Because sometimes I get questions along the lines of, “What should I give my girlfriend for Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Halloween/our seven-day anniversary?”
And because, as anyone who has had the experience of being broke and/or comes from a large family (or both! – Feve bows) knows: It’s never too early to plan ahead for birthdays/weddings/holidays/your six-year-old niece’s college graduation.
Here is a handy-dandy little list to help you
not make an ass of yourself make wise choices the next time you go gift shopping. (Feel free to bookmark this link and refer to it two days before Christmas. Because that’s likely when you’ll need it most. Especially if you are of the male persuasion.)
FEVE’S TOP THREE ALL-PURPOSE GIFT-GIVING TIPS
Tip #1: Remember that this is not about YOU.
You know that really awesome Kill Everything Shoot ‘Em Up Bang Bang video game that you’ve been dying to get your hands on? Well, guess what?! Right now it’s on SALE SALE SALE for only $269.95 and if you beat down the door and trample people on your way in the store at O’Dark Thirty on the first day of Sale-O-Rama, you can get an extra 15% off! And if you wrap it and put it under the Christmas tree for your main squeeze to open on Christmas morning (nevermind that they detest video games and that they are constantly voicing their feelings of neglect that you seem to be more interested in pushing buttons and handling a joystick on a Playstation controller than you are in doing anything button-pushy or joystick-feely with THEM), that means you’ll get to play it. All day Christmas Day. And every day. Forevah and evah. Woo-hoo!
Stop right there.
You’re thinking of getting something YOU like – something your partner obviously DOES NOT LIKE – because you will benefit.
Here’s a clue: DON’T DO IT.
If you’re having major cravings for Chinese food and you hate to cook but your partner will cook for you when you ask… Don’t give them a Wok and expect them to get all teary and joyful. For that matter, let’s just get this out of the way right now: Do not gift anything kitchen-work-oriented (think: blenders, toasters, roast beast pans) to your partner – especially to your wife, and especially if you are in a hetero relationship – unless (1) you were expressly asked by her to do so, or (2) you don’t mind being bashed over the head with the offending object. Yes, there are exceptions, yadda yadda blah, but really…
Just don’t. You’ll be glad you didn’t.
So again: It’s not about you. The gift you are giving should reflect the talents, interests, personality, and preferences of the person to whom you are giving it.
Tip #2: The thought really does count.
It has become a bit cliché to say, but the sentiment holds true. It’s the thought that counts. (Provided there was actual thought involved. Picking out random items at the Dollar Store that are neither useful nor interesting to the giftee does not count as ‘thought’.)
Before deciding whether to give your Loved One a gift, ask yourself, “Am I being thoughtful?”
If they recently voiced their desire to see a particular concert or theater show, tickets to said performance would be a thoughtful gift. If there is a place they’d like to visit and you have mutually scheduled time off/available to make a day trip of it, make a plan to go together. Gifts aren’t always things you unwrap, you know. Often the best gift is that of your time and attention.
Does your gift take into consideration their needs, wants, and desires? Perhaps the person for whom you are seeking The Perfect Gift is an artsy type. Would they enjoy a photography seminar or life drawing class or cooking lesson? Especially one they didn’t have to pay for themselves? Are they an outdoorsy type whose favorite hiking boots have bitten the dust, and you know exactly where to get a new pair of the exact brand and size they prefer? Is there something they love to do that they have not had the opportunity to participate in recently? If so, can you make it happen in a way that suits their schedule? Go for it!
And lest you think it’s all about what you can buy, how about this: Is there a physical need you can alleviate? (No, no, not like that.) If they tend to be freezy, make them a fire every night in December to keep them cozy. If their schedule or skills don’t allow for proper meal preparation for themselves, cook them a delicious healthy dinner to fill their belly. Are they uncomfortable in bare feet? Knit them slippers to warm their feet and play-skate across their wooden floors in. A gift need not be expensive to be valuable.
Does your gift reflect a quality they possess or a personality trait they exhibit? Perhaps they are patient and analytical. A game or puzzle that would challenge them – especially if it’s something they would not treat themselves to – may be apropos. Are they bubbly? Colorful? Think outside the box and box up some ‘bubbly’ or ‘colorful’ items along with a note that explains your choices. Are they musical? Athletic? Flexible? Strong? Try listing the adjectives that best describe your significant other (or family member or favorite barista or whatever) and go from there.
Is there something sweet or sentimental between the two of you that can be expressed through your gift? Is there a way your gift can show them that their interests were noted or their expressed desires heard?
These are just a few examples, but try to ask yourself some of these questions before you do your last-minute shopping, and rather than grab whatever is left on the shelf at closing time Christmas Eve, take a minute to think. Be thoughtful in your gift giving.
Tip #3: It’s not about the money.
Okay, okay… Sometimes it *is* about the money. If only because we all have budgets within which we must work.
But it’s really NOT about the money.
People who are broke sometimes give the most amazing gifts.
If you have limited funds and want to do something awesome for your partner (or friend or sibling or co-worker or that guy who rings up your groceries), you really have to plan ahead. Follow the general guidelines of Tip #1, ask yourself the thoughtfulness questions of Tip #2, and with either your mental notes or your physical ones, keep track of sales and offers and events throughout the year so that you can scoop up a deal when it presents itself. (Also, it’s a good idea to have a fund set up way in advance of birthdays and major holidays. Even if you’re only contributing $5 a week to your gift-giving fund, you’ll be in a better position to to get the most bang for your buck when the time comes. But the how-to’s for that… Well, that’s a post for another day.)
Things you can gift for under $15 (yes, I haz teh experience):
- Purchase a clearance T-shirt (with a coupon if available). Wash it. Wear it to bed. Send it – smelling like you – to your long-distance lover.
- Visit a used book store. Find an out-of-print treasure that your friend has been seeking. Buy it! You have a coupon for 20% off a single item and it’s in excellent condition. Wrap it in the cloth book bag you got for free with your purchase.
- Utilize your coupon prowess and store sales to put together a
facialBeauty Products Package for your sister consisting of her favorite brand of mask, toner, and moisturizer.
- Remember that game you all played as a family when you were a kid? The one that had you laughing and your mother swearing and your cousins pulling faces? The one that was destroyed when your parents’ basement flooded in ’96? They still make it! Use your “$10 off a $20 purchase” coupon when it’s on sale at your local Whatchamacallit Chain Store and wrap it up as a “To: Everyone” gift that you can all enjoy again as a family after your holiday dinner.
Did you notice a theme there? (Hint: COUPONS!)
And if you can’t manage $15 (I get it; I’ve been there), you can still give great gifts.
Write a story or a love letter or a series of poems.
Sing to the one you love. Record it.
Dance for them. (Or with them.) (Record it.)
Create a playlist and share it with them.
Do the chores that most frustrate them. Wash their car, weed their garden, or wash their laundry.
Create a collage or another piece of artwork.
Send them a smile a day for a month via memes you’ve found that make you laugh.
Ask yourself: What do you have in your home that you can make use of? What skills do you have that you can share? What need to they have that you can meet?
Gift-giving – for everyone really, but especially for the broke-but-loving – is not about how much you can spend. Stop worrying about your expensive image and start using your expansive imagination.
So, to review:
It’s not about you.
No money, no matter.