1. Plan in advance.
Write down the name of every person you'll have to buy a Christmas, birthday, or anniversary gift for over the course of a year, and keep that list of names somewhere where you'll see it frequently.
Even better: Set up monthly alerts on your phone or calendar to remind you to be on the lookout for present possibilities ("Do you have a present for Uncle Ludo yet?"). The earlier you start finding gifts for these people, the less stressed you'll be.
2. Pay attention and take notes.
Stop thinking about what you're going to order for brunch tomorrow and actively listen to the words coming out of your friends' and family members' mouths. Whenever someone mentions something they like (or something they wish they could afford or that they would love to do), send yourself a quick email with that information and use it as gift inspiration.
3. Take a strategic window-shopping trip.
Going out to dinner with someone you need a present for? Make a point to wander through a few nearby stores on your way to the restaurant. Pay attention to what they seem interested in or comment on. Later, you can go back to the store alone to buy whatever they liked.
5. Remind yourself that the gift isn't for YOU.
Do you think decorative lawn silhouettes are tacky? To hell with what you think! Aunt Millicent loves those godforsaken things, and you're supposed to be thinking about what SHE would want to get. Always focus on the recipient's wants, needs, and wishes (not your own) and buy the peeing boy's shadow for your aunt's yard.
6. Use your sleuthing skills.
It's totally OK to snoop when you're doing it for good reasons.
Pay extra-close attention when you're at someone's house: Do they seem to have a thing for vintage brass figurines or coffee table books about photography?
Spend time checking out their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts for hints. Research them as though they were an OkCupid or Tinder date...except you're looking for gift ideas instead of reasons to cancel.
If you can't think of something to buy your cousin's husband you've never spoken more than four words to, don't just wing it: Ask him what he wants!
It goes against traditional gift-giving etiquette, but bah humbug to etiquette. Send them a quick text telling them you're at a loss, but want to be sure to you end up selecting something they won't have to fake liking.
Straight-up telling a near-stranger exactly what you want could be awkward, so give them a way to be vague (but still helpful): "Hey Pascal! Just wondering if you enjoy cooking, spelunking, or yodeling?"
8. Avoid getting too personal (or inappropriate).
Don't buy something intimate (like lingerie) or jokily embarrassing (pretty much anything you'd find at Spencer's) unless you're 100% sure the recipient would be pleased to get such a thing from you.
This is especially important to remember if you know the person will be opening their gift in front of a crowd of people.
9. Consider choosing something impermanent.
Don't get hung up on trying to find something they'll keep forever — go the opposite route and purchase something they'll go through quickly...but *love* (like coffee beans, a favorite lotion, yarn, or even beer).
10. Buy local.
Shopping for someone who lives in a different section of the country (or world)? Buy them something made in your town; something they'd like, but definitely wouldn't be able to pick up in their neck of the woods.
11. Give your time instead of an ~actual~ gift.
Presents don't have to be tangible. You could bring someone to a concert or play, take them out to a new restaurant they've been dying to eat at, or pledge to go with them to a nude beach they've been too scared to visit alone. 😉
12. Remember that it's not about how much money you spend.
"It's the thought that counts" has become a platitude...but it's true! You could be the richest person in the world and still give shitty gifts. Broke? Don't fret, just get creative.
13. But keep in mind that money *is* better than guessing.
Yes, giving someone cash (or a gift card) is impersonal...but it's a better option than getting stressed out and buying something random at Kohl's in a fit of frustration.
14. Use your words.
No money whatsoever? Get a pen, grab some paper, and start to write. Make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, and make 'em know how much you care with sentences straight from the heart.