by: Michael Kabel

    Choosing gifts is hard. It's okay, we can admit it. There's the shopping, and the budget balancing, and the habit of second-guessing yourself until every good gift we come across seems exactly like a pile of junk. The time involved is a hassle, since you have to either go out into the stores or click around for hours on various websites where all the products start to look the same. And even if you find the gift that you think is perfect, there's no guarantee someone else won't get the same thing, or that the recipients won't completely miss the point of our best intentions.

    So if we have to shop for a gift, we might as well shop smart - which is to say, with an eye towards a definite goal in mind. Planning a strategy, making confident decisions, and setting limits are always good methods when facing any task in front of you. Gift giving shouldn't be any different. As a quick plan of attack when facing a gift giving decision, consider how much you want to spend, the tone of the gift you want to give, and the message you want to convey. Narrowing down your gift choices in that order provides you a kind of "string of elimination" that discards unqualified ideas, letting you focus in on the ideal gift. Remember, these are guidelines more than rules, so don't let them dissuade you from following a brainstorm.

    The price is the amount you're willing to pay for any given gift. If the occasion is a new baby arrival or a solemn occasion like an engagement or wedding, prepare to spend a little more than ordinary, run of the mill events like birthdays and anniversaries. A baby's birth is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so while you don't have to put yourself in the poorhouse, remember that you usually have to spend a little to get a little. And while you're spending, consider giving a gift that's a keepsake of the occasion, one that will last for years and serve as a memento of the landmark event. This could include something as simple as a personalized keepsake ornament or baby blanket, for example, or something as elaborate as sterling silver. 

    The tone of the gift is the emotion you wish to convey and your attitude about the occasion. A lovely example of a thoughtfully toned gift would be one that evoked a sense of the baby's heritage. For example, a family with an Irish ancestry would appreciate a traditional fork and spoon set.  A vintage-styled baby gift would help to convey your respect for any family's line continuing, giving a sense of classic elegance and perpetuity. 

    Obviously, the message you want to spend is largely indicated by the tone. While giving a gift that's serious is a lovely gesture, particularly when giving a baby gift, but that message could just as well be happy and fanciful. Such examples of useful gifts that are also joyful might include baby welcome wagons, baby diaper cakes, or even layette sets and gift packages that send a joyous note of happiness along with them.