Gift Giving Guide For the Holidays

November 29, 2011Category: Tutorial, WritingTags: , ,

For Christmas and/or birthdays, getting a gift can be difficult. What does the person want, what would they not really care about, how much should I spend. From growing up with extended family that didn’t know how to give gifts worth crap, to having friends and trying to figure out the perfect choice, I’ve come to a few insights that I’d like to share with all of you as we move into the holiday season.

Let me start out on the bottom of the scale. I’ve heard that no gift is a bad gift, because it’s still free. That’s horse crap, and here’s an example. When I was a child, my parents would buy my clothes; pretty normal for a 7 year old. A had one aunt and uncle who would give me a gift card to Old Navy each Christmas. My mom would use it to buy me clothing, which she would have paid for herself anyway, which left me with nothing. That, is a useless gift. Granted, it’s hard to be that bad, but I want to establish a lower plane that we can build from.

There are 5 levels of gifts (independent of price), the above falling at the bottom of 5. Price is independent because it only applies to some of the levels. You can get a top notch gift without spending huge, or spend 1000 bucks and fail. So, that said I’m going to outline each level, with an example of something I’ve given or gotten.


Level 1 – Hand Made Item

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A gift in this level is something you make yourself. Not bought. It’s something you know they’d like, and it’s original, since you made it yourself.

Example: A Do Not Disturb door hanging sign I made for two friends one Christmas. They’d gotten together pretty recently, and once they’d decided to go all the way, they went all the way allll the time.

So I found a picture on the internet of two stick figures having sex, attached the words Do Not Disturb, and printed it out. I put a plastic black backing onto it, then laminated the front, and gave it a border it tiny strips of gorilla tape.


Level 2 – Purchased Item that Receiver Hasn’t Asked For

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You don’t have to make something yourself to get a great gift. A level two gift is something you buy, but that the person doesn’t know about. IE, not on their Christmas list. Anything asked for will be pleasant, but lack surprise.

Example: I’m a fan of Lord of the Rings. I do like paper posters, but only if they are old and rare. I find paper to be too fragile, so normally I don’t buy posters at all. My mom knows this, and found something which I had no idea existed. A map of the world from LOTR, but a cloth tapestry instead of a paper poster. Much more durable, it’s still hanging in my room today


Level 3 – Purchased Item on Receiver’s List

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Level 3 is the last of what I’d consider the good levels. If you can’t think of something that your intended would enjoy, take a peek at their Christmas list (assuming they have one), and buy something off of it. You know they’ll enjoy it, even if it’s not a surprise.

Example: Several years back I was getting into “modern” gaming (previously I’d played mostly NES), and I asked for an Xbox 360, which my parents got me for Christmas. I figured it was coming, so opening on Christmas morning wasn’t surprising. But it was still great, because it was something I really wanted.


Level 4 – Gift Card

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If you have no idea what they’d like, and they don’t even have a list, you have a problem. However, you can’t really be friends with a person without at least knowing some places they like to eat or shop. Level 4 is gift cards. Not really a physical gift, and an admission that you don’t know what to get them. Yet you’re still trying.

Note: This is generally above level 5, yet can fall below if you aren’t careful. Make SURE they like the place that you give them the gift card to. As discussed in the opening story, gift cards can be completely useless and worse than cash.

Example: My aunt and uncle who used to give me Old Navy gift cards did finally wise up (after being told by my parents). They now get me a Gamestop gift card each Christmas, which is useful to me, since there’s always a game I want and can’t afford.


Level 5:

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The final level, and worst of all gifts, is cash. It’s useful, sure, but it’s almost an insult. It’s me saying to you, I don’t know you at ALL, or if I do, I don’t care enough to even take the time to go buy a gift, here’s some cash instead. The absolute only time this should ever be used is if you really have no idea what places they like for a gift card, because admittedly some gift cards suck. Swallowing your pride is a sacrifice you can make if it means the person at least gets something they can use, instead of a gift card they’ll just throw away.


Note: There is some debate about cards (Hallmark cards, etc) with no money. Personally though I think cards are nice, because they show you took the time to go get one and write in a little message. However, cards by themselves are not a gift, so aren’t included.

Price is another issue that people sometimes don’t understand. This really has nothing to do with the quality of the gift. A $100 gift card to a restaurant I hate is useless to me, while a $20 Xbox game I might enjoy. As a very general rule, I normally spend $20 on each of my friends, maybe $30-$40 for my best friends and/or immediate family. Extended family is in the $20 range. However, price takes a back seat to getting a good gift. If I see something that the person doesn’t know about but would love, even if it’s above or below my range, I’ll tend to go for it if I can.

Price depends on how well you know the person, and how much money you have. If you are a poor college student struggling to keep afloat, then don’t go buy someone a new computer. If you’re a doctor making 6 figures, then sure, buy your best friend a car. It’s all relative, and no one’s going to look down on you for not buying gifts you can’t afford. They say it’s the thought that counts, and that’s very true. The effort you put in is far more important than the price.