Holiday Gift Giving Tips

Men's Dating

7 Holiday Gift Giving Tips for Dating Couples

Hunt Ethridge

Written by: Hunt Ethridge

Hunt Ethridge

Hunt Ethridge is the co-founder and CMO of the MatchmakingAcademy.com as well as senior advisor and board of directors at other firms.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is a dating and relationship expert who has penned over 1,800 lifestyle articles in the last decade, and she still never tires of interviewing dating professionals and featuring actionable advice for singles. She has been quoted by the Washington Times, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post, and AskMen.

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It’s that time of year again. When a young man’s thoughts turn to gifts and the nagging question: What the heck do I get people for the holidays?!

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Festivus are beloved holidays in December. The holiday season is a wonderful time of year to celebrate with loved ones, but it can come with its own stressors as well. Mainly, how do I get the right gifts for the important people in my life?

To be fair, gift-giving isn’t everyone’s love language, and many guys may actually dislike it. Giving a gift can seem impractical, overly sentimental, too commercialized – or whatever other grumpy statement you want to make.  But it doesn’t change the fact that your partner may view gifts in a whole different way.  And honestly, it’s never about the gift itself.  It’s about the thought and time that goes into it. I know this can be daunting! That’s why I’m here to help with some tips for great girlfriend gift giving, based on where you are in your relationship.

New couples | Committed Dating | Meeting the Parents | Bonus Tip

Tips If You Just Started Dating (Less Than 6 Months Together)

Congrats!  You’ve got yourself a romantic partner. You’re dating or hooking up  or seeing where things go. The bottom line is you’re together. Now that the holidays are rolling around, you want to show your appreciation and get that special person a gift. But what do you get and how much do you spend? What are the rules? Let’s dive in.

1. Don’t Ask Her What She Wants

Asking her to come up with the idea for her own gift sort of ruins the whole gift-giving thing. It’s not her job to help you with this gift.

But you can and should let her know that you plan on getting her a little something. Nothing’s worse than that awkward moment when one of you has a gift and the other one doesn’t! Give her a heads up that you want to exchange presents. She may throw out suggestions if she so desires. But, really, the idea here is for you to show you care and pay attention. Your partner likely wants to see what you’re going to come up with on your own!

2. Give a Small & Thoughtful Present

This is not the time to show off by any means.  While you may want to get her something elaborate or expensive, it can come across as way too much too soon! Instead, show that you listen to what she’s talking about. If she mentions she loved baking cookies with her mom, get her a pack of nice Christmas cookies. 

Photo of a gingerbread cookie
A sweet treat could be the perfect gift for your sweetheart.

On that note, consumables are a great go-to gift in the beginning. This can be a bottle of wine, some chocolates, a candle, nice bath pods, etc. It’s not something that will clutter their home, and it’s not something you need to know their exact tastes on. Also, there are some really nice (and not cheap!) cards that are practically gifts themselves. 

If you’re unsure what she likes, check her socials. That might give you some ideas. Stay away from anything expensive – no jewelry, no live animals, and no extravagant trips. These gift ideas will have their time and place later in the relationship.

If Things Are Going Well (6 – 18 Months Together)

Hooray, you’re getting into the mature part of the relationship and getting past the infatuation phase. It’s great that you’ve made it this far. But now that you know each other so much better the (partly imagined) pressure to get the perfect gift increases! It’s true that some people equate good gift-giving with how much you care. 

It’s a good idea to have a chat with your partner about your own gift-giving practices. Some couples love to go all out, some could care less. Anything is fine as long as you’re on the same page.

3. Get Something Your Partner Wouldn’t Buy for Herself

As you guys become more serious and committed, your gifts can help showcase that. Great gifts (IMHO) are things you wouldn’t get yourself or do yourself, but will happily receive them. For example, my in-laws just bought me a pressure washer! 

At this point, you should know her friends fairly well and know how to contact them. It’s okay to ask for some tips from her friends. Not only will it help you, but you’ll definitely score boyfriend points.  

A simple but useful gift idea could be some nice pillows or bedding (minimum 300 thread count!), something made from cashmere like a scarf or sweater, or some high-end hobby supplies. I like doing cross-stitch and even I will balk at the luxury thread at $1.29 and instead get the more frugal $0.69 one.  Everyone likes getting an upgrade though! 

4. Start Creating New Traditions

As you guys spend more time together, you can start seeing a possible future come into focus.  By now, you’ve got some inside jokes and habits specific to your relationship. You can tap into those coupley things and start creating your own traditions. 

Showing a partner you want to spend more time together is a great idea. You can do a weekend ski trip together or find a bunch of fun activities to do around your town. If you were together last December, what did you do?  Maybe you can find a way to do it again or upgrade it. If you went to a diner on Christmas Eve with her, tell her you’d love to do dinner out again, but take her to her favorite place.

Meeting the Parents (18+ Months)

Wow, you guys are in it to win it! That’s great. Good for you. I’m sure you’ve had to overcome some hurdles to get here, but now you’re in the warm and gooey center of the relationship. You’re at the point where you’re figuring out how to make holidays happen with each other’s families. And while getting the “right” gift probably isn’t going to be make or break time now, it still helps bond and show love!

5. Definitely Can Splurge Now – Don’t be Frugal!

This is your time to impress.  You don’t need to break the bank, but you WILL be judged (only sort of kidding).

Now is the time to start splurging. However, if you guys have made agreements on how much to spend on each other, try to honor that. Yes, you may think it’s fun to surprise her with an extravagant gift, but it could make her uncomfortable if it’s a total economic mismatch. That being said, everyone deserves a surprise at least once!  

Photo of a man giving a woman a necklace
A pricey gift is appropriate if you’ve been in a loving relationship for over a year.

You know her family at this point, so you can go ahead and ask them for help as well. “Is there anything that Tina ever wanted as a kid that she could never get?” Since you’re more settled now, you can also ask them directly what she wants. You don’t have to get her exactly what they say – you can use it as a springboard to brainstorm. If they say earrings, you get her a nice ½ karat diamond set.

It can be a practical gift as long as you know she wants it! A dishwasher can save relationships! And good baking mixers can go for over $500. If you are going to go the practical route, pair it with a beautifully worded card. Let them know how much they mean to you.

6. Make Her Something Special

I know that this goes totally against the point above and that’s okay!  Because you guys are likely getting into a more adult stage where you don’t need more things. If you’re living together, you’ve probably got your home set up the way you want it, for the most part. Yes, spending a lot of money on something you know they want is totally fine. But so is spending a lot of time on something.  

Remember, most gifts are about the time you spent thinking about it.  For my second anniversary, it was the “cotton” anniversary.  At that moment, I wasn’t particularly flush, so I couldn’t buy anything expensive.  But I remembered that my mom taught me how to cross-stitch as a kid, so I tapped back into that and spent dozens (and dozens) of hours making something for her and framing it.  When I gave it to her, she started crying and said no one in her life had ever done something like that before. SCORE!

Bonus Tip #7 for All Couples: Don’t Forget the Family

During the holidays, you may be meeting the parents for the first time or spending your first holiday with them. Family is always involved in some way at this time of year. Be sure to bring the right gift for her parents – that will definitely get a lot of points on your side! But you gotta put a little thought behind it.  A totally off-kilter gift will show you’re not tuned in with their family. Imagine getting a nativity set for atheists. 

Don’t be frugal! Show that you know something about the family. If they like coffee, get them some expensive coffee.  If they are all about their kids or grandkids, make them a personalized jigsaw puzzle or blanket with little kid photos.

Photo of a family exchanging gifts
If you are meeting or visiting her family, you will need to get gifts for her family.

For the mother, the best gift is anything sentimental. Honestly, as long as your gift to her mom is heartfelt, she’s probably going to love it, just for the fact that you gave it to her.

For the father, it’s not always so easy. It can be intimidating to buy for a girlfriend’s dad! Or a wife’s dad, for that matter. I recommend you get him something in line with his favorite hobby and tell him you’d love to learn more about it. Older guys love to teach younger guys the ropes.

You Don’t Need to Break Your Holiday Budget on Her Gift

Giving the perfect gift isn’t easy, no matter how long you’ve been dating, engaged, or married! It takes thought and effort sometimes to come up with that idea that knocks her Santa socks off. It’s not about money – it’s about meeting an unexpressed need or desire.

Sometimes it can be tempting to throw money at the gift-giving problem. This isn’t actually a guaranteed winning move. Don’t get your significant other some random expensive thing thinking that the cost will make them happy.  If it’s not their vibe, it doesn’t matter how much you spent on it. The thought you put and the care you show in your gift is what truly matters. Think about what she likes, what she wants, and what she values most in your relationship. You can grow your relationship by giving a thoughtful gift.

Merry everything to you all, have a healthy and happy holiday season – and I’ll see you in the new year!