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Monday, December 27, 2010

On Gift Giving and Receiving

My Philosophy on Gift Giving and Receiving
It's OK to re-use wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and gift bags - It's the responsible thing to do in this day and age; it saves a bit of money, it helps the planet by not using extra or unnecessary resources, and gosh darn it, some ribbons and bows are too pretty not to use again.
It's OK to make gifts for your loved ones, rather than buying something - it shows creativity, ingenuity, thoughtfulness. Imagine receiving a gift knowing that the person who made it for you was thinking of you the whole time the gift was being made. Gosh, that just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
It's OK to give cash or gift cards instead of a gift - sometimes one just doesn't know what to get someone. Maybe the recipient wants a very specialized item and rather than buying the wrong one, sometimes it's best to send a gift card for the store where the item is sold. When I was in the 2nd grade I got a bra from an aunt. I would much rather have gotten $5.
It's OK to re-gift - this one is a bit tricky. It is OK to re-gift but one must take care to not give the gift back to the person who gave it to you (duh), and one must take care not to re-gift an item to someone in front of the person who originally gave you the gift.  Gifts are supposed to make people feel good. Re-gifting is fine, if done with care.
It's OK to put the gift receipt in the box with the gift - sometimes you don't need an espresso machine from Williams Sonoma, but you really could use a new knife. The gift-giver should recognize this and gracefully accept that a new knife from Williams Sonoma is just as lovely as a new espresso machine. Your gift of an espresso machine gave the recipient the means to buy a new knife. Every time that person uses the knife you will be remembered with fondness.
It's OK to use a gift in a manner the giver hadn't thought of - for example, one year for Christmas I received a cutting board. I didn't need a cutting board, but I liked the design, so I used it as a flat surface on top of my microwave so I could have a nice place to put my condiments that I use frequently. I've had it now for about 10 years. I still use it, and when I see it I think of the people who gave it to me.
It's OK to get some benefit out of the gift you give - for example, I have to buy a specific dollar amount of scrip every year for The Girl's school. It's OK to buy Starbucks gift cards and use those as gifts, and get credit for scrip. Another example is credit card points. I admit it, I bought some of the gifts I gave with my AMEX points. The gifts I gave were exactly the same things I would have gotten from a store, I just used alternate means of paying for them. Let's face it. Everyone who has ever given someone stuff from Bath and Body Works has taken advantage of their buy one, get one policy, am I right?
It's OK to have a gift sent directly from the website from which it is bought - Sometimes going to the store, picking out a gift, taking it home and wrapping it, then sending it out takes more time than a lot of us have, plus it costs a bit more money to pay for shipping to your house then shipping to the recipient. Sure, sometimes the wrapping isn't as exciting or pretty, but everyone loves getting packages in the mail so the 'ding dong' of the doorbell sort of makes up for the fact that it doesn't have a pretty red bow.

With All that Said, There are Some Things to Remember
Know when to stop recycling - If the paper is torn, if the paper has creases so formed that it won't fold any other way, if there is tape on the paper from past holidays that you can't remove, it's time to get rid of the paper. It's done its job. It's time to recycle it. If the gift bag has tears, if it has an old card attached to it with the "to/from" already filled out with the last recipient's information, tear it off or don't use the bag. Don't scratch it out. Don't use an Easter or Happy Birthday bag for Christmas, make sure the bag is holiday appropriate. If you're putting money or a gift card in an envelope, make sure the envelope is in good shape and don't use an envelope that has the return address for PG&E in the top left corner and try to cover it up with a Santa sticker. If you're giving a gift certificate that came from a book of certificates, make sure you take off all the perforated bits.
Don't know what to get someone? This is an easy one. If you spend even a little bit of time with the person to whom you're giving a gift, all you have to do is pay attention. It's easy to make simple leaps of logic that will usually work out. Someone works downtown probably makes frequent trips to Starbucks, in which case a SBUX card would be a welcome gift. Most women would love a gift certificate for a mani/pedi. A lot of conversations turn to food. Pay attention to where someone had a meal they liked and get them a gift card for that restaurant. It doesn't have to pay for the whole meal.If you know someone drives 60 miles each way to work every day, a gift card to Chevron will be very much appreciated. Pay attention to what you gave them last year. For three Christmasses in a row I received a new pie pan from the same person. They're nice pie pans but three years in a row?  Don't cherry pick stuff from the gift basket you got from a client at work, wrap the stuff in pieces of discarded tissue paper, throw it into a ripped gift bag and call it Christmas.

We all know that people re-gift and re-use. It's not a big deal. What is a big deal is how the gift is given. The care you put into the packaging shows how you feel about the person you're giving the gift to.  Most people are happy with thoughtful gifts.

The thought and care taken is way more important than the gift itself. The thought and care surrounding the gift is what people will remember and cherish more than the gift itself.

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