Okay, because he asked me nicely: What TO buy - personal gifts, personalized gifts, meaningful gifts, cute gifts, home gifts (there are tons of places you can find these exact lists, probably on line or in varied magazines - especially around now). If you have no clues what the things in the list above are, just write to me and I'll give you specific ideas.
What NOT to buy -
* For kids - Don't buy clothing or books. We might think that the grey sweater is just gorgeous, but a kid will look at it, say thanks, and then ask, where the REAL present is. And ditto books. (My kids have the knack of buying me exactly the sefer (book) that I'd love, but not everyone is "into" books.)
* Don't buy toys that have to be grown into. Buy for the moment. Toys to be grown into are things for you to buy on your own time, and put away in your own closet for the right time. Buy something kids can have fun with TODAY.
* For anyone - Don't buy anything ugly. There are plenty of ugly things on the market. Don't buy them. (A fetus shaped cookie cutter is NOT cute.)
* Don't buy anything non-returnable. Your taste might not be your friend's/child's/spouse's taste. No one wants to get stuck with something non-returnable. Then not only do they not like the gift, they're stuck with it forever.
* Don't buy something strange. Unless your recipient has a really funny sense of humor or has requested a strange gift, don't buy one. (Ex. Derogatory art, rain sticks or crime scene towels are not for everyone.)
* Don't buy anything in a strange place. If there are a toy store, gift store, hardware store and dentist in the same row of stores, DON'T buy a gift in a hardware store. (Unless it's for Bobby Joe and he specifically asked you for a hammer or saw.)
* Don't try to be different. (Unless recipient said, "Be wild and carefree when you buy my gift.") (Don't buy any stuffed REAL animals or bad breath devices or Albert Einstein action figures unless the recipient specifically requested something like that.)
When in doubt -
** Buy jewelry (preferably REAL jewelry). And nothing wild or trendy (unless that's a specific wish - jewelry should last forever, classic jewelry is best).
** Buy a personalized gift. People love their names: a towel, glass or even soap with someone's name engraved on it will bring smiles for a long time.
** Buy a gift certificate to a terrific store (not hardware). When in doubt, be honest, and say, "I'm looking for the perfect gift for you, but haven't found it. Could you give me a hint."
** Give money. Everyone loves money. :)
Good luck with the rest of your shopping. You don't have to spend a bundle to find the perfect gift. You just have to give it a little thought.