Monday, December 03, 2007

Gift Giving for Dummies

It is better to give then to receive, but finding perfect gift for everyone on your shopping list makes holiday gift giving stressful for many. It is easy to express anger and disappointment at those who are unable to give suitable gifts, accusing them of being lazy or thoughtless, but we must recognize that the human genome contains genetic coding that predisposes certain individuals to inferior gift giving. If you suffer from this serious condition there is hope. For those unable to pick up on the subtle clues, random comments or blatant advice dropped throughout the year there are options other then gift certificates and fruitcake that will have your loved ones gasping “Wow” rather then “Why” over the holiday season. While Oprah’s famous list of favorite things would break the bank of the average shopper, my favorite things for 2007 gift giving fall into a wide variety of price ranges for those who were naughty or nice on your shopping list.

Design-her Gals Stationary: A good gift for a good cause. Visit to create a wide variety of stationary bearing the likeness of a special woman on your list. Design options include body type, skin color, hair color and style, clothes, shoes and accessories. A percentage of the proceeds from each purchase support women with Stage 4 breast cancer. Just make sure to run the avatar design past another friend to ensure the design really looks like the recipient. My personal favorites are the checklists and notecards (as pictured).

Spa Wish: I know people see the purchase of gift certificates as both easy and practical but honestly, it is the ultimate sign of thoughtlessness. It is better to actually put the time and effort into understanding what someone would like from a store then to give them a gift certificate to that same store. And here is what retailers don’t want people to know; so many people forget to use those gift cards before they expire, meaning free cash to businesses. The only exception to the no gift cards rule is for experiences and services; pedicures, massages, sky diving, etc. My personal favorite is Spa Wish where the lucky recipient can get a wide variety of spa services from participating salons and spas. These can be purchased on or at a variety of stores who sell gift cards. Costco currently carries the cards at a discount meaning more massage for less moolah.

Personalized Greetings: There are so many ways to design and print personalized calendars these days that I’m surprised that traditional calendars bearing the photos of random animals, people, places and things, often seen in the middle of malls in temporary kiosks, even sell anymore. Broderbund has software bringing creative calendar creations to your home computer, but I personally prefer to use online printers to make calendars for family. Most online photo sites have calendars, but I prefer to use (formerly ofoto) for their quality product. To add an extra touch to a calendar, purchase a good acid free photo pen from a craft store (like Michael’s) and include birthdays, anniversaries and other special dates to add a special touch to an already perfect gift. If calendars are not appropriate, Kodak Gallery has a wide variety of fun gifts from picture books to coffee mugs that are sure to please.

Skin of Soft and Clean: Some people find the gift of fine soaps and toiletries impersonal which is completely valid if giving a random gift set purchased at Walgreen’s on Christmas Eve. Much more personal is giving luxurious products that most people resist indulging in due to cost considerations. If you know your recipient has brand loyalty to a certain line of products, then fill up a stocking of their favorite things. Otherwise, I recommend anything from H2O+. All their products are water based and use natural vitamins and minerals found in the sea, meet a wide variety of skin needs and are ideal for those with super sensitive skin. H2O+ also takes a firm stand against animal testing, a very important quality for animal lovers. My personal recommendations include; Milk hair products, Aqualibrium skin line, Spa Sea Salt body wash and skin smoother, and Mint foot cream to avoid winter dry feet.

Memories: Most people can’t remember the gifts they received in years past, but everyone remembers an amazing experience long after it is over. Check out local theatres for upcoming shows, see if a favorite performer is coming into town, rent a limo for a night out on the town, book a stay at a bed and breakfast, plan a trip to a favorite or new destination, get tickets to the Superbowl; the level of extravagance can vary to any budget or time constraint.

Class Act: Taking a class with a friend or loved one can be both educational and fun. Check out your local continuing education programs or community colleges and centers to see what kind of programs they offer. Some classes meet a night or two a week for an extended period of time while others are only one time affairs. Does someone special to you want to learn Thai cooking, photography, ballroom dance, or underwater basket weaving? Give them the gift of knowledge and fun that lasts long after the egg nog is done.

Holiday Spirits: If you need hostess gifts for holiday parties, thank you gifts for co-workers or want to spread the holiday spirit to neighbors invest in a case (or two) of Brotherhood’s Holiday Wine brought to you from America’s oldest winery. The spiced wine in a holiday themed gift bag is the perfect gift on the go. Lucky recipients will enjoy the wine heated up with cinnamon sticks and served in a mug. Delicious!

Start a Tradition: The gifts that are given year after year are often the most memorable. If you have someone on your list who has a collection, give them a new piece every year. Holiday Villages, crystal, toy trains, remote control cars, carousel horses; the choices are a unique as the people you are buying them for. Even if they know what they are expecting, they will be happy to grow their collectables. Another idea is beginning a Christmas ornament tradition which is especially nice for children; a special ornament a year will show how they and times have changed and give them special decorations and memories for their own tree long after they leave Mom and Dad’s.

Framing: Whether you take the expensive route of a professional framing or head to a store and buy a pre-sized frame, finding a special photo, poster, painting, childhood artwork, baseball card, stamp, anything really and framing it is an amazing gesture. The growing ease and sinking costs associated with photo restoration can also be a way to give a memorable and special gift in a beautiful frame; restore an old wedding photo, baby pictures, special vacation shot. Keep memories alive by fixing those old photos, writing the names of those in the shot (with a photo safe pencil), and preserving it for generations to come.

A Girl’s Best Friend: Jewelry is of course a very nice gift for those demanding people on your list but random jewelry purchases without meaning are just as impersonal as a gift card. Jewelry purchases should be memorable and have special meaning to the recipient so they remember years later who purchased the piece and when they received it. Understand what type of jewelry a person likes; are they an earring person, pendants, rings, bracelets. Get timeless pieces, those that never go out of style. Get something special like a mother’s ring of birthstones. When in doubt, diamonds are a girl’s best friend and Costco is a man’s best friend; all diamonds are guaranteed to appraise at double the purchase price and are procured through legal channels adhering to the United Nations anti-conflict diamond process.

Presentation: Someone once said life is 10% substance and 90% presentation and that same logic applies to the holidays. Have fun with the wrapping and presenting. If you get that limo ride to a show then buy a matchbox car limo and wrap that with the tickets. Heading on a tropical vacation, then put the tickets into a beach bag. Be creative and fully experience the joy of giving.


Drew said...

Oy, my eyes! I think half the cones on my retinas just burned out. The top of my Christmas list this year is the banishment of pink & purple fonts so I don't wind up blind & homeless living on the street corner wearing dark sunglasses selling pencils out of a tin cup for a nickel a pop by new years.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Drew- I darkened the font (c'mon, purple is almost as dark as black!). Hopefully this will keep your eyes crisp and clean enough to read spreadsheets throughout your life.