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What’s The Perfect Gift?

With the holiday shopping season officially upon us, we’re all looking for that perfect gift. Here are some of my tried, true, and tested ideas for men and women.

WHAT TO BUY MEN

Some guys are harder to shop for than others. I’m one of those guys. It’s not because I have everything, but rather because I have everything I want. I hate acquiring stuff, and (most of) my friends know this, so I usually end up receiving perishables (read: booze) as gifts. Now while I don’t mind this at all (my liver aside), I do enjoy receiving the thoughtful object now and again. Here’s a few ideas if you have to shop for someone like me:

1- A good pocket knife. Time was when every man carried one of these, and I never leave home without one. They come in far more handy than you might expect, and no you can’t borrow mine, so don’t ask. And if someone does gift you a knife, just remember to give them a coin back, so as not to “sever the relationship.” Fallkniven makes fantastic fixed blades and folders using the latest and greatest steels. Benchmade has a wide variety of knives with something for everyone. For those on a budget, Opinel makes excellent affordable knives with great carbon steel blades.

2- A small LED flashlight. Again, something you’d be surprised at how often you use one of these if you carry it on your person all the time. LED flashlights are amazingly bright, the bulbs last almost forever, and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The top of the line are made by Surefire (the E1B is my favorite), pricey but built like a tank. Fenix also has a great range of options, and are a better value.

3- A cool pen. Go fountain if you want to be fancy, Space Pen if you want to be techy, or tactical if he needs to fight off the zombie hoards. Every man should have a good pen. Visconti makes some uber-fancy writing utensils if you need something encrusted with gems. The Fischer Space Pen does indeed write upside down, under water, and in zero gravity (and you can get space pen refills that fit other pens too). Tactical pens have sharp-points for breaking glass and stabbing invading aliens. Smith and Wesson makes a few nice ones.

4- A cashmere cap. Every guy has a knit hat, but not every guy has one in cashmere, and believe me, there’s a difference. Don’t get me wrong, merino wool and cotton are nice and make for perfectly good headwear, but you’ll never experience the itch factor when you sport cashmere. Even the big retailers like Banana Republic and J. Crew carry them.

5- A flask. If the dude you’re shopping for enjoys his drink, why not help him spike the punch at the next party? Plastic will be appreciated by the guy who’s really gonna use it, as glass can break. The metal ones might look the best, but they often affect the taste. Kiosk makes the coolest plastic one (if you can find it in stock).

So now you can avoid buying things like ties and Isotoners when the holidays roll around, and if you need to make it extra-special most of the above can be engraved.

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FOR WOMEN

Rule No. 1, never ever give a woman an appliance as a gift. Even if she swears that’s what she really wants. If she’s really serious about you getting her that Cuisinart, go ahead a get it for her, but for the love of everything holy get her something else to go with it.

I also suggest avoiding the whole jewelry/clothing/accessory thing (see exception below) unless you really know her and her tastes, but especially if you’ve done that in the past.

Folks, your lady doesn’t want another necklace with her birthday gemstone in it. Really. Try giving her an experience rather than a bauble, and I don’t mean taking her to a hockey game. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1- A spa package. If your lady works long hours, she might not have the time to pamper herself appropriately. A massage, a facial, some aroma therapy… is always a good call. If you don’t have a dedicated spa near you, check the local hotels. Many of them offer packages even if you’re not a guest.

2- A weekend at a bed and breakfast. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s nice to get out once in a while. Be sure to vet the place carefully though, as these kinds of weekends can go south fast if you rent a room in a place kept by Norman Bates. Also be sure to plan some activities to see the local sights. Don’t leave it up to her, plan the whole weekend. If she wants to deviate from the itinerary, that’s fine, but the point is that you planned the whole thing. An alternative is to get a hotel in the big city nearest you (even if you live there). Order room service, take in a show, whatever. Just take her out of her normal environment and give her some respite from her daily grind.

3- Any outdoor adventure. Depending on your location there are still places where you can go apple-picking, hiking, wine-tasting, sailing, even hot-air ballooning. If she enjoys being outdoors there are tons of options available. The point of this kind of gift is that you’re sharing the experience with her. Even a picnic in a local park can be fun, so long as you make the lunch and make the whole day about her.

4- Cook her dinner. This is probably something you should do regularly anyway, and if you’ve really got game you’ll do this in tandem with one of the above, or as a supplement to the aforementioned Cuisinart. Roast a chicken. Make sides to go with it. Have appetizers like carmelized onions on fresh bread from a local bakery. Similarly, you could prepare a wine and cheese or chocolate and bourbon tasting for her, maybe after you pick her up from the spa. If you want to make it more “gifty” get her a membership with a wine or cheese club, where they send you something every month.

For those of you who still feel a hankering to buy her something pretty, that’s fine, too. But avoid shopping for her in the local mall. Don’t buy her a pair of bland earrings from a major retailer; find her something special, or better yet something one-of-a-kind. When in doubt, ask her best friend. Her girlfriends can be your best resource to help choose the perfect gift. They know if she’s been eyeing a particular pair of shoes, or a handbag, and can likely tell you exactly where to get it.

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Have other ideas for great gifts? Share them with GuyStuff/GirlStuff team.

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Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com