Hitting it off with someone around the holidays means not having to go to stag to parties, pub crawls and all other Yuletide events. Yet, it also means navigating the, “Do I need to get you a gift?” conundrum. If you just started seeing someone and you’re excited about where things are headed, the holidays may feel like a chance to show them how you feel. But how much is too much? And will they be totally wigged out if you show up with 12 individually wrapped presents? (Probably, yes.)
“Early in a relationship, [gift giving] can feel a bit awkward because you don’t know if they will get you a gift as well,” Trina Leckie, host of the Breakup Boost dating podcast, told HuffPost. “But the thing to keep in mind is, part of giving a gift is not automatically expecting something in return.”
Per Leckie, if you’re only giving your date a gift because you expect one in return, you’ll likely end up disappointed and probably a little resentful. Like romantic relationships in general, gift-giving shouldn’t be transactional. In other words, give them a gift because it makes you happy to do so, not because you want them to get you something even better.
Of course, after making the choice to give a gift, you need to decide what it is you’re giving. While you may feel compelled to wow them with a weekend away or an expensive piece of jewelry, relationship coach Shula Melamed urges you to consider how big of a gesture feels appropriate. If you and your date are both capital E extra, going all out on a holiday gift may feel right. Yet, if your dates have been more casual or your crush seems more reserved, a really pricy or exuberant present may make them uncomfortable and overwhelmed.
“The thought put into a gift really counts,” Melamed said. “Since it is early in the relationship, this is also a great way to see how your new partner receives gifts.”
If you really want to be transparent, clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow adds you can let them know they’re on your nice list. But you can also make it a surprise. “It’s the holiday season,” he said. “It’s OK to be spontaneous, but it’s also OK to give a little head up, ‘I want to get you a little gift.’”
The beginning of a relationship is supposed to be fun and flirty. So to keep you feeling at ease, we’ve rounded up the best gifts to give someone you just started seeing around the holidays.
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Something small and thoughtful
“The key in a new relationship is to keep gift-giving simple and heartfelt,” Klapow said. “It’s not the time to purchase something that doesn’t have some meaning tied to it.” As Klapow shares, giving a gift with a purpose makes it easier to give. Instead of, “I really like you so I got you this random item,” you can say, “I know you really love Billie Eilish, so I got you this ‘Everything I Wanted’ keychain.”
Get the Billie Eilish keychain for $13.87 from A1GraphicsLtd on Etsy.
A used book
“Is there a type of book they would enjoy?” Melamed asked. “Giving a gift early in a relationship can be a fun way of showing the person you are really paying attention to what they like/feel passionate about.”
What’s even more casual than a book? A used book. They’re often only a couple of bucks and sometimes have some funny written annotations in them.
Check out the selection at ThriftBooks.
A topical token
“Something that references an inside joke or something they mentioned in a conversation is great,” Leckie said. “It shows you pay attention to detail. It’s also more original and personal.” If you first bonded over “Ted Lasso” or love to joke about the Spiderman meme, getting them a Christmas tree ornament or a little trinket demonstrates that you care.
Get the ‘Ted Lasso’ ornament from Amazon for $19.95.
Something that shows you listen when they talk
“Is there a hobby they have that having some accessories for would enhance?” Melamed asked. “Getting them something connected to their interests shows that you are listening and you love to see them enjoy themselves.”
If your date is starting to learn guitar, for example, getting them a cheap but practical item may be greatly appreciated.
Get the guitar picks from Amazon for $3.89.
A succulent or other low-maintenance plant
For gardeners and plant-killers alike, a succulent is a good-looking, easy-to-care-for plant. If your date collects plants or has mentioned wanting to build a bigger collection, a small succulent is a perfect low-key gift. “If you’ve only been dating a month of two, for example, buying something in the $25 range is good,” Leckie said.
Check out the plants at The Sill.
Tickets to something you both like
“Think about gifting experiences,” Damona Hoffman, an OkCupid Dating Coach and Host of The Dates & Mates Podcast,
told HuffPost. “If you buy tickets to a concert or another event you can attend together, it sends a clear message that you want to invest in the relationship long term.” For a gift that’s really just a future date, get your crush seats to a sporting event or tickets to see a punk band they like.
Check out Stubhub.
Nice coffee or tea
Meeting for a hot drink is an easy and casual early date. A bag of beans or a box of good tea makes for a great, “I like you, but I don’t really know you yet,” present.
Get it for $14.99 from Amazon.
A vinyl record from an artist they like
If your date’s a big music person, they may have shared their favorite bands early on. Whether they only like pretentious lo-fi bands you’ve never heard or are obsessed with Taylor Swift, a vinyl record is like a poster and music all in one.
“The key is to be able to say to them why you got the gift,” Klapow said. “It really is indeed the thought that counts, and you need to be able to describe what that thought is.”
Check out the selection of records on Amazon.
A nice chocolate bar or candies
“In the very early stages of dating, you want to go modest,” said Liam Barnett founder of the website DatingZest
. “Don’t go with something big just for the sake of impressing them.” Per Barnett, some nice candy or a pretty wrapped chocolate bar is a perfect present.
Get it for $5.99 at Thrive Market.
“It’s too early to know if this is the person you’d want to spend hundreds on,” Barnett said. Instead of a new winter coat or pair of leather boots (or other big-ticket items), Barnett suggests getting your date a pair of funny socks or a knit beanie.
Get them from Amazon for $13.95.
A scented candle in a stylish jar
“If you are in a new relationship, you don’t want to go overboard,” Leckie said. “It’s the thoughtfulness that counts the most.” Getting your date a nice candle or handmade soap (something a little artisanal, but not breaking the bank) shows you were thinking of them, but aren’t trying to overwhelm them.
Get it from Amazon for $12.59.
Bringing a date flowers is a classic for a reason. You can grab a bouquet at the grocery store. They don’t last forever. And they bring color and joy to your kitchen table.
Check out the selection at Urban Stems.
Takeout for two
If you’re not super comfy with indoor dining, or just want to have a chill night at home, getting your date takeout from their favorite place is a mellow but thoughtful move.
Check out GrubHub.
A six pack (or any beverage they like)
To really get into the holiday spirit, grab your date a six-pack of their favorite beer or a bottle of a wine they like. For extra convenience, get it delivered. “Try something not too expensive that they may have talked about on dates,” Kaplow said.
Check out Instacart.
A cute card
“Always include a card,” Leckie said. “A funny, flirty one is ideal. You don’t want to get something over the top where you’re declaring them the love of your life. Keep it light, personal and thoughtful.”
Get it for $4 from TheSingingLittleBird on Etsy.