Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top 10 tips for giving good gifts.

So the holidays are rounding the corner and everyone would like to tell you what to buy or where to go to find something to buy.  That's terrific.  It helps the economy and is fun to do.  How many of you, on the other hand, find that Christmas along with other gift giving holidays are more of a hassle than they are worth?  The real question is.  Do you give gifts outside of the holidays and birthdays?  If so, then you are fine ignoring them or paying a small token of attention towards them.  Otherwise, I'm afraid you are stuck.  These are a few tips for giving good gifts that will at least SEEM thoughtful.  If you are a cheap S.O.B. that doesn't give gifts because you are just too darn cheap, then read no further, there is nothing for you here.

 10.  Gift cards are for Grandparents and suckers - I'm not saying that Grandparents are suckers, I'm saying that it's ok for them to use gift cards.  It's easy and it's better than trying to measure every gift for value and appropriateness to what has probably become a pretty large family.  If you are not giving gift cards to grand-kids, then you had better be a manager giving them to employees because there is no other situation where a gift card is really appropriate unless the person you are giving it to is really in dire cash straits.  The reason that gift cards are not terrific gifts is that people will tend to use them for necessities and not for memorable items that they can link to you so they will forget very quickly that you gave them anything at all.

9.  Made by hand is made by heart - Why buy when you can make?  You say you have no creative talent?  You don't have the time?  I'm sorry, good gift giving is all about time.  This works particularly well if you are a child.  The things you create are priceless and will probably be enjoyed for a long time if you are giving them to your parents.  If you have a little skill in one area or another, why not exercise it?  I had a friend that used to hand watercolor his Christmas cards.  The card is lost, but I still remember it to this day.

8.  It's the thought that counts - People often say that in response to someone prematurely apologizing for a gift being cheap or inconsequential.  It really IS the thought that counts.  Think of the person you are getting a gift for.  Do you have a pet name or a common recurring joke that you share?  You can't find a gift that is a symbol of that common bond?  Or did you even think of it.  Given 5 minutes of thought, you can probably come up with many remembrances that can be commemorated in a gift.

7.  Get them something you would like - As a kid, this one irked me more than a little bit.  If I get my friends something I like, I may not get it myself.  You could hope vainly that maybe the kid wouldn't like what you got them and would graciously give it to you saying 'Thanks for the gift, but I want YOU to have it.'  Never happens that way.  This is a bit the opposite of number 8.  Instead of noting a shared experience, you are showing more of yourself.  So get them a book you love, or a movie that was very influential.  It will give you something to talk about later.  WARNING!  This gift idea had the largest chance of being a re-gift or unappreciated!  If you are way off the mark when it comes to your intended recipient, you may have the unfortunate effect of the gift being more memorable than who gave it.  Ideally, you want a little of both.

6.  What do you want? - This is a question often asked by parents of children to help them with the gift giving chore.  Unfortunately if this question is asked enough times, it reinforces in children the idea that Birthdays and Christmas are in fact some kind of grand payday.  It's not a time of thoughtfulness, it's a time of entitlement.  Instead of asking what they want.  Observe them in their natural habitat and figure it out.

5.  Nuts to you! - Food is an ok gift when you are buying something for the 'man that has everything'.  Perhaps he doesn't have a full stomach!  Food makes a good introductory gift to neighbors.  It's a pleasant exchange that does not require reciprocation but does not discourage it either. Alcohol is a step up from that, but make sure the intended recipients do in fact drink.  otherwise you are giving them a great gift to give to someone else.

4.  Oh, it's too much! - Unless you've won the lottery, it's probably not a great idea to give truly exorbitant gifts.  It makes people a bit uncomfortable, because they really are not at all planning on giving you anything in the same level.  Of course that's not the point, but still you want to be able to exchange gifts on even footing.  This is naturally not a hard and fast rule.  Especially if you are giving a gift to me ;)

3. Please...Be Generous -  I could just as easily have called this FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.  Sometimes people get married later in life and decide that in lieu of gifts they have a favorite charity to donate to.  Don't think that you are getting the jump on anything by giving them the 'perfect' gift by any of the other points mentioned.  They have given YOU a gift and told you exactly what they want.  Some people will cross gifts off the list if you tell them exactly what you want because they want it to be a surprise.  for the most part, surprises are rarely good. 

2.  You should have seen the look on your face! - Gag gifts are a lot of fun IF they are given in the right spirit.  Lets take, for example, the fake lottery ticket that scratches to be a winner.  Funny stuff, if you give it to someone that doesn't need money.  Give it to someone that's fallen on hard times and thinks that their prayers have been answered and you have just given them false hope that you have to explain later.  That's no gift.

1.The Perfect Gift - What's the perfect gift?  Many times, it's something that strikes you at the wrong time but in the right place.  It's something that you KNOW is perfect for a particular person but there isn't an occasion around which to give this gift.  If it's someone you know and are close to, get it anyway and give it to them.  There really is nothing more shocking than a great gift out of the blue.  Especially if you aren't in the habit of doing so. Ultimately a perfect gift is something that someone wants but would never buy for themselves.  It takes some figuring out, but once you find it, you will find that it's more enjoyable being the giver than the receiver.

This blog has been posted early enough that none of you have any excuse now!  I'll be checking up on you in 15 days.