the gift manifesto

The chief reason I despise December, besides the crap weather, is the gift-giving. Now, I personally like finding the perfect gift for someone, even though it stresses me out the entire month until my shopping is done. It’s the same reason I make my own cards, and work as  a journalist. I thrive under pressure.

But I have no problem acknowledging that most people don’t, and consequently, they suck at giving gifts. I am not out to bash people for this; I will be the first to say what a pain in the ass holiday shopping is, and I am all for banishing mandatory gift exchanges.

But if you want to hone your skills, consider the following guidelines my gift to you.

Don’t ask anyone what they want. Unless they are five and you are wearing a fake beard and red suit, this is lame. It’s basically telling someone, Hey, I don’t know a thing about you but since I am forced to buy you something, spare me the trouble of putting any thought at all into it. I know this view may not be popular, because I took a lot of crap about not registering for my wedding, but I’d rather get a horrible gift or no gift than tell someone what to buy me. And honestly, if you don’t know a person well enough to even guess one thing they might like, why get them anything at all? A better gift would be to invite them over to dinner so you can get to know them better.

Do ask someone else. If your wife/boss/father-in-law’s taste is really that inscrutable to you, asking a close relative or friend what they’ve been hinting about is a great tactic.    

Buy for them, not you. My philosophy of the perfect gift is something the recipient will like, but wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. Keeping this in mind has the built-in insurance of avoiding anything too personal (underwear and perfume are definitely in the latter category). Joe struggles terribly with this. He can’t bring himself to buy anything that he doesn’t like himself (a reason I rarely get jewelry). And this year, he thought two of the gifts I bought are so bad, he went behind my back and bought backups.

Enough with the gift cards already! I know statistics show that most Americans prefer them, but the best description I ever heard of gift cards was that it’s like being given an errand to do. I lug those things around all year like an albatross, trying to use them.

You can’t go wrong with alcohol and food. In my book, anyway, these are the great unifiers. Generic, sure, but everyone loves them. And if you happen to accidentally gift a dieter or AA member, these are the easiest things to re-gift.

That’s it. Not too difficult, really. Happy shopping!


One response to “the gift manifesto

  1. OMG, I love this. I think this is the best article I’ve ever read. Seriously, I think gift cards are lame. (Not to bash anyone, but what better a sentiment saying that you don’t know diddly-squat about someone than giving him a gift card???) And, like you, when I get one, I often keep in in my purse so long that I’ve forgotten it’s even there.

    And I HATE when people ask for lists. My in-laws have a list making and e-mailing ritual every year. Most of the time, we’ve already finished our Christmas shopping by the time they’ve pressed the send button… As far as I’m concerned, you are absolutely correct – if you aren’t 5 and sitting on Santa’s lap, don’t be telling me what to buy you. Where’s the thought in that? Where’s the sincerity? I want to give a gift that I’ve though of, even if it means I’m pulling my hair out trying to think of the perfect gift. I don’t want someone to check off their list as I’m giving gifts…

    One of the best ideas (strictly IMO)- charitable donations. Donations to an animal shelter, donations to save the rain forests, donations to support a underprivelaged child- whatever! It’s a much nicer gift to give than the ugly vase that will just end collecting dust in the back of a cabinet.

    At any rate, this is simply the best article I’ve read regarding Christmas gifts in a long time!!! Nice job. Have a very happy holiday!

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