Traditionally speaking, most people would be quite happy with cold, hard cash or gift cards as a Christmas present. However, putting a little more effort into the gift-giving part of Christmas would make gift recipients satisfied and grateful that their input mattered to others.
Choosing the right gift is especially important if the recipient is a teenager, a sibling, a child, an in-law or a son's girlfriend. While the Internet has tons of ideas for those who have an eye for crafts or can cook food, not everyone can work successfully with a hammer or spatula, much less make decent gifts out of handiwork.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions to help you find the perfect Christmas gift for your loved ones this year.
Perhaps no other group is probably hardest to buy presents for than teenagers. That's because their tastes can change on a whim just like their social media accounts.
"It's a challenge because they move quickly and their desires change quickly," says Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom's fashion creative director. "You have to have the newest, hottest thing. They're bringing in so much information so what they want changes constantly."
According to Lisa Flam of Post Crescent, the experts indicate that teens are most likely to warm up to gifts related to electronics, fashion accessories, activewear, and any other items that let teens express themselves. Also, unlike older generations, teenagers are more than happy to accept cash and gift cards as acceptable presents.
"The No. 1 thing is the cellphone - it's not even close," Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group, says of what teenagers want.
Cohen added that small leather goods, jewelry and watches could also be appropriate gifts for teenagers. For example, Sistem51 by Swatch would be an excellent affordable watch for the teenager who has a passion for technological innovation (in the form of 51 mechanical parts that rotate around a single screw) and appreciates going to school and other events both on time and in style.
Aileen Avery, author of "Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving," advises those who plan to give gifts to teenagers should look at their social media profiles for inspiration; it could give clues about their hobbies, the music they enjoy, or what team they cheer for. Avery also thinks that idealistic teenagers would feel good receiving a gift from a retailer that donates to a charitable cause they are passionate about.
"This generation is more socially conscious that way and wants to make a difference," Avery said.
In general, the traditional gift for children is toys. However, since children do grow up quickly, kids can often outgrow or break their dolls, stuffed animals, action figures or other toys by the next Christmas cycle.
According to Megan Marsden Christensen of KSL, there are several non-toy options that can also be appropriate for children. These can include memberships, magazine subscriptions, books and lessons.
"A membership to a zoo, aquarium or water park is a gift that can be used throughout the year while providing children with fun and sometimes educational experiences," Christensen wrote. "The memories they'll create while visiting local attractions with family or friends will accompany them throughout their life."
Christensen added that Highlights, Zoobooks or American Girl magazines can be fun material for kids, which could keep them occupied for hours and boost their reading interest at the same time. She also recommends arts & crafts as a good option.
"Beading necklaces, molding clay or illustrating a story book may boost creativity and be a great activity for kids to do with their friends on a rainy day," Christensen wrote. "A box of craft materials and activities, or a subscription to a monthly service like Kiwi Crate will provide hours of fun."
If you have brothers and sisters in your family, selecting a gift for them can be a challenge. A quick search on Etsy can yield many good ideas for an appropriate present for your siblings.
Good Housekeeping has some great recommendations for the brother in your life. They include a rugged photo frame, smart key fobs, organizing claws that hold balls, and a customized razor blade to name a few items.
As for the sisters in your life, Real Simple has a few suggestions. The ideas for gift-giving include decorative yoga mats, slippers and eye mask, superhero cuffs, handmade journals, and other items.
Right next to teenagers, in-laws can also be a difficult group to buy presents if their tastes are unknown. However, depending on their tastes and desires, one could probably give them similar gifts akin to those given to blood relatives.
For the father-in-law, Martha Stewart Weddings has a few recommendations. They include a charcoal grill, monogrammed swim trunks, a retro record player, steak knives, grilling utensils, kidskin wallets, and smartphone chargers as suggestions.
As for the mother-in-law, Dodoburd.com has a few suggestions. In addition to candles and a spa treatment gift set, other gift recommendations include a cashmere featherweight scarf, a cheesecake sampler from Omaha Steaks, a life story book, a breakfast tray, and a do-it-yourself granola kit.
Perhaps your bachelor son has come home for Christmas with a surprising twist: his girlfriend. If you happen to know he has one ahead of time, there are a few appropriate suggestions to show you appreciate the other woman in your son's life.
Jackie Burrell of About.com listed several categories of gifts to avoid for this special person in your son's life.
"There are entire categories of gifts that tread a tricky line," Burrell wrote. Nearly anything for the bedroom or bathroom is weird. Perfume and lotions are too personal. And what 20-something uses stationery these days?"
However, Burrell has a few appropriate suggestions for the girlfriend. They include a soft wool or cashmere scarf, Blue Bottle coffee gear, an iTunes gift card, or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
Whatever gift you end up making or selecting for the loved ones in your life, make sure that your choice comes from the heart. This ensures that the recipient will more likely appreciate the effort taken to consider the present and less likely to make the Boxing Day return to the shops in a queue with a gift receipt on hand.