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Finding the perfect gift is hard, whether it’s for someone you care deeply about or a random co-worker whose name you’ve picked out of a hat. According to Cynde Cassel — Celebrity Gift Giving Expert for Winners, Marshalls and HomeSense — originality is key. Her advice is simple: “Try and go find something a little different and unique.” Now don’t be afraid, follow these 10 commandments and you too can confidently hit the stores and unleash your awesome inner gift-giver that has been screaming to come out.

“Thou shalt not wait until the last minute”

When you leave your holiday shopping to the very last minute, you tend to be left with the scraps and the stuff no one wanted. And for the person you are gifting, it just looks like a rush job that you didn’t put a lot of thought into. “If there’s a pile of the same necklaces, don’t get one of those,” laughs Cassel. “Just because there are tons of them doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the go-to gift for the holidays.” Hit stores early and click away online in advance so you get great gifts that your giftees will actually love.

“Thou shalt listen”

Not to generalize, but men (particularly husbands and boyfriends) we’re looking at you! Your partners are fantastic at dropping hints so make mental notes, or better yet, have a conversation with your significant other  and discover a bunch of gift options that he or she will be delighted to receive. The more options that you have to shop, the easier it will be for you to give something that will be appreciated and loved.

“Thou shalt keep a running list”

“I like to keep notes in my phone when I see things [people might like] or hear people say things that they want,” suggests Cassel. Any notes app or a voice-recorded memo (via your smartphone’s video recording function) can be lifesavers during those stressful shopping trips. Heck, even a pad and paper will do.

“Thou shalt not panic if on a tight budget”

What’s good about Marshalls, Winners and HomeSense is “you can find designer stuff at lower prices because it’s important to save during the holidays as your list gets longer,” shares Cassel. “I like to save where I can.” And if you can’t shop at discount retailers, other ways you can cut costs is to look out for sales via emails from your favourite stores (when the salesperson asks you for your email address, it never hurts to give it), or go to sites like Red Flag Deals that provide thousands of deals and coupons, and even freebies. To avoid crowds, if a retailer or website can guarantee your loot will be delivered before the big day, shop online; you can often catch amazing online-only deals.

“Thou shalt not be afraid to research gift ideas on social media”

If it’s your parents or loved ones, you probably know what they fancy, what they could care less about, their hobbies they’re interested in or the things they like to do in their spare time. But when you’re not really sure what a person is into, “stalking  [for gift-giving purposes only] their Facebook or Pinterest pages give you a sense of what they like and what they don’t like,” recommends Cassel. Facebook provides people with the perfect snapshots of those perfect moments in someone’s life, but Pinterest is your better option when it comes to gift giving because it’s literally provides a peek into a person’s dreams and his or her secret wish list. So see what they’re pinning (get past their pins of salted-caramel mini-cheesecakes, intricate side waterfall braids and shoes only celebrities can afford) and go find something special. Those nail polishes they’re coveting? Get them and put it in a basket with some other mani/pedi stuff. That hard-to-find leather satchel that he would never buy himself? Easy peasy. Those hilarious quotes they like so much? You might be able to find it on a mug, or you can go the extra mile and get it custom printed on a personal item that will be cherished forever.

“Thou shalt always buy gifts about them and not you”

You know in the Father of the Bride remake, when Annie gets so upset that Brian got her a blender? Don’t make the mistake of getting a kitchen appliance or, God forbid, a vacuum — unless they ask for it, of course. “It’s a self-serving gift,” says Cassel. “It’s something that’s used to cook somebody else’s food or clean somebody else’s house. Even if it’s a question of making your life easier, no. You want something personal.” Nobody wants necessities. Where’s the fun in that? The biggest mistake when shopping for others? Buying gifts that they themselves want and would like to have. I think we’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. Try and find something a little different and unique — and not about you.

“Thou shalt not be afraid to add a personal touch to gift giving”

If you want to give gift cards or money to your mail carrier, building concierge or the kid who delivers your newspaper, by all means, go ahead and surprise them. But a personal touch like making a plate of cookies, a basket of chocolate, candy, flowers or fresh fruit, or even a simple card that expresses your appreciation for all their hard work will also do the trick. And try to give it to them in person; not only will that brighten up their day even more, but it will also show them how much you care.

“Thou shalt not give boring gifts”

The biggest mistake when shopping for others? Buying gifts that they can easily buy for themselves. I think we’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. Try and find something a little different and unique — and not about you. Shopping in department stores is an obvious choice because they’re convenient and have everything you need, but there are other places to go when hunting for that special something. Aside from Winners, Marshalls and HomeSense, which have a variety of different products at any given time, why not also check out smaller boutique stores to get those unique gifts that no one else will have?

“Thou shalt be creative if gifting a gift card”

Gift cards have become the safe, go-to gift option, but they tend to be generic and lack any personality. To make things somewhat personal, give your giftee a gift card to one of their favourite stores and try wrapping it up in something pretty; put the gift card in a pair of cute socks or slippers and add your personal touch by enclosing a touching and sentimental message.

“Thou shalt have fun when gifting Secret Santa gifts”

You know that name you pulled out of the hat for Secret Santa? Don’t sweat getting him or her a super-thoughtful gift. At work, keep it light like those “As Seen on TV gifts, something kitschy, or something different,” Cassel advises. “Something fun and whimsical is appreciated. Don’t be too serious with it at all.” Most importantly, choose something that you think would be fun and your giftee will most likely think so too.