interests. It will hold that much more meaning, and will show that you’ve been paying attention to things that are important to them. Details can make a good gift into a great gift.
Share what you love with the one you love. Do you have a book that has always been important to you? For me, that book is The Little Prince. I gave that book to at least five friends last Christmas. It’s not that I was being a lazy gift giver; I wanted to give people I cared about something that meant a lot to me. I’ve also been given video games, movies, and books from my friends that were their favorite things. Sharing something that means a lot to you is like sharing a piece of yourself with another person. That’s what makes these kinds of gifts so lovely.

Crafting is caring. Not of the crafty sort? You really don’t need to be. It’s more about the effort and the thought that goes into it than anything else. I’ve made blankets for people by tying together squares of material. My best friend used this idea to make his girlfriend a blanket as well. Really, the blanket could be lopsided. It’s the thought that counts at the end of the day. I’ve stitched together Christmas stockings (with very easy directions to follow). There are directions on-line of how to make a candle. It’s pretty basic and just takes an empty jar and the capability to melt wax down. Try making a meal. Better with woodworking or more of a tech guy? Go with whatever medium you are most comfortable with, and use it to your gift-giving advantage. Again, it’s not whether the idea is fully executed to success; it’s that it was attempted with positive intentions.

Go for the unexpected and exciting. This is a hit or a miss, but if you pull it off, it can be a gift to be remembered. What about the two-minute date that took place on How I Met Your Mother? That’s definitely something to remember. I’m not sure how I made it work, but I had my friend’s favorite band, Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, wish him a happy birthday on twitter. It’s not a widely known band (although they should be), which worked in my favor. I also may have been as excited as he was over the tweet. Regardless, it was a huge hit. Sometimes a great gift is more interactive. Is the gift recipient artsy? There are a lot of unique painting bars popping up. I’m terrible at art, but have had the best time at these places. Sometimes I think it’s even better if you aren’t an expert as there’s less pressure to create something great. There are other niche venues like this which could add a bit of a twist to a standard gift. Or you could just have a star named after someone. Yes, I’ve done this too.

I sent someone I had been dating a photo of four different date options written on my hand. Once he picked one, it directed him to a pre-decided date based on the chosen “theme”. All he had to do was show up and enjoy the day. He picked “explore” which resulted in a local brewery tour. The total cost for the brewery tour was $8 a person, so again, cost does not dictate a cool gift.


Hopefully these gift-giving strategies will make the gifting process that much easier. Gifting shouldn’t be stressful. Regardless of what the gift is, know that it’s not the value of it, but the thought that counts.

Reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project.
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