There is nothing I love more than finding the perfect gift. I plan birthday and holiday presents months in advance. I'll spend hours on eBay emailing a guy in the Philippines trying to get the original record of New Kids on the Block's greatest hits album just to see the look on my sister's face when she opens it. I go above and beyond when I care about the recipients, of course, but I really do it because it makes me feel so good to see how happy they are upon opening my awesome gifts.

Most of the time.

In romantic relationships, there's a delicate line between thoughtful and unhinged. Especially when it comes to new ones that have yet to define themselves. I'll admit I've gone a tad overboard with men I've dated, and that some of them, upon opening the gift I spent days preparing, have been left speechless or visibly uncomfortable.

So, yeah, learn from my mistakes and don't be that girl. Here's a handy guide to help you ladies out there determine the perfect gift, from book to cashmere scarf to treasured family heirloom.

If His Birthday Falls

... 1–3 Weeks After You Meet:
Do more than a text but no more than a bottle of wine (think the $25 range, max). If you get an actual card, make it funny. Stay away from traditional birthday trappings like balloons, flowers and novelty cakes -- sometimes the irony is lost and you just look sort of spooky. (I once surprised a guy I was newly dating by sending him a dozen balloons to his office that read "It's a Girl!" It didn't go over too well.) Keep it simple -- don't craft him anything terribly elaborate. You can bake him cookies, but don't knit, weld, smelt or offer any other overly effort-intensive "services" like cleaning his house. It might seem a little too eager.

In fact, you don't really have to get a gift gift at this stage -- you can probably get away with offering to take him out for a pitcher and wings. If you reeeeeeally need to get him something, stick with things that are edible/drinkable or really inexpensive. It shows that you're not thinking too far into the future, even if you've already picked out your kids' names.

... 13 Months After You Meet:
Ah, the honeymoon period. You're probably having wild make outs that will taper off shortly after the three-month mark, so capitalize on this and take him out to a nice dinner ... then have dessert into the bedroom. You don't even have to buy him anything at this point -- unless you want to surprise him with some lingerie. It is acceptable can get him something kind of meaningful or a little pricey -- a book he's said he's liked, or tickets to a concert he's dying to see. Just keep it relatively reasonable -- no iPads or similarly expensive gift. And avoid anything too couply that says "you and me." (Framing those drunken photobooth pictures? Still too much at this point.)
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... 46 Months After You Meet:
Ahh ... the salad days. You're learning more about each other every day. Maybe you've met parents. Still -- it's a little early for huge gifts like vacations or grand gestures like a "This-Is-Your-Life DVD Slideshow." (I know because I've done it. Collecting pictures and chatting with grandma ... Too. Soon.)

Depending on his friends, being the one to organize his birthday party is actually a great gift. I organized a goofy scavenger hunt my boyfriend and his buds on the four-month mark. It was a biggie -- his 30th -- and he loved it. (He hadn't said "I love you" yet, but it slipped out as a result of this party.)

If you, too, love tracking down hard to find gifts, this is the time that you can start showing that you're putting a lot of effort into his gift. eBay can be a powerful aphrodisiac.

... 712 Months After You Meet:
By now, it should be pretty clear to most that you are, indeed, a couple. The romance hasn't faded, and maybe you're in that sweet nesting period where you can offer just to cook him his favorite dinner and stay in, glad that you don't have to stress out about birthdays anymore. Gift-wise, it's now OK to give him "holy crap!" things like that iPad. He can't be too freaked if he's stuck around this long.

... More Than a Year After You Meet:
You've spent a whole year to getting to know him and (hopefully) falling in love. If you're committed to each other for the foreseeable future and, of course, the budget permits -- get out of town together.

If you'd rather give him something more tangible, well, you know him better than I do at this point. If you don't know of something he'd absolutely love or are not willing to get creative and figure out what that is, then the best present you could give him is breaking up.

In sum, the old adage that it's "the thought that counts" should be your guiding principle. It's important to make sure said "thought" isn't a slightly psychotic one. But, as we all know, money can't buy love or happiness, so just being your wonderful, loving self, should be gift enough. Some of the best gifts I've ever given were absolutely free.