As I am getting ready to launch my holiday gift guide next week, I thought it worthwhile to discuss the art of gift-giving and answer a few reader questions about how much to spend on gifts.
Gift-giving has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Perhaps excess is to blame (after all, do children really need $500 worth of toys from friends and family?”). But I think the act of giving someone a gift is a timeless gesture, an act of love, that need not be dismissed. Perhaps I am an idealist, but I still believe there is magic and thrill in the art of gift-giving, in finding something special that warms the heart of the recipient, and in showing that person you took the time and effort to find something you thought they would love.
“The idea of gifts has been widely sabotaged in recent years. It’s turned into an exchange of shopping lists. The idea of gifts is to show you’ve thought about someone. You may not always get it right, but that’s why we say it’s the thought that counts. ” – Judith Martin, 2005
Now I know of extended families in which every person submits a list of things they want for Christmas and everyone else just picks and chooses off the list. This is fine and dandy, but as “Miss Manners” said above, it’s not really gift-giving. It is buying something off a shopping list. (And, in my opinion, not very fun on Christmas morning!).
Personally, I think often people are both short on time and fearful of buying something the recipient won’t enjoy, so they just skip both and ask for a list. But that’s one of the reasons I started DoSayGive: to make thoughtful gift-giivng easier. And that’s also why I am releasing my gift guides earlier this year: to give you more time to finda special gift. (And if you can get more of your shopping accomplished in November, you have more free time to enjoy December with your family and friends!)
A little more on my gift-giving philosophy:
1. A thoughtful gift-giver does a little bit of research. Take the time to consider the person’s age, interests, stage of life, etc. Skip the big box store’s gift guides (those are usually pushed by advertisers!).
It is perfectly acceptable, and thoughtful, to ask the recipient, or preferably someone close to the recipient, for gift ideas. For example, I appreciate when my husband asks my sister for ideas. (To me, there is no romance in me giving him a Christmas gift registry!). Remember, you are asking for suggestions, not a list. You do not have to buy what is suggested, but if you do, tell others so the recipient doesn’t get two of the same thing.
2. If they love your gift one year, don’t give it again the next year! My dad’s mom gave my mother the same perfume for about a decade. Seriously. If you scored in the gift-giving department this year, don’t duplicate the it again the next year. That is not thoughtful. Just taking the easy way out. (Sorry!)
3. It truly is the the thought that counts, not the amount. I have received a few emails asking if there is a “right” amount to spend on children’s birthday gifts. There is not. As I have written before, I truly believe giving comes from the heart. I often give gifts to classmates in the range of $5-10. (Usually wonderful classic children’s books!). Sometimes my mother-in-law’s birthday gift costs $25; this year it cost $55. (I knew she would love this LAFCO candle.). To me, it is about finding something special they will love, no matter the cost, as long as it is within my budget.
Last year I really saw the variances in people’s means and circumstances. I had one person email me looking for thoughtful teacher gifts in the $15-20 range, and another mom a few minutes later looking in the $100 range. Both price points are generous and lovely!
Now this goes both ways. I can’t stand stingy gift-givers. The family that has oodles of money yet re-gifts pitiful presents each year or gets them off the clearance table at T.J. Maxx with little or no thought put into it. I’m sorry, that does not come from the heart.
4. Gift-giving is not about reciprocation. Just because I give you a $40 gift, does not mean you have to give me a $40 gift. Or a gift at all! Again, what you give has to do with your circumstances, how many gifts you had to buy that month, your budget, etc.
For example, in our twenties, my close circle of friends often exchanged birthday gifts. As we got older (and had more children!) our gift-giving waned. Some years I might drop off a little birthday present off at a friend’s house; other years I may just call her or send her a card. Whatever I do, I don’t ever expect her to reciprocate!
5. You are not going to find the “perfect” gift every year. Again, that’s why they say it’s the thought that counts. And why, if possible, you should include a gift receipt!
As we approach the holiday season, I hope you will continue to visit my site for thoughtful gift ideas in all price ranges. I really consider it my passion to help people give thoughtful and lovely gifts to their loved ones and I take it very seriously.