Buying holiday presents can sometimes feel like am impossible task. You want to find a present that will truly please the important people on your list, but you can't figure out what that ideal gift would be. Before you give in and resort to a gift card, ask yourself a few simple questions. Picking the perfect present might be easier than you think:

1. What does this person enjoy doing?

If you know how someone likes to spend spare time, you're a big step closer to knowing what a perfect gift might be. Does your friend hit the slopes at every opportunity? Visit a ski shop or website. Do they like going out to plays and concerts? Consider ticket passes (that can be tricky because of timing) but also things like gift certificates to a nice restaurant near theaters or perhaps an evening's limo ride. 

2. What do they have on display?

Looking around at someone's office or home will often give you some clues as to the right gift. If it's a high-design space with beautiful objects set out, pick something that would fit into the decor. If it's dominated by pictures of a spouse or partner, consider some sort of romantic treat for two. It may be clear from your friend's space that he or she is an avid biker, or loves to travel, or is a gourmet chef. All of these are leads you can follow to help you pick the right gift.

3. What do they really need?

If someone's television has just died, or they've been using the same crusty tea kettle for years, or some other item really needs replacing, you can provide a present that you know will be highly appreciated by filling the gap. (Just make sure whatever you're replacing isn't something they're hanging on to out of sentiment.)

4. What's changed recently?

Did your friend just get a new job or a new car? Move into a new home, get a dog, or take up a new hobby? Chances are, if something is new they haven't yet gotten all the equipment or accessories they need. This could be a good gift-giving opportunity.

5. Can you get inside intel?

Sometimes the best way to find the perfect present is to ask--not the recipient him- or herself, but someone close to the recipient, such as a spouse, child, or close friend. It can be awkward to contact someone you don't know well to ask about a perfect present, but most people will appreciate your thoughtfulness in reaching out. I've come up with some of my most highly appreciated gifts this way. And they were all things I wouldn't have thought of on my own.