Choosing a good birthday gift can make the recipient feel special, particularly if the item is something personalized, unique, or thoughtful. When selecting something, it can be nice to try to think of a gift that is meaningful rather than purely functional. You may want the recipient to associate the birthday gift with you and your relationship, or you may simply want to give him or her something whimsical that inspires laughter or stress relief. What you choose should be dictated by your relationship with the person, and how well you know him or her. If you don't know the person well, general gifts like flowers or a gift card or certificate can be a good fit for most people.
To put a unique spin on a standard birthday gift, you may want to consider personalized items. For a dog lover, consider a coffee mug with a picture of the recipient's pet. Home items, like towels or linens, embroidered with the recipient's initials may be a good option, if you know the style and colors that the birthday guy or gal likes. Humor, appropriate for the occasion and the recipient, is also fitting when giving these types of presents. For example, a funny yet meaningful phrase on a keyring or T-shirt can make a small birthday gift more special.
Theme Gifts and Tailored Gift Baskets
Another option for creating an original birthday gift is to assemble an assortment of smaller presents around a central theme. If the recipient loves watching movies, a nice collection of items could include popcorn, a decorative bowl, toppings and flavorings, and a DVD you think he or she will like. A good selection of birthday gifts for relaxation could combine bath oils, small candles, a robe, and comfortable slippers to reduce tension and encourage pampering. You may be able to find such gifts already available in a gift basket, or buy an empty basket and assemble the items yourself for an extra personal touch.
An item the recipient receives repeatedly throughout the year can be a thoughtful gift. Subscriptions to magazines or other publications are often a good birthday gift idea, especially for people who like to read or have a special interest. There are hundreds of magazine titles, so finding one that matches a recipient's interests whether it be a particular sport like mountain biking or activity like shopping or cooking, is generally not too difficult.
Another option is a subscription to a club that delivers a particular item each month or so. A fruit-of-the-month club, for example, might give the birthday guy or gal fresh apples one month, oranges the next, and pears the following. For wine lovers, a regular delivery of a selection of red or white wines to try out would likely be appreciated. There are beer-of-the-month clubs as well, which allow the receiver to try a range of different brews. These clubs are often a bit expensive, as shipping charges can be high, but many have options for less frequent deliveries; if a monthly delivery is too much, one every three months or for just the first six months of the year may be a possibility.
Activities and Experience Gifts
A friend or relative may appreciate a birthday gift that includes getting out for some fun. If this is the case, one idea is to buy passes or tickets to an event or performance that you know he or she would like to attend or visit. You could even make the birthday gift a night-long event by including a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant for the recipient to use before or after the performance.
Although dinner and a movie can make a nice gift, think about what activities the birthday guy or gal really enjoys. Tickets to a special museum exhibition or day passes to an amusement park might fit his or her interests better. This can be a great present for children, many of whom love zoos, observatories, aquariums, and wildlife parks. Remember that you'll probably need to buy several tickets, unless you expect the recipient to go alone. You may also want to consider giving a gift certificate that allows the recipient to pick the date that works best for him or her; some people might find this to be impersonal, however, so think about what works best for the recipient before giving this gift.
If you know the person well and are willing to spend the money for a really special birthday present, you might want to consider an "experience" gift. Lessons with a professional golfer, riding a few laps with a race car driver, or getting to fly in a military jet are all experiences that can make amazing birthday gifts. Alternatively, you could give a memorable tour, such as a sightseeing flight in a hot air balloon or a train ride that stops at rural wineries. Spa packages and weekend getaways are also popular relaxing experiences to give.
For those who have hard-to-shop-for loved ones, a new gadget can be a good birthday gift idea. Both fun and practical gadgets are available, and it is usually best to choose one that is a match for the recipient's interests. Unique items like this can include a wristwatch that also features a thermometer, pedometer, and barometer, or a purse that converts into a backpack. Consider the recipient's personality when shopping; if your coworker is not an avid golfer, then an electronic rangefinder might not be much appreciated.
If your budget doesn't stretch to a weekend at a spa or the latest gadget, an inexpensive gift can be just as meaninful. You might consider a book by a favorite author or in a genre you know the recipient likes, or a DVD or movie download. Doing a chore that the birthday guy or gal would rather avoid — like washing the car or mowing the lawn — may cost very little, but be greatly appreciated. Even a tube of the person's favorite lip balm and a card can be a thoughtful gift.
Birthday Gifts to Avoid
Knowing the recipient is important when choosing a birthday gift, as is being aware when you don't know the person very well. Very personal items, like sleepwear or lingerie, should not be given to someone who is not an intimate friend. Giving a casual acquaintance an expensive gift, such as high-end electronics or jewelry, should also be avoided unless you know that such a gift is expected. It's also a good idea to avoid gifts of art or other decorative items unless you know the recipient's taste very well; that beautiful vase you gave your cousin may sit in the closet except for the times you visit if it clashes with the rest of the home's decor.