Perfect Present Pressure

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38 tabs open. Wishlists and wishlists and wishlists. Every Black Friday deal scoured and every RRP scorned. ‘Tis the season. Time to find the perfect gift for every man, woman and child in the land. And, blimey, are some of you hard to buy for.

My compulsion to get The Perfect Gift™ for everyone is exhausting. And it’s not your fault. You’re great. I know you’d pretend to like it even if I were to get you a gift voucher for Build-A-Bear.

It’s me. I’m doing this to myself.

Every year, without fail, I’ll waltz into a department store to pick up something specific and I’ll be overwhelmed by a flood of aggressive marketing: was/nows and 3 for 2s and cashbacks and WHAT DID I EVEN COME IN HERE FOR?!

I’ll be suckered into every deal going if I’ve got a person in mind for it. I’m weak. And once I’ve bought one Perfect Gift™, that’s it! That’s the game. Over. Because I couldn’t possibly get something this perfect for Emma and not somehow materialise a gift equally fitting for Hannah and Laura and Claire.

So, the search then begins to match whatever probably-quite-high bar I’ve started with. A combination of rush purchases and over-thought buys will be laid out across my bedroom floor, with an internal monologue debating the virtues of each potential gift matched up with each person. There’ll be switches. There’ll be notes-to-self highlighting notable gift gaps, or perhaps those ideas that are feeling a little below par because, actually, does Laura even like [insert giant generic franchise here] anymore? And, naturally, there’ll also be a formal present pile analysis to manage relative generosity from person to person, because every loved one must feel precisely the same amount of joy this festive season.

This dramatic escalation of retail chaos typically occurs by mid-November, by the way, leading to an overly-prepped and ultimately disappointing Black Friday weekend where I attempt to fill in all of those aforementioned gift gaps – or close the deal on pre-made purchasing decisions. You add 30 items to your wishlist for easy deal-watching and you’d think at least one of them would be reduced at some point, right? Wrong.

By Cyber Monday, reduced or not, the last wave of buying has to begin if I want to be truly assured that all of those internet orders will arrive in time. Accordingly, the biggest annual assault on my bank balance then takes place during those twilight hours of an all too manic Monday.

But that’s okay.

It’s okay because, other than one slightly dubious call for a brother unwilling to drop a single hint, I think – I think – I’ve nailed it.

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10 More Websites for Creative Gift-Giving

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Warning: an onslaught of hyperlinks ahead.

Looking for some gift-giving inspiration? Look no further. My original post full of gift-giving tips seemed to go down a treat so I thought I’d follow it up with another. Since that post, I’ve been discovering plenty more websites filled with fun gift ideas that will leave your nearest and dearest in no doubt of your love for them. Old faves like Society6, Red Bubble and Etsy still stand, but allow me to introduce you to some new gems…

1. Living in La La Land (UK based)

This is my current obsession, with free UK shipping and very reasonable prices all around. I hope the collection continues to expand but, so far, their products are so bizarrely diverse in terms of the corners of pop culture to which they choose to venture. One minute you’re looking at a Breaking Bad chopping board, the next you’re like, “Do I need a notebook covered with the sassy emoji?” and eventually you conclude that it is the Jessica Fletcher “Don’t Mess With Jess” notebook that you needed all along. (You know. From Murder, She Wrote.) It’s a wild ride. With their popcult pencils collections, you also have the option to have your own message printed on pencils, should you so wish.

Fandoms encountered thus far during my adventures in La La Land include: Game of Thrones, Twin Peaks, The X Files, The Office, Mean Girls, School of Rock, Harry Potter, Murder She Wrote (still weird), Pitch Perfect, Parks and Recreation, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ryan Gosling (with pizza), Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friends and many, many more.

Pros: Free shipping to the UK! (with no minimum spend; arrives nice and fast, too)

Cons: International shipping costs. Certain random items within the clothes section seem disproportionately more pricey, but that doesn’t take anything away from the many, many bargains the site boasts.

2. Eclectic Eccentricity (UK based)

I’m in love. Seriously. This might be The One. It’s like a sea of radiant, glittering beauty that I just want to swim in forever. If you know anybody with a predilection for all things spacey (of the stars and planets variety, not Kevin) – and isn’t everybody just a little bit mystified by the stars? – this is a wonderland for you. And, should you choose not to shoot off into the stars, you can always just float through the sky. I want to gush about all that this site has to offer because some of these pieces are transcendent and magical, with titles like, “Heading in the Right Direction” and “Spread Your Wings” (a feather necklace, because of course). Eclectic Eccentricity is a danger to me because not only is it filled with gems, but the names make me want to buy everything as a supportive gesture to all my friends who are heading in the right direction or spreading their wings. If you visit this site without a particular purpose, you will soon find yourself thinking of all kinds of reasons to buy everything. I warn you of that.

Pros: All things are bright and beautiful. Also, based in Norwich. As so many of the best things are.

Cons: You may hurt your finances due to an inability to restrain yourself. Not cheap, but prices are more than reasonable. Quick dispatch for orders and delivery only minimally more for international orders.

3. Ashley Bridget (US based)

While a little pricier than La La Land, the quality of Ashley Bridget’s collection reflects that (similarly to Eclectic Eccentricity). This is a great site if you’re looking for a special piece of jewellery and, right now, you’re likely to find some bargains thanks to the 50% off summer sale (applies to all items with the discount code: SUMMER). I discovered Ashley Bridget when looking for a gift for my Harry Potter fan of a friend and was very excited to find a wealth of bracelets, necklaces, etc. that would both tap into my friend’s HP love but would also be beautiful accessories. Currently, they have collections and pieces inspired by Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Frozen, Lord of the Rings and tennis, as well as more general interests.

Recs: The Magic Collection, The Expression Collection.

Pros: Ships internationally.

Cons: A little pricier, $50 minimum spend for free shipping (though this also applies internationally). Has recently added a Grey collection. Thank you for respecting my privacy at this difficult time.

4. Adolescent Clothing (UK based)

This site is filled with fun t-shirt, beanie and sweatshirt designs with slogans such as “You’re freaking meowt.”,  “Girls > Boys” and “Bae-con“. The collection is relatively small at the moment, but there are bargains to be found amongst what is currently available. If your bestie has a penchant for pizza or is on her way to crazy cat lady status, you might just be in luck. Definitely worth a browse!

Pros: Free shipping to the UK.

Cons: The sizing is limited to small, medium and large and I canny find a size guide!

5. Emily McDowell Studio (US based)

How to adequately articulate my love for the Emily McDowell designs that so often express my inner most feelings better than I ever can? This card just about does it. The site has a collection of cards, mugs, dish towels, prints, bags, postcards, notepads, gift tags, stickers and temporary tattoos with designs that are all both aesthetically delightful and amusingly frank. I feel like everyone should have a “basically just waiting to go home and take off my pants” work mug, or a “short, encouraging phrase” tote bag. The specialty of Emily McDowell Studio, though, is the card selection. The messages tap into the reality of what it is to be a human in 2015. While the birthday cards, the valentines and the wedding cards are all uniquely special, there are a whole host of designs for the in-betweens: a card for someone who you’ve lost touch with, a card for a friend with cancer, a divorce card, a card for your honourary mother, one for your platonic soulmate, the awkward dating card “for when you’re kind of together but it’s not a big deal”.

Pros: The selection of cards gives you plenty to choose from; really good value price-wise!

Cons: Variety of items like bags and mugs is limited. International shipping might be a bit of a faff and delivery is not free. I recently ordered three cards to the UK and the shipping came out at just under $10, but per card that’s not too bad and the actual items themselves are priced pretty fairly.

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The 10 Best Websites for Creative Gift-Giving

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I’m obsessed with gifts! And while I might be a materialistic brat from time to time, in this case I’m referring to the giving  of ’em (a halo appears). A lot of my friends have fangirl indulgences, so I have that advantage, but it’s important to me that I give presents that are thoughtful and personal. I thought I’d share a few of the websites that I use when it comes to the big search, before the lead-up to Christmas properly kicks in.

And yes, I have already purchased present number one. The dam broke.

1. Etsy

We’ll get this one out of the way first. Etsy is my most-used website when it comes to gift-giving. Not only does it have an incredible range of unique, handmade products, but they are made to a really high standard. Whether it’s for my parents’ silver wedding anniversary, a nerdy birthday gift or a yearning for some really exceptional typography design, Etsy never lets me down. It’s also a really easy-to-search site and you can set it to only show items that ship to the UK. Take it from me, you shouldn’t go getting attached to things you can’t have.

Rec: PopArtPress (use the coupon code SAVETWO to get $2 off!)

Pros: Biggest range and best quality.

Cons: US-based so shipping can often be a little startling. Always look into shipping when purchasing – often ‘buy extra item’ deals can help. Also: you may fall into a never-ending search spiral, not unlike when you’re “just going to watch ONE Youtube clip”. Sure, sure.

2. Folksy

Folksy is kind of the UK equivalent to Etsy. While its range is somewhat more limited, and if you’re looking for nerdy gifts (as I so often am) it’s not quite so good, Folksy shipping prices are low for UK residents and there’s still a really nice range of goodies. One of my favourite stores on Folksy, which I first found at a market, is ‘Framedup’. They sell lego versions of a number of iconic film and TV characters in frames. If that does not sound excellent to you then maybe we can’t be friends. A LEGO WOODY AND BUZZ. THAT IS FRIENDSHIP, OKAY.

Rec: Framedup.

Pros: Low-price shipping.

Cons: Limited choice, when compared to Etsy.

 3. YourDesign.co.uk

This is a photo-printing website, where you can personalise items including mugs, hoodies, shirts, phone cases, bags and more. I’ve only got experience buying a few of their products, but it’s the most reasonable price/quality ratio that I’ve found. This is where I would recommend you look if you want to create personalised items for friends.

Similar: Zazzle, Vistaprint, Printster, Snapfish.

Pros: Reasonable prices, decent quality, nice selection of personalisation options.

Cons: You’ll get a higher quality product at VistaPrint, but the prices there become unreasonable when postage and packaging is added in.

 4. Society6

Society 6 is great. They have free shipping deals about once a month, and the designs are works of art. A lot of the presents I buy are nerdy gifts, and Society6 is a great place for that – Firefly, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, The West Wing, The Office. It’s fun to give my friends presents that are covered in pop culture references relevant to their interests. Society6 is perfect for all of that, but it also has more abstract designs if you just want to give someone a distinctive print – for t-shirts, vests, iPhone covers, wall art, tote bags etc.

Pros: Shipping to the UK isn’t too bad, but wait until they have free shipping deals if you can. They’re relatively frequent.

Cons: It doesn’t have a perfect search system. I’m pretty sure it only picks up title words. Keywords, people. Tags? Even instagram has hashtags. Step it up!

 5. Red Bubble

This is a more comprehensive collection than any other print t-shirt design site online. It’s not ridiculously pricey, but it works out a little more than Society6. As well as t-shirts, you can also get stickers, iPhone cases, posters, cards and hoodies. The designs on this website are really impressive, and make a lot of official merchandise look amateur. Again, this is best-suited to nerdy gifting. Whether you want a Pikachu Potter, Joss jokes or just have a penchant for all things Parks, there’s a wide range of cool designs for all.

Pros: I GET LOST IN ALL THE DESIGNS.

Cons: I GET LOST IN ALL THE DESIGNS. So much choice has become too much choice.

 6. Wicked Clothes

The designs are simple but the slogans are gr9. I really love this website. I’m lucky enough to have lovely friends who do lovely things which include buying me lovely sweatshirts from WickedClothes, so I review this particular site as a gift receiver, not giver. Definitely check out the collection though, if not just to admire the pretty.

Pros: Great quality and fun, cool designs. I mean, cool to me. Probably not cool by the most traditional definition.

Cons: Pricey.

 7. Black Milk

They sell Harry Potter leggings. LEGGINGS. They sell Harry Potter swimming cozzies. SWIMMING COZZIES. Guys. I’m not even into Harry Potter enough to buy any of their Hogwarts collection, but damn it’s cool. This website is also damn pricey, but the designs are not just fangirl fine – they’re fashionable. You have to have far more swagger than I will ever have to carry a lot of them off, but if I ever spot a person in a Marauders Map dress, they get an auto high-five.

Pros: The designs are fashionable????

Cons: You still probably aren’t cool enough to pull them off, and you’ve paid over £50+ for the pleasure. Nevertheless, if I am ever wealthy enough, everyone goes home with a shooter of their Hogwarts house that Christmas.

 8. Firebox

Firebox has a real variety of gift ideas, and is at the very least a good start to the brainstorm. I also think this is one of the better sources of inspiration for bloke presents. I take great pleasure in hunting for gifts for my female friends (especially the fangirls), but the men in my life are a mystery come Christmas. Check out the Top 50 as a place to start. Also: if you don’t have a friend who would rock those unicorn slippers, get new friends.

Pros: Ideas for everyone, and some that are out of left field.

Cons: Not the widest selection ever, and some stuff is expensive so keep an eye on the prices while you’re looking.

 9. Lovely Jojos

This is a really small website, that I found after seeing them at a market stall. A friend and I fell in love with their ‘We Love You London’ print, which is simply magnificent. We had the brilliant opportunity to examine all the detail of it in person. Had I the money, I’d have hastily snapped it up for said friend. There are some other really nice items available, and if you’re looking for something unique for a friend it might be a nice place to start. Their card designs are priced at £2.75.

Pros: Unique and fun designs! It’s nice to know that no one will be giving the same gift as you.

Cons: HELP ME I’M POOR.

 10. Custom Made

They have a really pretty website to go with their really pretty designs. The necklaces are where it’s at. They’re as cute as anything you’ll find on Etsy, and UK-based. A particular favourite of mine is the lightning bolt, but everything that they sell has a real charm about it.

Pros: If you have a friend obsessed with owls (and doesn’t everybody?) then this is your moment.

Cons: Only a limited range of products.

If you have any similar great gifting websites or have any further tips on the subject, then leave a comment because I’m always on the lookout for more. Thank you, and happy shopping! Sorry for being that person, bringing up Christmas in September. It’s just really cold in my house. I’m wearing fleece!