Style Expert Jeannie Mai Spills 5 Seriously Clever Holiday Gifting Tips

It’s that time of year when our heads are just starting to spin with all the holiday gifts we have to buy. While we have a few ideas up our sleeve, we’d be foolish to turn down a second opinion, especially if it comes from a pro. That’s why we jumped at the chance to hang out with style expert and TV host Jeannie Mai—who’s working with TJ Maxx and Marshalls this season—to get her suggestions for personalized presents that won’t cost a fortune.

jeannie mai holiday gifting tips for less

Photo: Getty

In the stores, we browsed with Jeannie (and oohed and aahed over the standout designer stuff that’s stocked at amazing prices), and got her tips for creating the perfect present this year. Read on!

1. Use the ABC method.
Not everyone on your shopping list necessarily gets the same type of gift, so distinguishing who gets what is easier with Mai’s ABC method: A is for acquaintance, B is for buddy, and C is for close friend. From there, Mai said she’ll usually send the “A” group a great holiday card—usually one of herself looking silly—with a personalized note. For the “B” group, she’ll set a price cap—say, $25 and pick out small, useful items.

For the “C” group, she’ll get really chic picture frames frames but she won’t fill them with ordinary pretty pics. “I’ll find the most ratchet pictures of us—like a [crazy] night out, or that time you didn’t cross your legs, and I’ll write something in fancy calligraphy on the bottom like ‘really?!’ Then, if they’re a really good friend, I’ll wrap it with the stand up and place it right next to the coffee maker or the bedside, so they see it, and they’re like ‘what?!'” Genius!

2. Look to Pinterest.
Mai told us that she’s a huge fan on Pinterest when it comes to culling good gift ideas. For example, if you know your boss loves to cook, start sifting through the pinboard site with keywords like “gifts for chefs.” Not only will you get solid ideas (she bought a cooking pal a set of ceramic measuring spoons last year), but it’s something you can do on the fly while you’re shopping.

3. Get creative with wrapping
As we passed by the holiday decoration section of the store, Mai told us that she’s a fan of buying inexpensive wreaths, cutting them up, and using the pieces as a seasonal way to stuff gift boxes. We’re definitely stealing that tip.

4. Nail the perfect hostess gift.
Jeannie’s tip for nailing the perfect Secret Santa gift or the perfect hostess present? Buy a beautiful ceramic or glass dish and fill it with gourmet chocolates or candies. Once the goodies are gone, she’ll have a nice piece!

5. Don’t overthink gifting for guys. 
“A good way to approach [gifts for men] is to look at areas where your guy needs help,” said Mai. For example, if your guy always throws his watches and loose change around, why not get him a nice tin, tray or catchall for his nightstand? If he can’t seem to ever keep his socks together, pick up a handy organizer for him to drop directly into his sock drawer. If your guy likes to entertain, Mai suggests gifting him a stylish aluminum bucket with a leather trim that can be filled with ice, and keeps beer cold. Chic and practical? We’re all for it!

For more style tips, follow Jeannie on Twitter @jenniemai and on Instagram @thejeanniemai