Have you ever noticed that "gift" is a four-lettered word? I don't mean to sound like the Grinch. But there is so much time, effort, and money wasted over the buying and giving of gifts. If we all engaged our brains gift giving would be far more successful.
Likewise, if we could overcome all sorts of social hang-ups ranging from asking our friends and family what they want, to ditching the duds we receive gift giving would be a lot less fraught.
If you can, I always say, give a gift that delivers lasting value to the recipient (or the giver).
Good value may be financial, but there are other sorts of good value. For example giving a board game or other activity that actually results in the family spending quality time together is really good value in my books.
A classic example of "value" for the giver is the scooter I bought my daughter for her birthday the week before writing this blog. We'd agreed over a year ago that come age nine she could quit the walking school bus and scoot to school on her own. Clearly I had to buy a scooter anyway, so giving it as her birthday gift killed two birds with one stone. You may think me cynical, but there was nothing she wanted more than a scooter, so everyone was happy.
Some good examples of gifts of lasting value include:
- A deposit in your child's Kiwisaver account.
- A parcel of shares or a fund. I received $200 of Winstone shares at age 11 and they sparked an interesting in investing that is still with me.
- Precious metals , jewellery and well-chosen antiques. These hold value over time and you can always sell them if you have to.
- Something they'd buy anyway. A relative of mine has just finished writing the family history and is talking about self-publishing. Little does she know that she might have a group of interested relatives sharing the relatively cheap cost of doing this.
- Consumables. If your friend or relative uses Trilogy toiletries, loves a certain brand of smoked salmon, or balks at buying a bottle of Bollinger champagne, then buy it for them. You'll be assured that the gift will be used.
- Vouchers. We've just collected $120 for my daughter's teacher, and instead of choosing something she may or may not use, we bought Westfield vouchers. It means she can buy a gift that she really wants.
Gifts of time are often hugely appreciated. I'd be chuffed if my kids gave me a card offering to clean my car once a month, or even once. And after writing in the NZ Herald that I'd like my friends to give me babysitting vouchers this Christmas, I've got my fingers crossed.
On that note, I'm a great fan of Christmas lists. I'm slowly getting over my embarrassment of giving my close family birthday and Christmas lists. We even emailed out a wish list for my daughter's birthday – with a rider that it wasn't essential to buy from it. Guess what. You get what you want when you put a list out.
Just one more point. I just love the American idea of "re-gifting". That's wrapping up any unwanted gifts from last year and giving them to someone else – albeit someone who actually wants them. Or you can return or exchange unwanted gifts at the original merchant. Most are happy to do this and many, such as Smiggle, the source of most of my daughter's gifts, will even do it without a receipt.