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How to Choose the Right Gifts for Men:
Six Simple (and FUN) Steps

Buying gifts for men has always been a challenge. But with the holidays approaching and shopping season upon us (whether we like it or not), now is prime time for the all-too-common quandary of "What gifts can I give him that he will genuinely like and appreciate?"

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Whether you have a husband who has everything he wants aside from that half-million dollar Lamborghini, a brother who changes his favorite hobby daily, or a father who tells you not to buy him anything, choosing gifts for men -- especially something they really like -- can be a challenge.

While there's no "perfect" gift out there that will please every man, these tips will ensure you'll be tuned into the psychology of gift-giving to men, and help you choose a unique gift for him he'll really love.

1. Think Function, Not Sentiment

"In a heterosexual relationship men tend to think of gift giving more in terms of an economic exchange of goods than women do," says Professor Margaret Rucker, who holds a doctorate in psychology with an emphasis in consumer psychology, and is a gift-giving expert.

So while a woman may be completely impressed by a house filled with roses, a man would probably prefer an item that he can hold on to, and use. Think golf clubs over naming a star after him, and new slippers over a decorative knick-knack.

2. Listen to What He Wants

While women may offer hints as to what the "perfect" gift would be, men tend to be less subtle and may come right out and say what they want. Rather than going out of your way to find a "surprise," simply buying the item he's said he wants can be ideal.

The key is to pay attention and buy the item that HE wants, not the item that YOU, the giver, wants (or thinks he should want).

3. Center it Around His Interests

When looking for a functional gift for men, be sure it centers around something he likes. If he's in to sports, this might be tickets to a sold-out sporting event, or some type of sports memorabilia (think golf balls with his favorite NFL team logo on them versus a pack of regular golf balls.) A man who loves gardening may appreciate a special plant or gardening tool. Does he love watching movies? Maybe a DVD player, a surround sound system, or a couple of CDs or DVDs would fit the bill.

Swiss Army knife gift for men

Men like gifts that they can use, that they're interested in -- think of a new hi-tech Swiss Army knife versus, for example, yet another sweater he has to pretend he is excited to receive.

4. Avoid Generic "Token" Gifts

This rule applies just as much to women as it does to men: most people, including men, don't value generic token gifts.

Token gifts for men, like socks and underwear that you've given him every year, are regarded as "low cost and low effort," Rucker says. Generic gifts are regarded similarly.

"If it's a gift you have in the closet, something you could give anybody, that's downgraded," says Rucker.

5. Make it Something Fun

While there are some men who will definitely appreciate a practical gift (some new work clothes, a garden hose, etc.), generally speaking, men want a gift that's fun.

(The exception here may be seniors, particularly those on a fixed income would actually prefer something they already need.)

The key is finding something that the man will use, but that will be fun to use, not something work-related. For instance, buying a man a regular tool set is comparable to buying a woman a vacuum cleaner -- unless the man loves woodworking, etc., and you find that special tool he's been looking for.

6. Put Some Thought into It

Men like to feel special, too, and a thoughtful gift will make him feel loved and supported. What makes a gift thoughtful? Finding something that HE wants and that HE's interested in. Check out the store to see if there are any products that would make great gifts he'd be interested in ... search sites that suggest unique and interesting gifts ... or of course Google specific gift search terms that may be up his alley.

Alternatively, sometimes a gift that you've created just for him can be just the thing (i.e., a picture you painted of something he loves, a box of his favorite homemade cookies, etc.).


Dateline UC Davis

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