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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Is it funny that I know get excited about kitchenware in the Christmas grab bag? That would fall under something useful for sure! 🙂 Awesome list!
I like the idea of giving presents that can be used later on, like gift cards, memberships, etc…. We own a small nursery/garden center, so I like to give gift certificates for things from my nursery that they will use later on – like hanging baskets, planters, etc… I personally love getting gift certificates for massages, pedicures, hair cuts – things I love, but don’t usually splurge for.
Yes– things you love but wouldn’t splurge for yourself– those make great gifts! And how convenient to be able to give gift certificates to your own nursery!
[email protected] says
I struggle sometimes with gift-giving because I’m not a “stuff” person and it can get a little old, buying people books and CDs year after year. Memberships are a really good idea. For stocking presents (just my mom, dad, and brother) I generally go for consumables, often items made locally where I’m living — I just bought Indiana honey and Amish-made pear butter at the farmer’s market to give my mom and dad, respectively, in their stockings, and they only cost a few dollars each. My brother’s getting a goofy Christmas tree ornament since he just got married and I figure it’s time for him to have an ornament supply of his own since they’ll have a tree at their own house sometime soon.
I don’t always get my two best friends something — actually, if I see something they’d like in March, I’ll often buy it and just send it, rather than waiting (their birthdays are both near Christmas.) But I don’t even always do this every year. They know I’m kind of broke, and they also know that I’m expending time and money on traveling to see them as much as I can, so I figure it evens out.
My godchildren are still quite small, but I hope to be giving them (a) books I loved as a child or (b) hand-me-down toys (I have an American Girl doll from the 1980s I will pass on to my goddaughter in a few years) for many years to come.
I like the idea of buying local gifts that would be a special treat to those who live elsewhere! That makes for a unique and special gift!
Love this list! Consumables have always been high on my to-give list. My nephews get an annual membership to a zoo – it’s so easy, and a great gift that they can enjoy all year. We send a gift basket of edible goodies to our uncle who needs NOTHING, but loves to cook. And my in-laws get a gift certificate to a local performing arts center, where they can exchange for events that fit their schedule.
Then again, I love to get these gifts – restaurant gift cards are, hands down! – my favorite present.
Those are some great gift ideas Abby! They are thoughtful, useful and personal! 🙂
Mrs SSC says
I love the “Something you love” – that is totally one of my tricks. I’ll discover something cool and useful, and then buy like 5 more of them for my friends and family. There is nothing better than something you’ve tried out and tested and know is great!
My other trick lies in the consumable category – where I might buy a ‘splurge’ type item of a category that I know someone loves. Example – my mom loves dark chocolate, but she lives in a small town, where I’m sure the selection is limited. So – since I live in one of the biggest cities in the US, I will go and get her a handful of brands and kinds of dark chocolate that she hasn’t had before. Its still an inexpensive gift, but it is new and special to her.
That’s a great idea to get your mom a variety of dark chocolate. It’s definitely fun to receive something that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) buy for yourself!