Monday, December 10, 2012

My Guide to Thoughtful Gift Giving

Please stop buying us crap.

Every year I make this plea, and every year it falls on deaf ears. Ok, please don't quit reading now, I promise this is actually a thoughtful post, not me being a spoiled brat demanding that people spend lots of money on us.

I don't know what has happened to gift giving, but I don't like it. It's not personal anymore. First of all, there is the obsession with opening gifts and the thought that the more gifts there are to open, the better. Some people seem to think that ten cheap items are better than one quality item because it gives more presents to open. Instead of quality, thoughtful gifts, people are spending money so that others can tear paper off of boxes that contain items that they will likely forget about in a few months.

Giving cash is considered tacky, even though it might be the thing a person needs the very most, yet giving them something they don't need just because it can be wrapped is acceptable. Does anybody else think this mentality is all wrong?

Some believe that one should be thankful for any gift and not complain, that a crappy gift  is better than no gift at all. I disagree. Thoughtless gifts can be a burden if they take up space and add clutter to your home. Getting rid of them can induce guilt because we've been conditioned to feel ungrateful for not appreciating every gift, not matter how thoughtless it might be. The worst gifts are the impersonal ones like bath and body gift sets and candles (unless you know the person really likes them).

Thoughtful gifts are not necessarily more expensive ones. They are gifts that reflect the person's likes, interests and needs. The best gifts I've received aren't the ones that cost the most, they are the ones that are the most useful to me. They show that the gift giver either took the time to make or took the time to really think about what I would like. My husband's grandparents are awesome gift givers. They know I love to cook, and have gotten me several things for the kitchen over the last few years. I use the stuff every day. The most thoughtful gifts I've received (or would like to receive) fall into these categories:


Your time is one of the best gifts you can give. Everybody has some kind of talent. Woodworking, sewing, photography, crocheting, graphic design, baking- whatever your specialty is, share it with others. One of the best gifts I've received was a huge basket filled with eight different kinds of homemade cookies. Ok, so maybe that one wasn't the most useful, but it was delicious. If you truly don't have the time, you can buy something handmade from somebody else (just don't try to pass it off as your own!).

Consumable (Gift Cards):

I really love the whole idea of consumable gifts (which usually come in the form of gift cards). Consumable gifts are usually frowned upon because they can't be wrapped and there is nothing physical to show for them once they are used. I see this as a good thing though! Let's face it, most of us have enough "stuff" already. Especially kids! Is anybody reading this really thinking about how they need more knick-knacks or that their kids could use a few more loud annoying plastic toys? I didn't think so! Some of the best gifts can't be put into a box and wrapped! The memories of consumable gifts will be there long after toys have been thrown in the trash and forgotten about. Consumable gifts are also great for the environment because nothing ends up in a landfill. Some great consumable gift ideas are: tickets/memberships to a museum, zoo, aquarium, sporting event, theatre or ballet. If you live too far away from places like these, you can still buy passes for fun things like mini golf, batting cages, arcades, ice skating, bowling, restaurant or movie theater. If  the gift is for a niece, nephew or grandchild, you can be part of the present by taking them to do one of these things.

Some people consider gift cards to be impersonal (and they mean one less gift to be opened), but I think they are awesome gifts as long as it's to a place that the recipient likes. Many people are struggling financially and have had to cut back on dining and entertainment, so a restaurant or movie theater gift card would be a real treat! Just make sure the gift card is for enough to cover the meal or movie.

Gift Baskets:

I really love the idea of personalized gift bags or baskets. They show that you know the person's interests, and the bag or basket can be reused. For the coffee lover, put a bag of coffee (or box of k-cups), and a mug into a basket or resuable bag. You can also add a mug cozy and a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. For the wine enthusiast, buy a bottle or two of wine, a corkscrew and a couple of glasses. You can even put them in a wine tote.

I've done themed baskets before, too. One time I made "breakfast in a basket" gifts. I put homemade pancake mix into a jar and printed the pancake recipe on some decorative paper. I also included a bottle of high-end real maple syrup, a mug, tea bags, hot chocolate packets, a piece of fruit, and a small loaf of homemade banana bread. Another year, I did an apple theme with homemade canned applesauce and apple butter, a loaf of apple butter bread made from scratch, and some apples. I've also made cookie/candy baskets with a variety of homemade cookies and candies. All of these baskets took a great deal of time to put together, but they were not expensive.

Christmas Decor:

If you are really stumped about what to get somebody, you can't go wrong with Christmas Decorations! I just took a gaze around my living room and the majority of our Christmas decor have come to us as gifts. Our Christmas tree skirt was crocheted by my grandma who passed away 18 years ago. The decorations become weaved into their traditions; how awesome to be a part of that! You could even make your own tradition of giving ornaments and decorations each year.

I hope this has given a new perspective about gift-giving and given you lots of ideas for gifts that will be loved and appreciated!