New friends are still feeling out the right boundaries in their friendship and as a result, gift giving can be a challenge. Some friends worry that too expensive of a gift will make their friend feel awkward. What if sometime gives an incredibly thoughtful gift to a person that is really more of an acquaintance? What if your pal thinks of you as a best friend, but you're not quite there yet?
First, match the gift to the interests you know for sure someone has. If your friendship is still too new to really know what the person likes, aim for more generalized gifts that don't cost a lot of money, nothing over $50. Spending more in the early stages of a friendship has the same effect that an extravagant gift in a romantic relationship does: it signifies a seriousness about the friendship.
It's fine to "put your heart out there" and just let your friend know you really like them and hope to hang out more in the future, but if they aren't looking at you as a close pal yet, it could make them feel as if their boundaries are being challenged. Every friendship progresses at the pace it needs to, so do some soul searching before giving a gift that may send the wrong kind of message.
Here are some ideas on the right types of gifts to give.
Gift certificates are a "safe" gift because anyone can use them, but should be paired with something more meaningful. See if you can use the gift certificate to make a small present more substantial. For example, a gift card to the bookstore or Amazon, paired with a book from a favorite author would be a lovely gift for a new friend.
In order to make gift cards special, make sure that you personalize the gift in some way. This could mean wrapping the gift card in an unusual way, writing a nice note to go along with it, or using it as a supplement to a smaller gift. Make sure that the gift card relates to the person's interests and isn't entirely generic.
Mention or write in your card something like:
"I know you love getting ebooks for your Kindle so I wanted to get you this gift card so you could fill up your ereader."
"Since you love shopping at Williams Sonoma so much I thought I'd buy you a gift card and let you have a day to shop for free."
"I wanted you to have the music you really liked so I got you an iTunes gift certificate to go along with this iHome Speaker."
Jewelry is nice for new friends, and if you're feeling confident that your friendship is going places, you can spend a little bit more on it than you would a generic gift. This "Meanings of Friendship" bracelet from Red Envelope has semiprecious stones that each represent an element of friendship. For example: blue topaz is for love and nurturing, garnet is for protection, citrine is for happiness, etc. It's sterling silver and sells for under $80.
Bracelets work for your guy friends also. This "Peace Bomb Coin Wrap" bracelet from Uncommon Goods sells for under $40. The coin comes from recycled scrap aluminum found in Laos. It's threaded onto a long, black, waxed cord.
A picture frame that includes a photo of you and your friend is a generic gift that you can personalize and make special. This frame from Things Remembered features the words "friends" as well as a spot to have it engraved. It holds a 4x6" photo and is something your friend can keep at home or take to work to display. It's a nice way to honor a favorite memory in your new friendship.
A photo cube like this one can also be a nice way to personalize your gift with pictures and a special message. You can choose from three different prepared verse options or pen your own. The wood grain makes this a slightly more meaningful gift than those plastic photo cubes you can buy.
Better Than Generic Gifts
When you're absolutely stumped on what a new friend might like, go generic with a twist. Give them something that pretty much anyone might enjoy.
This "Friends Like You" plaque retails for under $13 and is handcrafted and handpainted. The quality shows your friend that you put some thought into the gift, even though it's something that any number of friends might enjoy.
Food items are great gifts, too, especially if you package them well. Cheesecake can be shipped or picked up on your way to meet a friend for a gift exchange. Notecards and personalized stationary are always classic gifts that can be paired with another smaller present.