MONDAY MONEY – Getting the right gift.

As Christmas rapidly approaches I have been watching and listening with interest to friends and people around me at work as they start to get organised for the gift giving and all the associated glitz and glam of Christmas. The impact of the financial crisis might be having an affect as there is more of a feeling about getting the right gift, rather than just getting something to unwrap on the day.

I come from a fairly large family, 4 sisters and a brother, plus several foster kids that have stayed close to the family. We have all grown; married and now have children of our own. For a number of years now I haven’t bought family presents, it just became to expense. I can remember a number of years where I bought everyone something, it all added up, and in the long run I have no idea if the gifts were appreciated or not. I know that a lot of the gifts I received were dust gathers and not anything that I could find a use for.

When I moved further away things became easier. I was happy to say don’t get me anything as I will just have to try getting it home and I don’t have room in the suit case. Problem is that most of my family don’t listen, so I got some amazing gifts, like a 2 metre long pole that my nieces hand painted, or the glass bowls or glasses that were hand painted. It is not the gift, but the thought that counted. I am going to sound very cynical, but I think there was little or no thought at all put into these gifts. Nothing is better than having to throw the item out.

So there is the question of how do you get the right gift. I suppose this sounds a little mercenary, but asking them is a very good place to start. I would suggest however before going to ask people that looking at your budget and working out what you are going to spend would be the best way to go. You can then decide to tell them or not what you were planning on spending on them.

When my son was a teenager (not anymore) he knew what he wanted and was happy to tell me what it was. Most of the time I was able to get the ‘perfect’ gift for him. It was great when he told me that if I couldn’t get what he wanted, cash or a gift voucher would do just as well. Don’t you love the mind of a kid, don’t put yourself out, gimme the cash! I didn’t like doing that because I felt it wasn’t in the spirit of Christmas. It wasn’t until I saw what he did with some of the gifts that I thought were just right, that I realised what a waste of time, and money there had been into the gifts I got.

There is a huge amount of waste from Christmas. It is not just the present; there is the wrapping paper, cards, tape and string, all the trimmings for the present. I don’t want to become Scrooge, but I do think the commercialisation of Christmas has spoilt it for many reasons. I can remember mum spending many hours in the kitchen cooking up treats for family and friends as gifts. Then there were the presents that they made for the children. As our lives became busier the making and love that went into Christmas seems to have been moved onto the back burner.

This year there is going to be a different approach to gift giving for me, hopefully I can put into the thoughts of my gifts more love and attention than just the dollars required to buy something. Our family is going to be celebrating Christmas a number of times, in a number of locations, with some members of the family we haven’t spent Christmas with in about 10 years. We have decided that the children of the family will be the ones we have gifts for, rather than all members of the family. A handshake and a hug will hopefully be the special gift this year, along with being able to watch the children have fun on the day. And hopefully the gifts for the children will be something that they get enjoyment from for longer than just a couple of days before ending in the toy box or trash heap.

Rereading this I think it is a little on the negative side, I haven’t changed anything along the way as I went through it again. My reflection on this is that I have for a number of years bought and wasted some gifts that I thought were the right ones for the occasion. Looking back at things I was very wrong. So I am going to stop and consider much more carefully what it is I am going to buy to make sure that it really is the best gift for that person, with all the love and affection I can manage.

So when you are out getting those last minute things, don’t get caught buying something unless it really is the ‘right’ gift, cos it will end up trashed, one way or another!

2 responses to this post.

  1. I love the idea someone gave me about giving an experience. For my little kids a ride on a train or a ferry is enough – big girl still talks about the time she went on the train with Granny. It’s something so simple, but better than plastic crap!
    And yes, asking people what they want.


  2. Posted by Shelagh on November 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I agree that Christmas is a major commercial exercise – and we go through it every year. 3 kids and their partners as well as ex-partners in some cases, along with 4 grandchildren and various ‘adoptees’ that have become part of our family when they needed a safe haven, makes for an expensive holiday. We usually set a limit – either in cost or in who we are buying for. I usually get to babysit grandchildren (being school based I am on holidays when they are!) so we spend time making gifts for family members and I talk about how you don’t need to pay a fortune. Not too sure they swallow the whole concept – especially with eldest 2 being almost teenagers – but they attempt to humour me. We all swap Christmas wish lists as well with varying prices so whatever is bought from the list, you know it is what that person has said they want and you are therefore not wasting time and money.


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