Friday, December 12, 2014

Gift Idea Ideas

Around this time of year, every blog/website/magazine seems to have their own version of a Gift Idea Round Up. I, being a procrastinating shopper and someone who never knows what to get people for Christmas, always read them. And I always come away disappointed. I've finally realized that what I don't like about these lists is their specificity: instead of "ideas," these lists are full of actual products that the writer/curator wants me to go out and purchase. I know I can use the products as a springboard for my own shopping list, and I do, but what I really want is a list that helps me think about why I'm giving gifts in the first place.

On the practical side, I truly feel the best gifts are the ones that will be used (and maybe even used up--I don't want to be the source of clutter in someone else's life!). If tchotchkes are what bring a person true joy and happiness, fine, I'll get that, but otherwise I will search high and low for something functional, consumable, and/or memorable (as in an experience of some sort).

On the personal side, I also think about the person and tailor the gift not just to them, but to my relationship with them. More specifically, I like to give people something similar to things they give me throughout the year: food, comfort, free rides, inclusion, good times, love, laughter...I think you get it. These things are both tangible and not, but there's usually always a matching gift for them.

So that's my formula for gift giving. Of course, this all goes out the window if someone actually has a request. A Christmas request is a blessing, gosh darnit, and you best honor that. It takes 100% of the guess work out of shopping and guarantees a happy camper. The thing is, most adults don't have requests. Asking for requests usually elicits a "Oh, you don't have to give me anything," or a "I'd be happy with whatever you get me," because most of us have been raised to not expect gifts and to be grateful for whatever we have/get. To those people I say: just come out and say what you want because I know you'll be sort of disappointed if I don't magically figure it out!

Another note on having requests and a word of advice for the financially independent: often, having a disposable income means being able to buy whatever you want whenever you want. This means, come gift-giving seasons, people are at a loss for what to give you. If you hold off purchasing some of your wants, then gift-givers might have a better chance of getting you a gift you'll appreciate. Practice minimalism and intentional consumerism while helping out those who are clueless as to what to give you for the holidays. Wins all around!

All of this being said, I do have several go-to gifts that (I think) work for a variety of people. Yes, I make substitutions or alterations for each person, but these "gift templates" are great starting points when time is running out and I'm short on ideas.

Start with a theme. Instead of trying to find the perfect gift, think of an appropriate theme, then get smaller items that relate to it. Essentially, a gift basket. In the past I've done "Recuperate and Relax" (heating pad, foam roller, post-workout drink), "Hydration" (fancy shampoo/conditioner, a few favorite drinks, lotion), "Movie Night" (popcorn, candy, movies/rental gift cards), and "Expat" (peanut butter, Oreos, candles, a book written in English).

Think about needs (and wants). Where is the recipient in life? A college kid living away from home might need grocery money. S/he probably wants to spend that money on booze. Help them out with a gift card to a nearby store and six pack of something classier than what they're used to. A grandma bracing herself for another winter might need more bags of salt or heavy-duty boots. She probably wants something a little more sentimental. Look for something cozy and cute, like sturdy slippers. If you'll be around, offer to shovel for her.

Do a little snooping. If you're comfortable with the recipient, snoop around their life. Ask friends and family members if they've talked about things they might like. When you're at their house, sneak a peek into their closets/pantries/bedrooms...jk, sort of. Full disclosure, I do this during Thanksgiving at my parents house to see where they might be in need of something and regularly do it at home when I'm thinking about what to get my roommates. A lot of times people have blind spots to things they're used to living without. Examples: stemless wineglasses, fancy coffee, butter dishes...(most of my snooping is in the kitchen).

Scratch-offs. When in doubt, get a holiday-themed scratch off. It's great for all ages. (Give the kiddos a penny and let them have at it. They'll have a ball trying to match the need to tell them there's money on the line.) And if there's a winner, even better!

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