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Gift Giving Guide - Help and Ideas for Men Buying Gifts

Gift Giving Guide - Help and Ideas for Men Buying Gifts

Gift Giving Guide - Help and Ideas for Men Buying Gifts

Advice Seeker :
Dear April Masini,

My girlfriend knows I'm terrible at buying gifts. She is willing to admit that guys, in general, just aren't that good at it. When she comes up with some perfect gift combination for any person, including me, on any occasion, I am notorious for choosing the wrong thing.

Despite all this, my girlfriend still gets her hopes up on every birthday and holiday that this will be the time I ace the whole gift-giving debacle. As of yet, I've continued to disappoint her time and again. I feel horrible, and she has rejected my, "let's go shopping together and you pick out what you want" idea.

So please, are there any magic tricks to this whole gift-giving thing that I'm missing? And if I'm just permanently impaired, can you tell me so I can show her your response? It's not that I don't want to buy her presents, but I just hate the fact that every time I give her one, she looks so disappointed.

Gift Goof 


April Masini's Advice :

Dear Gift Goof,

The latest research in the Journal of Consumer Research that indicates that men are poor at buying presents for their spouses, so that's your answer regarding whether you are in the norm. But why is this?

Men are not women, and they don’t have the same skills. Women are better multi-taskers, and likewise, are more sensitive to more things at one time. They are more capable of taking in more information at one time, and sorting and processing it. Long-story short, they’re better at knowing what people want because they know more about people than men do.  Men have a harder time finding the laundry basket than women do — how on earth can they be expected to come up with presents that work? It’s not always true — but I have to say, in my experience as a relationship expert, it’s mostly true. That said, women are silly for expecting men to be who they’re not. If you want something, drop hints — good, clear, well-spelled out hints.

Here’s a set of hints and advice I give my readers.


Giving a gift can be a daunting proposition if your relationship is new. A gift of a music CD may be interpreted as thoughtful because it’s an artist he knows you love, or it’s the music that played on your first date (even though you’ve only had four dates so far). However, it can also be interpreted as a dud gift—he didn’t think about what I really like, it’s impersonal, I bet he gives everyone CDs including his doorman, it didn’t cost enough, I was hoping for jewelry or something more feminine and meaningful, etc. See how this can become a dilemma? And yes, the wrong gift can end a relationship—especially when you’ve been dating a year or more, and she expects a ring, only you come up with the Hammacher-Schlemmer massage chair instead. Yes, it’s expensive, yes, it’s thoughtful, yes, you even wrote her a card to go with it, but no—it didn’t fit the bill.

When shopping for your girlfriend, remember that age and stage are of the essence. You’re likely to be spending a pretty penny keeping your honey happy, so the key is to determine where your relationship is, where you want it to go and, most importantly, what’s on your girlfriend’s mind. Tricky? Yes. Impossible? No.

First, decide on a price based on the stage of your relationship:

  • $50 and under for less than three months.
  • $100 and under for six months and under.
  • $250 and under for up to nine months.
  • Up to $500 for up to a year.


Personality plays a major part. Keep gift giving fun and personal—until you’re ready to make it serious with the ultimate gift. Even then, it helps to know the woman you’re shopping for.

And what is the worst present that I’ve heard of a man giving a woman?

A vacuum cleaner for Christmas …. A lot of men go for appliances for women because they think it will “fix” a household glitch. Meanwhile they forget the glitch they’re going to have when their wife opens the toaster or the vacuum, looks for the hidden jewelry, and realizes it isn’t there.

To add insult to injury these guys spend hundreds of dollars on the vacuum (can you spell Roomba?) making the woman think of all the beautiful gold bangles she could have had — while she’s sucking up dust with the top of the line, Consumer Reports approved, HEPA filtered Christmas gift from hell.

For more gift giving tips -- and just tips on how to be a great boyfriend in general--check out Romantic Date Ideas