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Making Christmas Merry | On giving meaningful gifts

One sad effect of our give-gifts-to-everyone culture is that we often end up mindlessly buying a gift just to check it off of our list.

Because when you have a bazillion gifts to buy, you can’t possibly pour a lot of thought into each one.

When your gift-giving list is too long, odds are good that there are people on your list that you don’t know that well. And that makes it tough to give a meaningful gift even if you do have time to think about it (often extended family gifts fall under this heading, unfortunately.)

The results of this whole thing are pretty ridiculous…we stress ourselves out buying gifts for people we don’t really know, and then the person we don’t really know often ends up with a gift they don’t really want.

There’s not a lot of joy on either end of that exchange, and that makes me sad. Christmas gifts shouldn’t be like that!

Anyway, this is part of the reason I advocate paring down your gift list. Instead of buying presents just to buy presents, you’ll be able to put real thought into gifts you give.

And giving thoughtful gifts to people you know and love will bring a lot of joy to you Christmas celebration.

I think there’s one main key to giving a meaningful gift, and it’s this:

Study the gift recipient.

Hopefully the people on your gift list are people you regularly see or at least talk to, and hopefully you know them fairly well, so this shouldn’t be crazy hard. If you pay attention, you can probably figure out what would bless them.

Think about what each person enjoys.

Do they have a hobby?

Do they enjoy pampering sorts of gifts? or do they really love practical gifts?

(Don’t give a practical gift to someone who might be offended by that!)

Do they enjoy experiences more than things?

(If so, event tickets or restaurant gift certificates are great ideas.)

Pay attention when you talk to them. Have they mentioned something in conversation that you could buy for them?

Or have you noticed that they’re missing an item that would make their lives more enjoyable?

I also try to think about whether the recipient might be short on time or money, and then choose an appropriate gift.

For instance, I’ve sometimes given scrapbooks to family members who I know would enjoy owning one but who don’t have the time to make one for themselves. If your gift recipient is short on time and enjoys being served (Some people don’t. They’d rather do it themselves.), you could give the promise of a service, like help with a project or chore.

If someone is struggling financially and likes practical presents, think of a need you could help meet. Or if they don’t like practical gifts, think of a luxury they can’t usually afford.   For example, a dinner gift certificate with the promise of childcare is great for parents of young children!

And when I’m faced with buying a gift for someone who’s more well-off financially than I am, I try to think of a gift that they couldn’t buy, because people with enough money can usually buy what they really want. For example, a photo-related gift (like the photo calendars I sometimes make) is something you couldn’t just go out and buy.

Handmade gifts are often appropriate in situations like these as well. For instance, one year I gave my parents the gift of 12 months of homemade bread. Each month, I delivered a fresh loaf of different variety of bread. It wasn’t an expensive gift, but it was something that they couldn’t buy for themselves.


Do you have any tips on putting thought into the gifts you give?


Joshua’s 365 post: Written in the leaves

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Monday 11th of November 2013

Last year I decided to try to provide some local services for my friends. I got several gift cards for manicures ($15)..I buy one every payday until I had the 4 I it wasn't a big chunk at one time...they loved them!! It wasn't so expensive that I felt the crunch...but it was a nice pampering for a friend..while keeping it local...I may do that again.


Monday 11th of November 2013

I hate the obligatory gifts...I never knew they existed until one year, while visiting a family member. She was griping that so and so gave her some "Less than appreciated" gift, and now she HAD to give her something..I asked, why not just say thank you...?? You can't do that!!..When someone buys you something you have to buy them something....I must have missed that in the rule book...Plenty of times, a coworker has presented me with a little calendar or notepad..and I've said..Thanks, so much...I really appreciate it...No one has cut the tires on my car it must be OK...??


Wednesday 31st of October 2012

Last Christmas my best friend gave me a really nice wooden Christmas ornament. It had my name and a picture of a reindeer engraved on it. It was super cool.


Tuesday 30th of October 2012

I have a little story: a few Christmases ago, my mom gave me a Weight Watchers cookbook. She gave it to me Xmas eve, right in front of everyone. I am quite overweight. She told me at the time that she'd run out that day to buy it. She'd spent weeks buying stuff for everyone else in the family, she said, and had just forgotten. I am sure she did not mean anything by it, but, every Xmas, I'm tempted to wrap that thing back up and give it back to her! That would be naughty, though.

The attitude and circumstances of the giving can be even more important than the thing being given! Home-made gifts are wonderful; I keep them forever.

Rebecca P

Wednesday 31st of October 2012

BJ - That's awful! You should write her an honest letter, letting her know how it made you feel. Then dump that dumb cookbook off at the closest Goodwill!!


Tuesday 30th of October 2012

Kinda related. Most of my extended family loves to read. One year, I did't have much money. My solution that year was to make bookmarks for every family member. I think it was a huge success. Another year, like you mentioned, I copied some photographs from our childhood, made a collage of the pictures, put it in frames and that was the gift. It was well received by my brother and sister.............just got to put the thinking cap on and make the holidays what you want. Loving this series of posts ..........................

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