Holiday Gift Giving

For the last couple of years, we have scaled back our gift-giving and receiving.

Primary Steps

  1. Scale back.
  2. Ask the recipient what that they want.
  3. Involve charity.
  4. Buy something they need or already have.

Difficult-to-shop-for Friends and Family

Brainstorm the Person

  1. Brainstorm the person, first. Brainstorm identifiers and characteristics of the person.
    • Once you have a list of words describing the person, read the list with gift-giving in mind.
  2. Then, make a list.
  3. Do research, if necessary.
  4. Finally, shop.
  5. Keep “records“. Keep your lists from one year to the next.

Click the more… link for the much longer explanation of these.

For the last couple of years, we have scaled back our gift-giving and receiving. We strive for a simpler holiday season where focus is placed on quality time with family and friends. (We’ve also abandoned all holiday parties.[1])

Even with a “smaller” gift-giving season, we all have difficult-to-buy for people on our list. Every year, those gifts seem to be the nemesis of our holiday shopping experiences. We have a few techniques for solving some of these problems.

Primary Steps

  1. Scale back when you can.
    Keep the spirit of the season alive with respect to their beliefs. Strive to find little things that can go a long way. When possible, purchase educational toys that have add-ons or older/classic toys and games that withstand the test of time. For adults, consider gifts of time and those with personal meaning. Find something you can create/make/build. Many times, it really is the thought that counts.
  2. If possible, ask the recipient if there is anything in particular that they want. They may offer to scale back. Or, they may say, “you know, I could really use…” and mention the perfect item.
  3. Involve charity.
    Take some of the money and time saved to do something nice for someone in need. If you need guidance, your local soup kitchen, food bank, or homeless shelter can point you to an area of need. If you have a connection with someone who could use a little help, make a gesture. If you want to feel really altruistic about this action, make your contribution anonymously.
  4. Buy something they need or already have.
    Consider paying part of a bill for the person. We pay the Internet part of one person’s cable bill; this is something she needs and wants, and having it keeps her in touch with family. We buy a subscription to Netflix for another; it’s a easy gift that she enjoys. For subsequent birthdays other gift-giving holidays, we print another gift certificate saying we are still doing that for them. About once a year, we make sure that they are still using it and still want that from us.
    Bonus: It’s a gift that is good for the environment, too.

Difficult-to-shop-for Friends and Family

Even after all the scaling back and shifting of gift giving, there are difficult-to-shop-for people on your list.

Brainstorm the Person

  1. Brainstorm the person, first. Brainstorm identifiers and characteristics of the person, without regard to gift ideas.
    • Prepare. Set up all the supplies you’ll need. Limit distractions: turn off the TV, silence your phone. If you play music, choose music that energizes you. It’s best if you play music with no words. Gather the supplies you’ll need: paper, pens, your favorite beverage, etc.
      • Brainstorm on paper. A keyboard requires us to think about the mechanics of typing. And, it’s tempting to correct misspelled words and format the list. If you want color to inspire creativity, use colored pens, markers, and/or colored paper.
    • Remember, the first/primary rule of brainstorming is that no idea is wrong and no one option is better than another. There are no limits; anything is possible. Imagine limitless resources.
    • If necessary, give yourself a 1-minute time limit. List as many words/ideas/concepts as you can. Do this as fast as you can. Your mind should be producing ideas much faster than you can write them down.
      • Your final list should include a wide variety of words.
      • For example, “grandma”: grandmother, nana, mother, mom, wife, honey, sweetie, bridge, ladies club, garden, shelter volunteer, red, reader, Texan, old movies, proper, dainty,  etc.
    • If you get blocked, stop. Completely change what you are brainstorming. Brainstorm a word on that list (or an irrelevant topic) for 1 minute. You can simply look up from your paper and brainstorm the very next item you see.
      • For example, brainstorm the color white: snow, ice, cotton, cloud, tissue, foam, wedding dress, first communion, dry erase board,  paper, kitchen appliances, dogwood, milk, eggs, frosting, etc.
      • If you are still blocked, select one of those words and brainstorm all the things you can about that word. Snow: white, cold, soft, fluffy, flurries, men, Frosty, north, arctic, shovel, blizzard, etc.
      • Once you have taken your mind off-track from the main task, stronger creative capabilities within your mind will surface.
    • Truly original thinking will allow a wider variety of ideas to emerge. So, now you can return to brainstorming identifiers and characteristics of the person.
    • Once you have a list of words describing the person, read the list with gift-giving in mind. A list of all their traits will make brainstorming for gift ideas, easier.

List, Research, and Then, Shop

  1. Then, make a list.
    • Make a list of all the things you hope to get for each person on your gift list.
      • From Grandma’s list, there are several ideas: photographs/albums and other memory pieces of her children and grandchildren, written family stories, recordings of the kids voices, decks of cards for her bridge club, a donation to the shelter where she volunteers, gardening tools, “bulb of the month” club, gloves, books, movies for her DVD player or a Netflix subscription, movie memorabilia,  customized stationery.
    • List multiple ideas when you have them. They give you shopping options for this gift-giving holiday and ideas for those people for the next gift-giving holiday.
  2. Do research, if necessary.
    • Once you have a list of potential gifts, hop online and see if your top choices are available within your budget. You may be able to purchase online or use company websites to locate stores near you with inventory. You might even find discounts, sales, and/or coupons.
    • Pay attention to those “you may also like” suggestions for even more ideas to add to your list.
  3. Finally, shop.
    • Now that you are prepared to make specific purchases within your budget, shopping will be a simple errand instead of a burdensome chore.
    • It is important to note that shopping as a means of idea-gathering is both ineffective and expensive. Stores exist to make a profit. They aren’t usually concerned with helping you locate the perfect gift (on a lower shelf in the back corner). They hope to sell you the newest must-have gizmo with the highest markup.
  4. Keep “records“. Keep your lists from one year to the next. This will help you come up with more ideas next year and will keep you from giving someone similar items two years in a row.

[1] At last count, we were up to 13 “annual” parties. Each requested several things: a contribution to the buffet, to purchase a ticket (for the head count), a gift for the exchange, a donation to a charity, and/or getting dressed up. It was just too much time and money for us. Our first step was to only attend half. We attended one party for each job and the “easy” parties we really liked, and we politely declined the rest. Later, we were still very overwhelmed by the number of “expected” appearances for both our jobs and every community group we belong to. (Why must everyone have their annual party in December? Don’t they know there are 11 other months in the year?) We told everyone, “No, thank you. Not this year.” Many pressed us for more information (or worse: offered to move the party so we could attend). We just explained that it was all too much and we were not attending any of them. We’d be making what charitable donations we could, but we were not able to splurge on special treats and party gifts. Furthermore, we needed the time to get ready for the holidays with our own families.

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