I love giving gifts. I always have. But in the past few years as I’ve examined different areas of my lifestyle for their intentionality, the way I feel about gifts and the way I gift has definitely changed. Christmas and gift giving use to be like a sport for me. I prided myself on my ability to “really know” someone and give “good gifts.” When I look back on some of the gifts I’ve given, I actually cringe. Many of them served no purpose or did not add any type of value to the recipient’s life. But that’s kind of how gifting culture is, isn’t it?
While streaming college football games on either the Fox Sports Go or the Watch ESPN apps or maybe both, I kept seeing an ebay commercial where one person after another held up a plainly wrapped gift, looked at and spoke into the camera is if they were talking to you, the recipient, saying things like “Here. I got it from the same place I got your gift from last year,” “It’s the thing from that link you sent us,” “I found the perfect gift for you. But it wouldn’t ship in time so, I just texted you a photo” and “I included a gift receipt. It ends with the first girl asking meekly, “It’s the thought that counts?” And the campaign’s slogan is “Don’t Shop Like Everyone Else.”
It is the thought that counts. And I think that contrary to the message ebay is sending in this commercial, I think a lot of the shopping/gifting behaviors they’re highlighting as unemotional and thoughtless actual leads to thoughtful gifting.
I'd love a gift card. And yeah, please include a gift receipt. You got me exactly what I asked for? Hell yeah.
As I’ve changed my feelings toward giving gifts, I’ve also changed my feelings about getting gifts. I’d be fine if I didn’t get a single gift from anyone all season. My boyfriend and I don't even do anniversary or Valentine's Day gifts.
This is because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become so in tune and hyper-specific with my tastes and a lot more intentional about what I allow into my home and life. So, if you absolutely have to get me something, I’d prefer you either get me a consumable like a bath product or something I can eat and drink. But if you still really, really want to get me something I’ll like, just ask me. I’ll tell you exactly what I need and if I have a preference for which one. This’ll ensure that I’ll actually use and appreciate your gift. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a Christmas gift that I immediately took home and put in a donate pile.
So as much as I love and understand the desire to surprise someone with a gift they have no idea is coming, if I’m not acutely in tune with that person or haven't picked up on something they said they want/need in passing, I’d much rather ask them what I could get them that will add value to their lives.
This year when I asked my 13-year-old sister what she’d like for Christmas, she asked for Air Force 1s (a girl after my own heart!), but she doesn’t know what coordinating accessories I’ll include along with her shoes. My 22-year-old sister just moved into a house with her boyfriend and their dog, so I’m going to ask her if there’s anything for their house that they need. My boyfriend told me that he wants new clothes, so he knows he’s getting clothes, but I get to pick out the specific clothing items because I know his style really well.
I don't personally think this a sterile approach to gifts. Last year, when my mom asked me what I wanted, I asked for an electric blanket. I LOVE that electric blanket and still use and appreciate it to this day. This year I told my boyfriend that I wanted one of those gourmet popcorn tins with puppies on them they always sell at the drugstore. And if I get one, I'll be so jazzed.
Along with how I gift now, I’ve also drastically reduced the amount of people I gift for. I used to get a present for everyone in my friend group, family, my significant other and their family. But few years ago I just decided to only get gifts for my boyfriend, two sisters, mom and something small for my stepdad. And you know what? Nothing happened. If anyone in my friend group was upset I that didn’t give them a gift, they didn’t voice or act on it.
I’ll still be making some holiday gift recommendations throughout the month, but with the hopes that you’ll be thoughtful with what you choose to give, even if it comes from one of my amazingly curated lists. Ask yourself “Will this add value to [insert person’s name here]’s life?” “Is this in line with what they said/I know they like or need?” "Do I even need to buy this person a gift?"