Have you ever felt like a lame gift giver? At times I’ve been caught up with the thought that a good gift was a gift with a high value, though I always made sure I got a great deal. Because I was so focused on giving something that was valuable without having to spend much, I didn’t pay as much attention to whether my gift was “good” by any other measurement. Whether it was a birthday, baby shower, or Christmas, often after gifts were opened and I compared what I gave to what others gave, I went away feeling like a lame giver.
If you read this post, you’ll know that we really try to avoid over-gifting. Since we minimize the extravagance and quantity of gifts, we try to make sure that the gifts we do give are good ones. I still find myself struggling to find great gifts for some people, but I think I am getting better.
Here are a few guidelines that I try to use when planning the gifts I want to give. They don’t each apply to every situation, but they give me some good ideas to consider as I strive to give thoughtful and meaningful gifts to those I love.
I think it’s safe to say that most people have enough “dust collectors,” trinkets, and decor items than they know what to do with. In a society that is accumulating stuff at a tremendous rate, we should focus on giving gifts that are useful.
Useful doesn’t mean just serves a purpose. For example,a cake pop maker and a waffle bowl maker each serve a purpose, but probably aren’t very useful (unless you happen to have a dessert catering business). Every time we get a Bed, Bath, and Beyond flyer in the mail, I crack up at all the ridiculous “beyond” items for sale. It’s right up there with SkyMall magazine. Instead of something err… unique, get something that will serve a purpose or fill a need for the recipient.
Something You Love
When you have a product or service that you love, it’s natural to want to spread the word and share it with others. Being able to stand behind a gift with a personal conviction that it’s wonderful, means so much to the recipient.
One year my parents gave us, along with a gift card, this ice cream scoop. They raved about how they loved it and that it was the best ice cream scoop on the market. Where normally the gift of an ice cream scoop would seem random and odd to us, because it was something my parents loved and wanted to share with us, it became a great thoughtful gift. (As it turns out, the ice cream scoop really is wonderful and we love it too!)
Something in Your Budget
Giving gifts that your finances don’t allow won’t bring happiness. While it may feel exciting in the moment of purchasing or giving an extravagant gift, eventually the credit card bill will roll around or other financial obligations will go unmet. It is not worth it to get those fleeting moments of gift-giving pride when you’re left with regret for overspending and buyer’s remorse. Staying within your budget will make the recipient more comfortable too.
Giving something personal takes more time and thought than just buying something. Whether it’s putting together a photo book full of memories, writing a love letter to your spouse or parent, or assembling a cookbook of favorite family recipes, your personal and thoughtful gift can’t be matched by something store bought.
A couple years ago, I scanned pictures from my grandpa’s life and asked him to tell me stories about them. I took careful notes as we talked and corresponded through letters. I compiled a chronological photo book with his stories and memories. I created it on Picaboo and printed beautiful hardcover books for my grandpa, my dad, and my uncle. My grandpa was really touched that I took the time to make such a heartfelt gift. He ordered additional copies for his sister and nieces.
While not everyone is a talented artisan, experienced seamstress or creative cook, if you do have special skills, handmade items make wonderful, thoughtful gifts. Handmade gifts aren’t necessarily less expensive than store-bought gifts, especially when time is considered, but they allow you to give a piece of yourself in a way that store-bought gifts don’t.
When I create something for a relative or friend, I think about that person the whole time I am sewing or crafting their gift. It is a way that I can make my love for them tangible. I am thankful that my kids really feel the love behind handmade gifts. They are so proud to wear something sewn by Mama or show-off Daddy’s woodworking.
With as many gift-giving occasions as there are, it can be nice to receive gifts that can be used up or consumed, rather than add to a mountain of stuff and create clutter. Consumable gifts are great for neighbors, teachers, or the person who already has everything.
Consumable gifts aren’t limited to plates of cookies or jars of jam. Craft supplies, lessons to learn a new skill, a museum membership, magazine subscription, or a gift card to a restaurant are all gifts that don’t really take up space, but can be thoughtful and appreciated by the recipient.
It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness and commercialization of gift giving. When we step back and take the time to be intentional about the gifts we give, we will really communicate our love to family and friends. Still, that all said, I have no idea what to do for my parents this Christmas…
How About You?
- What are your secrets to giving good gifts?
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