How to Get Her What She Wants for Christmas (2011 Gift-Giving Guide)

Retailers have nicknamed the Saturday before Christmas “Father’s Day” for all the men who start their shopping that day.  So, men, if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping, do not despair. You are in the majority! However, it is December already, and if you are totally clueless about what to get the special women in your life, you need to get moving. So let’s get started!

What does she want?

We hope you’ve been paying attention in the past couple weeks, because most women (72%) have either “directly told” you or used “the power of suggestion” to tell you what they want. Many express that they trust you to choose something appropriate, but also know that you appreciate ubiquitous hints.

A woman (at least 68% in this survey) would like to be surprised by a gift instead of receiving something she has asked for. So your goal here is to demonstrate your listening skills while choosing something tangential. For example, if she has mentioned that she needs some new earrings, search for a beautiful necklace. You get the picture.

How much should I spend?

Let’s start with the good news. More than half of respondents would be happy to receive any gift. As one participant said, “As long as it’s thoughtful and from the heart, it doesn’t matter!” Most women think $100-$200 is an appropriate amount for a significant other to spend on a Christmas gift. Many women (31%) would be happy to receive a gift costing $35-$75 or $75-$100. The even better news? If you are shopping for a friend or acquaintance, most women hope for a gift in the $10-$35 range.

Can you be more specific?

Yes! Below, I review the top 6 types of gifts women would like to receive, along with giving specific suggestions within each category.

1. Experiences

The gift women would most like to receive is an experience-related gift. To women, this means: a trip, a nice dinner, a winter hike, or a night out with family or friends. The number one item on a woman’s wish list is a trip–to spend some time with you or to see her friends or family. Since a flight is a big item, most women would also love help with travel expenses. You can wrap up your “help” along with a homemade card explaining your gift.

In the “experiences” category, women would also appreciate “a nice dinner and a weekend alone” with you. Other options for experience-related gifts: dance classes (find a local ballet studio), yoga classes, and rock-climbing or other athletic pursuits. My top choice in the experiences category is a warm winter hat and an outdoor weekend away to hike or ski. Bonus points: fold up a letter describing your destination and slip it into the hat-box.

2. The Little Things

Accessories are a close second to experience-related gifts and are among the most sought-after Christmas gifts. Jewelry is the big one here, although women express a lot of understanding that men are trying to save this season. There are many jewelry options out there, but to stay in the $100-$200 range, you can start with Zales holiday sales, Macy’s, and Ann Taylor.

Also prominent in the accessories category are handbags. Try looking at Coach and Nordstrom. The reward: she can wear jewelry or a handbag every day, and she will think about you every time she puts on your gift.

3. Apparel

My top pick in this category is something cozy, warm, and beautiful that she can wear around the holidays to show off how awesome her significant other is. Think: sweaters, vests, a coat, a scarf, or gloves. There are some beautiful options at Ann Taylor, which is my number-one pick for an item in the apparel category. Other options include JCrew favorites and Banana Republic gifts under $100. Two great lesser-known options: Velvet tees and Asos.com’s dresses.

Is she outdoorsy? She could benefit from new hiking shoes, a fleece, or running shoes. Does she wear nice shoes? If you’re not sure, does she wear different shoes sometimes? Especially shoes with a heel? If so, take a look at: High-end Ballet Flats and holiday shoes at Zappos.com. Several women expressed special interest in boots to wear this winter.

4. Beauty Products

Also ranking high on wish lists are beauty products. Buying a woman perfume gives you a chance to show off your knowledge of what she has and likes or to give her some adorable reasoning behind why you chose a new scent. Many sites make lists of top-rated scents, but if she has something she already loves, women say they would appreciate a refill. Here are some top-rated scents or you can search through your local Macy’s or Bloomingdales to see what you like. Always classic are DKNY and Michael Kors (Michael by Michael Kors was gifted to me 4 years ago and became my signature scent).

Makeup is a highly requested item, as well. If you know where she shops, that’s enough (see number 5). My number-one item in this category is a an item from or gift certificate for MAC or Sephora. Many women love the Beautyblender, and at $20-$25 it’s a great option for a stocking-stuffer.

If you want to get major bonus-points, try SK-II’s brightening line or their facial treatment essence. This is one of women’s most-loved beauty products (and is also one of the most expensive lines in the world–see how much work we go through to look good for you?) and has been dubbed “holy water” by regular users. I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now. That’s ok! Check it out anyway. Other favorite brands are Clarins and Clinique. Go for something moisturizing, nothing “spot-correcting” or anything like that; we all want to have a pleasant Christmas, after all.

5. Gift certificates

This doesn’t mean we don’t trust you to choose something nice! Many women enjoy the process of picking out their own items (crazy, right?). A gift certificate to a store she loves is a great option for a Christmas gift.  Specific stores women would like gift certificates for include: Sephora, MAC, and Amazon.com.

Many women also say they would love a relaxing spa day or salon gift certificate. This could mean a massage, facial, or products. Ask her what salon she goes to or look in her shower (not creepy if you’re doing gift-reconnaissance, just make sure you don’t get caught) and see what products she uses. My top pick in the gift certificate category is a cut and color at a local Aveda or Bumble and Bumble salon.

6. Electronics and Books

My number-one pick in this category is the FitBit Activity and Sleep Tracker. It is an awesome little gadget that any woman who works out would love to have. Women are also excited about the Kindle, the iPod Touch, and computers. A computer is a big-ticket items, so assistance toward purchasing one is also a good option. Books are a bit more tricky, but any animal-lover would enjoy Paul Nicklen’s stunning arctic photography and everyone loves a good novel. If you’re really stumped, try a beautiful journal from Smythson or the famous Moleskine notebooks.

So what is the bottom line here? The special woman in your life will be happy with anything that is special and from-the heart (Aww!). Family, time off work, time with friends, decorations, and warm fuzzy holiday feelings are most important to women during the holiday season.

As one woman put it, “anything that falls in line with my interests is always good (like he remembered that I said I like this, or wanted that, and he got it).” This is your chance to get her something she wouldn’t get for herself. The best gift is knowing that you listened.

Good luck!

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