In case you missed the memo, the Christmas season is upon us. I love this time of year (the decorations, the baked goods, the general feeling of coziness), but the one aspect of the season that stresses me out is gift-giving. It’s not that I don’t enjoy giving gifts; I do! But finding that perfect present is a skill that eludes me. I often struggle with what to get for the people on my list only to end up buying something just because. Because it’s age-appropriate. Because it’s in our budget. Because time is running out.
I, therefore, will not offer any helpful hints on what to buy those hard to buy for people. But I can offer some advice on what not to buy them. I’ve done some brainstorming and enlisted the help of my Facebook fans (followers? friends? Not sure what they’re called.) and come up with four general ‘bad gift’ categories. Steer clear of them and you should be good!
`1. Anything too practical
This category can be tricky because some people, myself included, enjoy practical gifts. I would rather receive a kitchen appliance than a new necklace (yes, I’m weird). The problems occur when you get too practical. You’ve got to know the receiver pretty well in order to nail this one. Will he be excited to get the newest model Swingline stapler or will he think you forgot about him until 11 pm on Christmas Eve? Will she joyfully pursue the endless possibilities of a new blender or, like Annie in Father of the Bride, see it as your attempt to force her into subservient housewifery? If you can’t answer these questions, don’t buy a practical gift.
2. Anything that could be considered insulting
- Weight-loss items. Nothing says ‘I think you look like crap’ like a subscription to Jenny Craig. “But wait!”, you say, “My wife told me she wants to lose 20 pounds.” Let me give you a tip. Unless your wife specifically asked you to sign her up for Weight Watchers, don’t do it!
- Housekeeping items. Considering the latest Swiffer or perhaps a gift basket full of your favorite cleaning supplies? Think again, especially if you sign the tag, “From your Mother-in-Law”.
- Self-help items. Books, videos, CDs; whatever form they take, just steer clear.
3. Anything you know the receiver doesn’t like or has specifically asked not to receive
This should be obvious. If you’re buying for a vegan, don’t send them something from Hickory Farms. If your brother told you the kids have an over-abundance of stuffed animals, for the love of Pete, DON’T BUY YOUR NIECE THAT FIVE FOOT STUFFED BUNNY!!!
4. Anything that provides the seller with a huge profit for little to no work.
Honestly, this is more a matter of principle than a matter of buying someone a bad gift, but really, do you need to spend $20 to have Santa send your kid a letter from the North Pole? Yes, I know your child will be struck with wonder and awe when it arrives in the mailbox, but you could write it yourself in five minutes, sprinkle a little glitter in the envelope, write North Pole in the return spot on the envelope, and only be out the cost of a stamp.
Here’s the one that really gets me, though: Buying someone a star. Seriously, whoever came up with this scheme is an evil genius. They have somehow convinced thousands (millions?) of people that they own the universe and have the right to sell bits of it off for $54 to $489 a pop. I kid you not. $489!!! (Check out this link if you don’t believe me: https://www.starregistry.com/isrOrder/dspItem.cfm?ProductId=1 ). Not only that, they have also convinced a bunch of
idiots people that this gift is the ultimate in romantic gestures. I know women who have asked for this! Men, let me save you some money. Open up whatever word processing program you have, use a fancy font, insert a pretty star picture, and print your own ‘Official Certificate of Star Ownership’. Or better yet, I’ll do it for you… for the bargain price of $450.