Recently, research has shown that gifting experiences rather than material goods are more effective to solidify or strengthening relationships. The theory is that bonds are formed and strengthened because experiences can evoke feelings of fear and can promote the production of adrenaline.

But, what if you can’t afford to toss your boyfriend off a cliff for his birthday? Or what if you can’t abandon your mom in the middle of an African safari so she really appreciates all the time she has spent with you. Are there material goods that can bring about the desired effect of letting someone know how much they mean to you, and simultaneously strengthen your bond?

Can material goods do the trick?

As it turns out, yes! Material goods can be an effective way to make someone feel special, but the secret is to ensure that the gift can elicit a strong positive emotional response. So if a gift makes someone feel overwhelmed with joy, and maybe even tear up a little then you will have done your job.

The Journal of Consumer Research has found that the more unique the item is, the better. The items that really capture the essence of someone and their interests will never be run of the mill, mass-produced items, because everyone wants to feel special and like an item was made just for them. Although that sounds expensive, the same study has found that on average a household will spend around 2% of income on gifts even when taking the more niche items into consideration.

The Perfect Gift

Is there a way to pick a perfect gift, though? Perfect might just be within reach if you take a few things into consideration. It seems that the most effective shopping strategy combines several different pieces of knowledge about the gift receiver. The first is to consider the receiver’s different hobbies and interests.

This one seems pretty basic, but if you can rank their interests and really figure out how this person dedicates their time it could help narrow down your search. The second factor is to really listen for specific suggestions. In everyday conversation, it is not uncommon for someone to remark “ooh, I really want that” when looking through social media, or walking around a mall. Those wants can help solidify your gift idea.

The third and perhaps most crucial factor is to ensure that the item is practical. The same study in the Journal of Consumer Research finds that the gifts that tend to elicit the desired emotional response are items that someone can use every day or something they keep near them as a reminder of you (the gifter). So the perfect present is unlikely to be something that needs to be airlifted into someone’s house, but it can be something small that can add to the person’s life.

With these tips in mind, it becomes easier to navigate the malls, boutiques, and the Internet in search of special and unique gifts for men and women such as gifts for your brother or sister. It does not have to be pricey or break the bank to make any occasion a memorable one by treating those around you to items they will cherish for a long time. All you really need is to put in some time and thought, and the rest will fall into place.