Birthday Gift Ideas | How to Give Better, More Thoughtful Gifts!

Looking for thoughtful, unique, and affordable birthday gift ideas?

The best birthday gifts create memories. It’s less about the celebration of another year and more about appreciating your friends and family. This guide will put you on the right track for giving unique birthday gifts and sending the right message.

birthday cake

Show them you care by considering these simple ideas:


Concentrate on the person, not the gift

When considering birthday presents, first start with the person. Really get to know the person, pay attention to them! That's where the best birthday gift ideas come from.

If they mention they really like or dislike something, write it down. For easy organization, keep notes in your contact management system (address book, Outlook, Google contacts, etc.)

What do they like / dislike?

Are they interested in:gardening tools and plants

  • sports
  • hobbies
  • cars
  • gardening
  • other cultures
  • pets
  • art
  • music
  • reading
  • playing music

Consider birthday gift ideas that encourage their hobby. 

Magazine subscriptions last all year and can be renewed again next year.

Or, check out personalized gifts that are associated with their interest, like a golf towel with their initials stitched into the fabric.

If you’re still stuck, give a gift certificate to a specialty store that just focuses on their interest.

Also think - what is their current status in life?

Are they married?
Consider a gift that will strengthen their relationship - either by spending time together or going through a helpful book. Also, explain why you picked this out.

Do they have children?
Give a gift that lets them spend quality time with their children. Gift ideas could include tickets to the zoo or a subscription to a children’s craft program (like Playful Craft Creations).


Give a gift that means spending more time together

When you spend more time together and share more experiences, your relationship will grow and you’ll create more quality memories.


Give them a trial membership to your yoga class or gym. It’s a thoughtful birthday gift idea. They can try something new, and you get a new workout buddy!

Invite them to join you for a concert, show, convention, festival, or any event you would both enjoy.


Give your skills

Everyone has unique skill that they can use to help others. Instead of purchasing a gift, think about giving your talents, abilities, and skills.

Are you a:

  • teacher? offer tutoring for a struggling child
  • baker? cakes, cookies, and cupcakes are always a win!
  • mechanic? inspect their vehicles and give your advice on maintenance
  • massage therapist / healer? explain how you can help and offer your skills
  • BBQ-er? bring over some smoked brisket, or offer to come to their house and BBQ for their next big get together


Pass on meaningful items

Don’t wait until you die! Pass on meaningful items to family for a birthday gift when you both can appreciate them.

These can include heirlooms, jewelry, tools, china, or decorations.

Give the story behind the item. Don’t say “here’s grandma’s old salt bowl.” Say “every time I look at this bowl, I can see grandma sitting by the wood stove scooping up a spoonful of salt and sprinklin’ the potatoes.”

Did you receive a handmade pillow from their mother 30 years ago? Remove the embroidered cover, frame it, and give it to the daughter. Just explain where it came from. Re-gifting in the family is perfectly OK when it comes to meaningful items.


Add to or start a collection

Want another great gift idea? Collectors love to add to their collections! Give them an additional item, and they will proudly display it and think of you when someone asks about it.

If they don’t have a collection, start one for them! Think of items they find interesting or useful, and start giving them regular installments each year. As the collection grows, it will be a constant reminder of your thoughtful consideration.


Give meaningful gift cards

Gift cards are great birthday gift idea - they can pick out whatever they want! However, sometimes gift cards can be less personal than a gift you picked out yourself.

If you do give a gift card, choose a specialty store they really like. Also consider their favorite hairdressers, barbers, or golf courses.

Consider giving gift cards for items they really need. Did they recently lose weight? Give a card for new clothes. Did they just have a new baby? Give a card for a specialty baby store.


Sometimes, it’s the way you give the gift, not the gift itself

A birthday gift could be as simple as lunch.

However, instead of giving a gift card for lunch, consider inviting them out for lunch with all of their closest friends. Then, lunch becomes a special memory of conversation and companionship.

When giving a birthday gift, think:

  • could their friends be included on this?
  • would they like to be surprised?
  • could you set up clues for a scavenger hunt?


Give meaningful, thoughtful, useful jewelry


Jewelry can make a great birthday gift, but it's the thought that's most important.

Jewelry can say:

  • remember our friendship
  • congratulations
  • I love you
  • you're cherished, etc.

as long as it's given in the right way.

However, everyone has personal tastes. You want them to wear your jewelry and remember the moment you gave it to them, not keep it in a box and only wear once just to make you happy!

Learn how to give jewelry gifts they’ll actually wear!

It’s not about the age, it’s about the acknowledgement

Birthdays may seem like a celebration of the year. Certainly 16, 18, 21, and 40 are big celebration years, but these focus more on the transition of the person and not on the number itself.

As you have more and more birthdays, the year and the birthday itself matter less and less.

Birthdays are about:

  • showing that you remembered the date, even with your busy life
  • touching base to keep up on their latest news
  • letting them know you appreciate them

For a more meaningful acknowledgment, give:

  • cards
  • emails
  • phone calls

These gestures cost you little other than time, and go a long way in terms of endearment and friendship.

Facebook Birthday Wishes

Facebook now tells you when it’s your friend’s birthday, and the popular acknowledgement is to post “Happy Birthday, Phil!” on Phil’s Facebook page.

However, everyone does this - you can even use a computer program to post these birthday messages automatically.

Cards, emails, and phone calls are always more meaningful, but go ahead - if you want to, wish Phil a happy birthday on Facebook!

Give a stress-relieving gift

Life can be stressful! Give the gift that helps them unwind and they will thank you for it.


A few stress-relieving birthday gift ideas include:

  • gift certificate for a massage
  • white noise machine to help with sleep
  • stress-relieving candles
  • aromatherapy bath salts
  • pedi stone for their feet
  • big, luxurious, soft towel or bath robe
  • soothing music loaded on an iPod shuffle or CD


Appreciate them for recent support through hardship

Gone through some hard times together?

Birthdays are a great opportunity to show your appreciation for their support.

Give a heart-felt message of thanks and appreciation. Also, consider giving a small motivational magnet or plaque about helping friends through hard times.

Relationships are not always rosy, so knowing that you have the other person’s support through hard times is very meaningful.

Give something they want, but wouldn’t purchase for themselves

If you’re around them long enough, they’ll give this birthday gift idea away.

Listen for “oh, if I only had some spare cash...”

or “man, I love <whatever> but they’re so darn expensive!”

Whenever you hear that, write it down! When it’s time to buy a birthday gift, you don’t even need to give it a second thought.

Now that you’re on the right track...

Go find that birthday gift! Check out our gift reviews for feedback on birthday gifts given by others.

Or, search through our gift questions and answers for tips about birthday gifts. If you don't find the answer you're looking for, post a new question!

Share Your Birthday Gift Advice

Do you have a useful tip to add to this page? Have you given or received a great birthday gift?

Please share your experiences and help others give better beer gifts.





We promise to use your email only to send you our newsletter - Free Gift Advice.