Christmas Gift Disasters You Can Avoid

Christmas Holiday Ornament Blue Image: Public Domain, Morguefile

Save yourself from becoming the “lame gifter”

When it comes to gift giving at the holidays, do you want people to know you’ll get it right, or dread opening your package? This tips will keep you and your gift recipients happy for the holidays.

Avoid “couples” gifts. More often than not, giving a couples gift (something intended for husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, etc.) is not going to make you a hit at the Christmas party. Nine times out of ten a couples gift gives the impression that you didn’t care enough to get something personal for each person. It’s also common that the gift really only appeals to one of the people, and the other is supposed to just deal with it. Not cool. Unless it’s something you’ve heard both parties ask for and you know they can both get enjoyment from it, try to avoid couples gifting. If you’re on a budget, just get smaller gifts for each person.

Avoid undergarments as gifts. There’s nothing quite as embarrassing and as lame as opening a gift in front of the family and finding a package of socks or underwear. Just because the person needs them doesn’t mean they make a good gift. Slippers and robes are okay, but undies, boxers, bras, socks and the like should be avoided. They embarrass the recipient, and they’re not exactly a fun gift. Also, if you’re getting lingerie or sexy undies for your partner, save those for when you’re alone, you don’t need to share your bedroom attire with the whole family.

Clothing in general is usually a bad idea as a gift. Unless you know the person’s exact size, and are sure of their tastes, most clothing is either going to get returned or left in a closet to collect dust. Never assume that because you like a clothing item that your recipient will too. Clothing is something very personal. I’m sure we all know the jokes about the bad Christmas sweaters and ties, but they’re all too true, and aren’t very funny for the person getting them.

Don’t give toiletries. I’ve actually seen people give toothpaste, deodorant, razors and the like as gifts. Again, not the coolest thing to do. Bath sets and such are fine, but basic toiletries are not good gifts. It’s like saying that person needs better personal hygiene. If you really must give these things, let them be stocking-stuffers rather than actual gifts.

Avoid impersonal gifts. This often happens with last minute shoppers, lazy shoppers or people on budgets. They go out and grab random items from the sale rack or dollar store, and they have nothing to do with the person receiving them. Examples would be giving candles or lotion to the ladies, or a random tool to the guys. (I know in my family I had to actually tell people to stop giving me scented candles and lotion, I don’t really use either one.) Do your best to give each person something that appeals to their interests. You can still shop at the dollar store, but try to make the gift fit the interests or tastes of the recipient. If you really don’t know what they like, a gift certificate to a place they like to shop is always a safe bet.

On the topic of gift cards, don’t give cards to places you shop, give cards to places your recipient shops. It’s really annoying to have to fake a smile over a gift certificate to a place you know you have no desire to shop. Find out what the person is into, and get a gift card that they will enjoy. If all else fails, if they have an internet connection and a credit card, certificates are great, because you can buy nearly anything there. can actually be a great way to find out what people want. Have everyone who can do it set up an Amazon wishlist and add items they want for the holidays. This is also great if you’re on a budget. Around here we try to keep each item on our lists under $25, so we know anyone can afford it. Amazon also has a great feature now where you can add items to your wish list that are not sold through Amazon. For example, I added a gift certificate to a store in my local mall on my wish list this year. If the place you want an item from has a web site, you can add the item to your Amazon list.

Don’t give gifts that you like. Remember, these gifts are for other people, not you. “I thought this was so cool I had to buy it!” does not make that highlighter yellow Napoleon Dynamite t-shirt any less horrid. “I love the scent of this cologne!” doesn’t cut it when the person meant to be wearing it hates it. Your gift should always be about and for the recipient. Your tastes are totally irrelevant. If you think that 18” lime green silk floral centerpiece is the tackiest thing on earth, but you know someone’s crazy for it, get it. It’s more important that they like the gift than for you to like it.

Don’t give thank you notes as a gift. I have seen this done at Christmas and at a bridal shower. It is so unbearably insulting. Not many people send thank you notes anymore, but some people expect them. If you expect them, you need to accept the fact that it’s not a common part of current culture, and it doesn’t mean your recipient is a bad person if they don’t follow this antiquated tradition. Giving someone thank you notes as part of their gift is the equivalent of saying “I know you have no etiquette  skills, and I want one of these back, so here, now you’d better use them.” It’s just rude, so don’t do it.

Be careful with re-gifting. First of all, be especially careful at family gatherings. Imagine how hurt someone’s feelings would be if you’ve wrapped up what they gave you last year and offered it to someone else. Be sure to re-gift in a way that the original giver will not see it. Also, don’t hand off junk. If you got one of those tacky or impersonal gifts last year, don’t hand it off to someone else who’s going to be just as un-thrilled with it as you were. Donate the junk to charity, and make sure that you don’t become the lame gifter too.

Don’t buy expensive gifts for some, and cheap gifts for others. I can remember as a kid and teen, my cousin always got the expensive gifts at the family party, and I got cheap junk. It was obvious she was a favorite and I was a side-note. I’ve seen it as an adult too, some people get expensive, well-thought-out gifts, and others get cheap items that had no thought put into them at all. The best thing you can do is set a budget for everyone on your list. This year, for example, the budget we’ve all set is about $20-25. Every gift each of us gives will be that much or less. That way, all the gifts are of relatively equal value, and no one appears to be showing favoritism. This can also reduce the stress on the lower-income members of your gathering. If everyone sticks to the budget of the least well-off person, then no one has to feel bad that they didn’t give gifts as expensive as the ones so-and-so gave.

Hopefully these tips will keep you from being labeled as the lame or rude gifter of the family. Try to use common sense when getting gifts for people, and think of how you would feel if someone did or gave a certain thing to you.


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