When you give someone a gift, what kind of reaction do you usually get? Is it gushing praise capped off by an enthusiastic hug, or is a half-hearted thanks and a quick change of the subject?

Even those of us who are not incredibly creative and have never come up with a gift that truly wowed someone can still manage to come up with something passable most of the time. But there will probably come a point where you’ll be too ashamed to give everyone on your list candles and coffee gift cards for the 500th time, and that’s when this list will come in handy.

Buying gifts is incredibly personal, especially if you want to do it successfully, and there are so many great gifts you can buy that you might not know where to begin. So let’s start with what you shouldn’t buy as there are some very big universal don’ts to keep in mind.

Here is a look at the worst gifts you should never, ever give.

Avoid “you need to lose weight” gifts

You would think that most people would know better by now, but that Peloton ad last year where the man gave his already-fit wife a seemingly unwanted luxury exercise bike reminded us that there are still a lot of clueless gift-givers (and ad execs) out there.

Anything that could even remotely be construed as a hint that the recipient needs to lose weight should be avoided. Stay away from fitness gear, scales, workout clothes, and tennis shoes. Shapewear? No way, not even the fancy kind. And even if your partner has been talking about joining a gym, let them sign up when they’re ready ­- do not make a gift out of it. Trust us.

Forget about anything that is alive (or once was)

We could devote an entire piece to why pets are a horrible gift.

It’s hard to resist a cute, cuddly kitten, but the truth is that adopting a pet is a huge decision that each person needs to make on their own. Pet ownership is indeed rewarding, but giving someone a pet as a gift commits them to years of taking care of the animal, along with the associated expenses, and it’s a responsibility that not everyone is prepared for.

The same is true of something that was once alive. Unless you know the recipient really well and you have no doubt about their stance on animal cruelty, stay away from fur coats and gifts made out of leather.

Never give someone an obvious regift

Regifting isn’t always a question of being cheap – it can actually be a very environmentally conscious way of giving someone something without increasing your environmental footprint. But please, whatever you do, follow these rules when you are considering regifting something that was given to you:

– Check it over very carefully to make sure there is no sign it was meant for you. Open up the item all the way and make sure there’s no monogram or engraving you didn’t notice when you first received it. If it’s a book, nothing says “regift” like opening it up and finding a handwritten note from someone else to you written inside the cover or on a bookmark tucked between the pages.

– Only gift the item to someone you’re sure will love it. If you received a sweater you’ve deemed too ugly to wear, chances are your best friend won’t find it attractive, either. But that vase from your co-worker that you’ll never use because flowers make you sneeze could be a great gift for your avid gardener aunt.

– Do not give it to anyone who is in the same social circle or family as the person who gave it you originally. This is doubly important if the gift is unique. And if it was handmade, like a crocheted blanket made by the giver specifically for you, don’t even consider regifting it.

Scratch those brag gifts off your list

Yes, you’re going to sound like husband of the year if you buy your wife a diamond necklace, but does she really want one? Is she someone who normally wears flashy jewellery, and does she go a lot of places where this type of accessory is appropriate? If the answer to any of those questions is no, please move on.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to beat the Joneses. Just because your sister got her husband a pricey MacBook doesn’t mean you need get your own husband an even better one this year – unless, of course, he specifically asked for it.

Those “helpful” gifts will help you lose friends

You might think that your co-worker with acne would be thrilled to try that face cream that has worked wonders for you, but please don’t go there.

In fact, you should be careful with anything that might be interpreted as a hint that there is something wrong with someone, so forget about gifts like tooth whitening kits, deodorant, nose hair trimmers, fertility charms, and wrinkle cream or you could find yourself with fewer friends to buy for next year!

Self-help books are sure way to offend

A book about getting over a failed relationship might seem like a great idea for a friend who is struggling post-breakup, but this type of gift is not going to go over well, no matter useful it may be.

Any type of self-help book – whether it’s about quitting smoking, building confidence, living on a budget, being happier, or raising more grateful kids – is a bad idea, unless the recipient specifically asked for the title in question.

If you insist on going the self-help book route, consider buying a gift card to a bookstore instead and letting them find what they need.

Stay away from domestic appliances

Do not get your spouse any type of domestic appliance that will remind them of their household chores. Yes, a new vacuum is going to make the job easier, but that doesn’t mean it makes a great gift. Ditto for blenders, pressure washers, diaper bags, and lawn mowers.

As a good rule of thumb, if you live in a house with shared finances, anything you would have bought anyway, like socks or kitchen knives, does not count as a gift.

Be unique – don’t give two people the same gift

We already talked about regifts above, but this is a different beast entirely. Do not give your girlfriend the same sweater you bought your mom. Likewise, giving your wife and your secretary the same perfume can only end badly!

No one needs more aprons or mugs

This isn’t just a bad idea because it shows a clear lack of imagination on your part – it’s also just not incredibly useful.

How often do you wear an apron when you’re cooking at home? Most people just don’t bother unless maybe it’s for a big holiday meal. And those who do spend a lot of time in the kitchen already have a few aprons.

Mugs are another gift your recipient surely already has on hand – probably several of them. And most people have a favourite that they like to use over and over.

There’s one exception here: a personalised mug with pictures of the grandkids – or a personalised apron, or anything at all, if we’re being honest – will probably be gratefully received and used often by grandparents.

Remember: the best gift is something the recipient might really want but doesn’t actually need – bonus points if it’s something they would never buy for themselves!