How to Transform Any Gift from Normal-ish to Incredibly Thoughtful

How to Transform Any Gift from Normal-ish to Incredibly Thoughtful

This post originally ran on December 21, 2012. 

how to make ordinary gift thoughtful Christmas
This Christmas season, my thoughts keep turning back to one gift: a gift we received just before we were married.

Just before our wedding, our pastor told us that he didn’t want an honorarium–with two conditions.

First, he made us promise to set aside the money we would have paid him, and spend it instead on a really nice dinner for just the two of us.

Second, he told us to send him a note after the dinner letting him know where we went and how our meal was.

Our pastor explained that he cared deeply about investing in the marriages of young couples (like us), and he wanted to start us out on the right foot by gifting us one of the first date nights of our marriage.

We appreciated the gesture and enjoyed a nice dinner out. And of course we sent him a note sharing our restaurant choice and thanking him for our date night.

Do you see how brilliant my pastor was? He managed to give a wonderful gift without even giving anything. He basically gave us the equivalent of cash, or a gift card–gifts that are not typically considered to be “thoughtful” ones. But because he explained the meaning of the gift–and why he chose it for us–we will forever remember it as a thoughtful gift.

Christmas is right around the corner, and if you’re like me, you’ve spent the past few weeks (or months) focused on choosing the right gifts for your loved ones. Gifts that they’ll love and appreciate, gifts that are right for them.

We say, “it’s the thought that counts,” and it’s true–but too often, we never tell people what we were thinking when we chose their gift.

This year, tell them.

Tell your loved ones what you had in mind when you picked out their gift, even if–no, especially if–you chose something normal-ish like  a watch or a tie or a bracelet. Tell them what you were thinking about what they like and how they live, what they care about, what they dream of.

If you really want them to remember, put it in a handwritten note.

It’s the thought that counts. So tell your loved ones what you’re thinking.

Can you share a way to make a mundane gift meaningful? Post your tips to comments!

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10 comments | Comment


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  1. So simple, yet so true! I usually do this anyways, just because I’m an over sharer when I’m in the company of my mom and my sister {who are hands-down, my best friends}. It really does make a difference.

    By the way, I read Work Shift in one sitting! In fact, I stayed up late just to finish. It was so good! Very informative and practical. Made me feel like I actually don’t have to choose between being wife, mom and homemaker and being a business woman or author or whatever thing I want to pursue.

  2. Tim says:

    It sounds like you had a very wise person performing your wedding. Whenever I’ve done a wedding, I have always told the couple not to give me an honorarium either, but I’ve explained that I want them to consider the officiating to be my gift to them. I think I’ may start adopting your pastor’s tack as well.


  3. What a great, simple idea!

    Half the fun for me is finding the ‘perfect’ gift for someone anyway – even if it’s a tiny thing. And I’m chatty enough I usually explain it. But I like the idea of a written note that they could keep if they wanted to!

  4. Krissa says:

    Love this! Just getting around to reading posts from the last couple weeks and wish I would have seen this before Christmas! Oh well…I can remember it for other gifts throughout the year.

  5. Kim says:

    I love your gift idea, and my comment isn’t so much about my giving as my giftee. My philosophy about gifts on a budget is to buy an expensive version of something cheap, not a cheap version of something expensive. One year I purchased expensive socks for my father at Nordstrom. He responded with this poem:

    Socks and love!

    Today I wore a new pair of socks.
    They came in a pretty, bow tied box.
    Not the usual, they came up high,
    easily over my calf, nearly to my thigh.
    Surprised and pleased, the way I felt,
    handsome, energetic, intelligent, and svelte.
    Stepping high, and stepping light,
    confident, reassured, mighty with might.
    More expensive than I would buy.
    Next time, perhaps I should try
    to find some socks that do as much
    for my outlook, my attitude, my spirit and such.
    But then I thought, it’s not these socks!
    It’s not even the bow tied box
    that makes them great with special powers!
    It’s the thoughtful person, a child of ours
    who personally selected, with love and care,
    this special gift for me to share.
    So thanks to her for this special day
    for future experiences when I’ll forget to say
    thanks, thanks for your special prize,
    your love, which comes in a gigantic size
    and thrills my heart to think of you
    my Kimberly, my sweet, my love so true.

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