They say this is the most joyful time of year, which is hard to believe when we spend most of the month stressing over what to gift our friends, hostesses and mostly, our significant other.  Oh and making sure we don’t drink too much at our holiday work party/figuring out how to deal with the in-laws/getting hot little numbers to wear to holiday-oriented events and the other expected stresses that come in December.

Allow me to take some of the stress away.  Here are five of my best gift-giving tips:

1. Take notes. This time of year, we tend to get many “hint hint, nudge nudges” from the people close to us about things they like and want to receive.  Be that amazing, considerate person that you are and listen to their clues and things they’re saying.  Did a friend mention what an amazing massage she had at a new spa?  Did your main man mention a book he’s been wanting to read but hasn’t picked up yet?  When you hear others talk about the things they like, make note of it in your phone, so you can have it on hand to look back at when shopping time comes.

2. Think beyond material things.  Nothing says “I’m trying really hard to be the best girl you’ve ever had and so I’m spoiling you with this very obviously pricey item so you can talk about it” then gifting a gent with the usual suspect line-up of go-to gifts.  The new iPhone 5?  Concert tickets for a band he loves?  Seats for a sports game?  An iPad?  These are gifts that don’t have much meaning behind them. Instead of taking the easy route and getting him a gift that lacks much meaning, try to avoid these things he can easily pick out on his own.

3. Use your heart, not your head.  The gifts that are the most appreciated and the most remembered down the road are ones that come alongside a feeling…a moment.  So how do you create a moment?  By being attentive to their wants, needs and likes and getting them a gift that they would never think to get themselves.  Is he a workaholic? Why not see if you can hire someone in his field to do a one-on-one career coaching session with him?  Does he always buy a lunch at work because he can’t be bothered to take the time to make one?  Why not go to a cooking class where you make a month’s worth of food together, for him to keep in the freezer and have on hand each day?  Forgo purchasing a gift that makes you look like “the best girl ever” and instead get one based on his wants.

4. Always include a card. Whether you make your own card with some good ol’ construction paper or you get a playful card at the store, never underestimate the power of a handwritten note.   You don’t need to write a novel, but this time of year is a great opportunity to express just how much you appreciate someone.  A card one ups the present, and it gives them something to hold onto forever if they’re the sentimental type.

5. Say no to gift cards. Gift cards are a cop-out gift.  It looks like you don’t care enough to do your research or take the time to get them something special.  We often fall back on gift cards when we know how much we want to spend. We tell ourselves that this way, they can pick out their most favourite things so it’s all good.  But that’s not the case.

Gift giving gives us the opportunity to be personable.  The more calculated your decision is, the more the love in your life will realize how much you’re meant to be together. You know him down to the core and take care of his wants and needs without him even having to ask.  Oh and by the way, the best presents of all are the ones that draw tears (of happiness).  Go get ’em girl.

Jen Kirsch is a relationship expert, columnist and blogger. For quick tips and tricks, follow her on Twitter @jen_kirsch. Read her posts every Tuesday on Slice.ca.