Notes from an Armchair Psychologist: Strategic Santa Part Two – How to give a ‘thoughtful’ gift

GREETINGS! I hope you’ve had a good holiday season. I’m sure you’re fed-up of hearing about it, yet HERE WE ARE. READY TO CHAT ABOUT IT AGAIN. HO HO HO BITCHES.

Last time we took a look at the different motivations and methods we might have for giving gifts, so if you’ve joined us late then head over to part one to catch up! Otherwise you’re a bad person and I hate you.

*jUsT kIdDiNg!*

Anyway, we figured out that the best reason to give a gift is because you appreciate someone (no shit); so now it’s time for some *spicy* tips about how to find the perfect gift for that lucky person in your life.


Think about who you’re getting a gift for. Is your relationship an equal one? Have they done something to deserve your time, money and effort? Do they enrich your life in some way, or are they a wonderful person in need of cheering up? Make a list of everyone you’re buying a gift for and think about why they’re there. Cross-out anyone that doesn’t deserve to be on the list – AND DON’T GET THEM ANYTHING.

Conflict avoidant personalities beware: if you stop gifting suddenly, it could cause gift-withdrawal, the chief symptom of which is DRAMA.

If you find yourself in a situation when it’s difficult to cut-off their access to Santa’s stash, then try weaning them off the gifts gradually. Maybe get something smaller first, maybe just send a Christmas card, or maybe have a tentative conversation explaining that you can’t give a gift this year. They might surprise you and may take the opportunity to cross you off their own list. If they persist in asking why consider why u r friends with this bellend just mention that you’re short on finances and hopefully they’ll feel too awkward to pry any further.

2: Play the long game

Finding the right gift is a lot easier if you spread the labour/cost throughout the year. Start early. Find a place to keep the gifts (if you have space) and resist the temptation to give them before you’ve planned to, because you might end up buying extra gifts and spending more than you intended or undermining the sense of occasion.

3: Utilise techmology

Create a spreadsheet or a private amazon wishlist where you can collect ideas throughout the year. If you happen to be browsing online or shopping and see something you think would suit someone, make a note of it for later. For a really quick and easy gift, type something you know they already like into google shopping (like pandas, baking or vampires) and see what comes up. You might be able to snag something to add to their collection.

4: Embrace your inner-stalker

The best gifts are thoughtful. Pay attention to those you’re buying gifts for. If they mention something they need *make a note of it*. If you’re out shopping and you see something they like *jot it down*. If you can’t think of anything, then obsessively check their facebook until you find out what they like. If that fails, speak with someone close to them and see if they have any ideas. If that fails, break into their house in the middle of the night and check their sock drawer to see if it needs topping up. While you’re there you might as well check their underwear drawer too consider taking the opportunity to start a new hobby with them, or introduce them to something you think they’d like.

5: Be manipulative

If you can’t find out the recipient’s actual wants/needs, then create a situation to make them aware of desires they didn’t know they had. 😉 Maybe you’re at their place having tea, and they only have a kettle. Mention how pleasant it might be to have a teapot, or comment about how nice their teacups are – if ONLY they weren’t so small. It’s a bitch move but it’ll work if you’re already a douchebag because no one will be able to tell the difference.

Tip: this works better closer to the holidays so they don’t buy the object for themselves before you can gift it to them.

you could always ask if there’s anything they need, then hope that they forget the conversation by the time the holidays roll around.

6: Generalize – but be specific

If you’re still not sure how to buy a thoughtful gift (maybe you don’t know this person as well as you think you do??? Maybe you should be more attentive and spend time with them IN DAYLIGHT. WHEN THEY’RE AWAKE INSTEAD OF WATCHING THEM THROUGH BINOCULARS ) then buy a generic present whilst still keeping them in mind. If you select a set of cosmetics, try to find out whether they have sensitive skin or allergies and what kind of style they go for. Are they the kind of person that takes a bath in Lynx, or are they more into hippy-dippy organic stuff? Think about whether they are health conscious or intolerant to certain substances before you buy them food they can’t eat, or products they can’t use unless you want them to suffer.

If you must reach for the classic gift of socks – find a pair that are quirky and relevant to their interests. If you have the cash, perhaps find a piece of merch from someone they stan.


If you buy something that LOOKS really weird and oddly specific, then people might think you’re a bit odd and rightly so but it will seem so strange that they’ll think that you really must have put a lot of effort into it. Places like Paperchase are full of cute shit, or you can lean right into the weirdness and go and find something really obscure in a charity shop or ebay.

8: Don’t fall for the craft hype

It might seem like a cheap/thoughtful option to try and make a gift, however consider your skill cap and the practicality of the gift itself. Food goes off, things are often harder to make than they look and if you’re shit at making things you may have to start over/buy new materials. Unless you’re skilled, a child or have your heart set on making something specifically suited for the recipient, it’s probably best to buy something cheap and thoughtful-looking instead. Unless you want to punish the person you’re making it for: give them some trash they’ll feel too guilty to throw out.

9: Go digital

I know you annoying English students are going to have a bitchfit, but if you’re on a budget then digital media can save the day! If you can’t really afford a gift, find a good, cheap ebook and send it over. It might not be much, but it shows thought and willing. Send someone a fantasy world, don’t fetishize the material commodity.

10: Be mindful

Because the holidays are a tradition, you may do things in a certain way or function on autopilot. You might have left home and still rely on your parents to add your name to family gifts, you might not bother with certain people at all, or you might keep buying people you don’t care about pointless gifts. Just remember that it’s never too late to change your behaviour until you’ve reached the sweet abyss of death. Be adaptable. Think about your habits each year and make adjustments.


Whether you’re Mr, Ms or Zee Santa – I hope that this guide has helped you take a more machiavellian mindful approach to gift-giving.

Happy Holidays from,

Santa’s little hoe hoe hoe

The armchair psychologist.

Note from the editor: I hope this advice was helpful! What was the most thoughtful gift you received this holiday season? Leave a comment below!

Notes from and Armchair Psychologist: Strategic Santa Part One – Gifting Styles

*We interrupt our scheduled questions to bring you an obligatory SEASONAL LISTICLE and will return to our scheduled therapy sessions in 2019!*

Gift-giving! A selfless expression of affection or an inconvenient obligation? Either way, thinking about what motivates us to give presents can help us choose what kinds of gifts to buy. So in this very special, holiday armchair psychology session we’re going think about different gifting styles and strategies to help you to find the perfect gift – whether you’re giving to put a smile on someone’s face, or to save face.

Punny Ghosts

SO let’s JUMP right INTO it.

In order to consider why we give gifts, we’re going to do what armchair psychologists do best and simplify everything into digestible categories (I’m looking at you Psychologies Magazine). The list below is OBVIOUSLY exhaustive so don’t even bother trying to challenge my authority and don’t even THINK about leaving an angry comment ranting about how I’ve left something out. THAT IS NOT A CHALLENGE. Just trust me, ok? I’m not a doctor.

Christmas Present

Gift giving style 1: Gifting to get back

What’s better than giving? GETTING OF COURSE. We all have those people we swap gifts with for no other reason than the fact that someone else’s money is always more appealing than our own.

Rugrats Angelica

Gifting strategy: Any old gift set will do. Spend as LITTLE as possible or buy something that’s cheap and then dress it up in pretentious hipster wrapping to make it LOOK expensive. Even that might be too much effort tbh. Just get a voucher and stick it in a card: the more generic the shop, the better – department stores are usually a safe bet. It’s always a gamble though… WHAT IF THEY GIVE YOU LESS THAN YOU GAVE THEM AND YOU DON’T BREAK EVEN?!

The Grinch hating

Gift giving style 2: Obligation

Was your sibling inconsiderate enough to have a child? WELL CONGRATULATIONS. Now you’re stuck with a little wallet-drain you never asked for. WOOP-DE-FRICKIN-DO. You know you’ll look like a cold hearted demon-person if you don’t get the little brat something – even though their bank account is bigger than yours AND THEY CAN’T EVEN WALK YET.

Scrooge and bunny

Gifting strategy: For child money-magnets get something loud and annoying to piss off their parents, but cute enough for the kid to get emotionally attached; that way their parents will feel too guilty to throw it away which will prolong the torture. If you really cba, then get any old toy for whatever age range. Maybe something with lots of teeney-tiny, swallow-sized parts… That’ll teach them for daring to inconvenience you with their birth. Isn’t the world already miserable enough without more fricking people in it?

Jack Skellington

*Disclaimer – please buy children safe and suitable gifts. KIDZ R AWESUM B KIND 2 DEM*


Gift giving style 3: The flex

Because people need to be reminded that you are better than they are.

The Pauls

Gifting strategy: Do what you’re good at you bourgeois prick and buy something expensive – the more useless and trashy the better. Bonus points for ‘accidentally’ leaving the tags on. Go for something large and distinctive, that way its absence will be too noticeable for the recipients to swap it for something they could *actually* use.

poor muppets

Gift giving style 4: Love and appreciation

I’m not saying that it’s the only reason you should be giving gifts, but it’s the only reason you should be giving gifts. FUCK the obligation. We all might feel like we have to do things a certain way because that’s what our family does, or because media, or because WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY, but maybe we should chill for a moment and think about what our actions are really achieving.

The Office

We should take some time to remember the point of giving gifts in the first place. We could do so much more for the people we value if we adjusted our priorities.

In our next armchair therapy session, we will be exploring ACTUAL gifting strategies which can help us buy thoughtful gifts to give to those in our lives who *really* deserve it.

Kind regards and Happy Holidays,

The armchair psychologist

Note from the editor: Thanks for reading! Did you find yourself identifying with any of the gifting styles above, or do you have any more to add to the list? How long is your Christmas present list this year? Let me know in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post please consider helping me keep warm this winter by giving the bestest gift of all!