Thoughtful gifts: these 10 simple questions will help you find the perfect present for your loved ones this Christmas

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Lauren Geall
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Two women exchanging gifts at Christmas.

According to new research by TK Maxx, 75% of British people gift on autopilot, buying the same presents every year, with many of those gifts being unsuitable and impersonal. Here’s how to shop thoughtfully this year and avoid unnecessary waste.

There’s no denying it: Christmas shopping is stressful. Whether you choose to do it in store or online, buying Christmas presents for the people close to us is often harder than we imagine, no matter how much we think we know about them.

How many of us have wandered into a store with no real idea of what we’re going to buy (and came out with everything), picked up socks for Dad for the tenth year in a row, or bought nine different generic gift sets just for the ease? If any of those situations feel scarily familiar, you’re definitely not alone.

According to new research from retailer TK Maxx, 75% of British people gift on autopilot, buying the same presents every year. And the survey, which analysed the results from over 2000 respondents, found that only 21% of us are confident gifters who feel happy with the presents we put under the tree.

There’s an underlying problem to all of this. As we gift on autopilot and throw money at presents we’re not confident the receiver will even like, we’re creating a huge amount of waste. According to the survey, two-thirds of us admit to giving presents we know are unsuitable – and those unsuitable gifts will often end up being thrown away or collecting dust in the back of the cupboard. 

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In a world where we’re becoming increasingly aware of the importance of shopping consciously and sustainably, it’s about time we do something about our wasteful festive habits. And the answer lies in our ability to understand the people we’re buying for.

“It’s so easy to get carried away by clever displays and the festive environment, that autopilot gifting is subconsciously attractive to us,” explains behavioural expert Jez Rose. “Sometimes we might not even be aware that we’re doing it, but it appeals to the lazier part of the human condition.

“Gifting at Christmas is more challenging than for individual birthdays, for example, because of the demand on our attention and concentration at one time to have to make decisions about multiple different gifts for different people.”

Christmas gifts
Thoughtful gifts: this Christmas, resist the urge to gift on autopilot.

To make the gift giving process a little easier this year – and ensure you’re buying a gift the receiver will appreciate – TK Maxx have developed a list of 10 simple questions (with the help of a team of psychologists and behavioural scientists) that will help you understand the person you’re buying for a whole lot better. By taking five minutes to sit down with your friend or family member and ask them these questions, you’ll get to know your recipient on a much deeper level – and give you the info you need to become the best gift giver.

The 10 questions are as follows:

  1. Imagine you have 24 hours to do anything you want. Sky’s the limit. What would you do?
  2. Finish this sentence. I’m the world’s unknown expert in…
  3. This Christmas you decide to donate everything you own except three items. What do you keep?
  4. What’s the one thing you could watch or read about forever and never get bored of?
  5. What’s something people assume you like, but you secretly don’t?
  6. What’s the one thing you own that you still haven’t used and why?
  7. Not including me, who’s the best gift giver you know? Why?
  8. When was the last time someone did something thoughtful for you?
  9. What’s the best gift you’ve ever given someone (other than me)?
  10. And finally, share what you are looking forward to most next year…     

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For the ultimate thoughtful gift, why not think outside the box with the presents you buy this Christmas? From subscription boxes to experience gifts, it’s easier than ever to find a truly unique gift for the people you love.

So this Christmas, be mindful with the gifts you’re buying. It’s very tempting to pick up the shiniest, biggest gift set in the shop, but ask yourself whether the person you’re buying for would actually appreciate it before you buy. Giving gifts is one of the most enjoyable parts of the festive season, but it’s about time we said no to all the unnecessary waste. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

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