April 18th, 2022
Last year, I started building a system for reminding myself to buy birthday gifts for my friends, family, and loved ones. 

I’m not the best at keeping in touch with people (need to work on that) and since I have some extra money left over from my business, I thought that buying gifts for people would be a nice use of the money.

I also live in Florida now, and I don’t live close by to most of my best friends and family anymore.

How it works

I went to Facebook and did a spreadsheet export of all my friends, and their birthdays.

I did some cleanup on the spreadsheet, keeping the friends that I actually wanted to stay in touch with, and imported of them into Google Calendar, under their own calendar.

Birthdays for April 2022

For each event, I set an email reminder 7-10 days before, and another reminder on the day of.

Reminders for calendar event

Notification in email

I use my inbox as a sort of todo list, so when this reminder comes into my inbox (10 days before their birthday), it stays there until I figure out the birthday gift. At that point, I have a few days to come up with a gift idea and get it shipped out so it arrives before their birthday.

Then, on the day of their birthday, I get another notification, so I can remember to text or call them.

Buying gifts

It’s been a year, and I’m still figuring this part out. My goal is to get them something unique, or meaningful to our relationship. 

Sometimes it's a gift based on an inside joke we have. Sometimes it's a recognition for something they've been working hard  on.

Etsy is amazing for designing custom gifts. As a gift for my musician friend, I had someone on Etsy design a plaque for reaching 100,000 streams on Spotify.

Custom recording plaque

Or, I’ll design something on Canva, and put it on a t-shirt or hat or a mug.

On Etsy, you can do cool things like this for $25-$50.

Some other good, easy gifts you can do:

  • Buying stuff on Amazon (easiest method)
  • Buying a great book for a friend on something they are interested in
  • Gift cards to their favorite local coffee shops
  • Find out where they are going to dinner, and call the restaurant and order a bottle of wine to be delivered to their table and surprise them.

After doing this for one year, I’ve found that the gifts can sometimes be a hit or miss, or that is at least my perception. I think that some people love getting stuff with sentimental value, but it might be trash to others.

But that's OK! I'll take a mental note of this and switch up my strategy in the following year.

Something I've been doing lately is actually just writing birthday cards by hand and shipping them via snail mail. I'll report back on this next year.

Why I’m writing about this

Giving gifts is a form of gratitude. And gratitude is something that I’m working on as a human. 

As far as the cost, it’s not as bad as you might think. If the average gift is $50 and I do it for 50 people, that’s $2,500 per year. And there are ways you could still do this with far less money.

I’m lucky to be in a place where I can afford that, but more importantly I believe that this money and time invested in your friends and family is worth it.

The last thing I’ll say about this: it does take some time out of your day. Thinking about the right gift, searching for it, logistics, etc. It might sound like a hassle at first, but I actually feel great when I successfully figure out a good gift, and even better when they let me know they got their gift.

I’ve never been one to give gifts, but I’ve really enjoyed doing this over the last year, and plan to do it going forward.