The problem with the “perfect” gift

When it comes to gift-giving, I like to buy gifts that are exciting, maybe something that the recipient wouldn't necessarily buy themselves because it's not practical.

In fact, I so enjoy finding the perfect gift that I even have secret Amazon gift lists for my family members. When I come across something I think they'd like, I add it to their list for future gift-giving occasions. (Sound crazy? I got your crazy. I also have a “Gangsta Wrap” Pinterest board full of gift-wrapping ideas, so who's crazy now? Oh yeah, still me…)

Anyway, many years ago, buying the perfect gift often meant I'd spend more than I should. For instance, when my best friend had her first baby, I went a little overboard with the cute baby clothes, buying pretty much everything at retail price. Designer retail price. The parents reading this are laughing, because they know that those fancy baby clothes were only worn for a couple of months before baby outgrew them.

These days, I'm smarter about buying gifts on sale, with coupons, and picking things that will last. But I still go for the exciting gift, the one that the recipient would love to have but wouldn't buy for themselves.

And according to a recent study, that's the wrong approach to take. Not only am I spending more than I need to, but I'm giving a less desirable gift. Gasp!

Recipients don't want the exciting gift

The fancy, exciting gift is actually not the most desirable one according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research (PDF). And we're giving that fancy, less desirable gift because we're focusing too much on the recipient.

Wait — what? Weren't we always taught to think about the recipient and what he or she would like?

“The problem is that you create distance by focusing on the recipient too much,” says Ernest Baskin, one of the authors of Why Feasibility Matters More to Gift Receivers than to Givers: A Construal-Level Approach to Gift Giving. “Because you're thinking more abstractly, you'll tend to choose gifts that are more desirable and weigh practicality less.”

Hmm…sounds a lot like those fancy baby clothes I gave my friend. So why do we over-focus in the first place?

“We think that by concentrating on the other person, we can give the best gift,” says Baskin. “But the problem is that although you have good intentions, you're not thinking about long-term effects.”

The study authors also say that we give fancy gifts to try to make our friends happier and because we think that the exciting gifts will make them like us more and show just how much we care.

The problem is that it's not the fancy gift that accomplishes those three things. So what kind of gift does make recipients happier, make them like us more, and show that we care?

It's the practical gift.

Why practicality matters

In the study previously cited, the authors measured the trade-offs between desirability and practicality in gift-giver and gift-receiver preferences.

For instance, they looked at a scenario where a gift-giver knows the gift-receiver loves Italian food and wants to buy them a gift certificate to an Italian restaurant. Does the giver choose a gift certificate for a fancy restaurant that is an hour away or a nice but lower-rated restaurant that's five minutes away?

The authors' research shows that the gift-giver leans towards the fancier restaurant, while the gift-receiver would prefer to receive a gift certificate to the restaurant that is closer to their house. “The receiver cares about expenditure of their time, and so they prefer the one that's closer,” says Baskin.

And it's not just expenditure of time that recipients think about. They also consider how long they'll be able to enjoy the gift. “Think about giving flowers,” says Baskin. “Givers go for the most wonderful, beautiful bouquet, but the most beautiful flowers often die within a few days. The less beautiful ones might last a week.”

Thinking about myself as a recipient, it makes a lot of sense. For example, when I got married almost six years ago, we received a lot of gifts from our very generous friends and family members. And today, it's the most practical gifts that I'm still using every week, if not every day. The water glasses, the simple white serving platter, the Pyrex baking dishes. Sure, the fancy champagne glasses are beautiful, but they're so beautiful that they stay safely hidden away in the dish cabinet. Also, I don't drink a whole lot of champagne.

As a recipient, I really appreciated (and still use) the practical gifts.

So if you tend to buy the exciting gift over the practical one, how can you change your gift-giving ways?

Instead of focusing entirely on the recipient, the study found that you should actually take a minute to think about what you would want if you were the recipient.

“Think, ‘If I picked this for myself, what would I like?'” says Baskin. “You'll choose something more practical, and wind up giving a more desirable gift if you take step back and ask yourself, ‘Is this the kind of gift I would want?'”

For instance, in the Italian-restaurant example, would you want to drive an hour to use the gift certificate? “That hour would be a pain to drive, especially if there's traffic,” says Baskin.

Thinking about my baby gift example, if I had I asked myself what I would want if I were a first-time mom, I would've probably given my friend bottles and blankets. (Which brings up another point — maybe I selfishly bought fancy baby clothes because they're a whole lot more fun to shop for than boring baby bottles!)

But, I've learned my lesson, you guys. After interviewing Baskin, it just so happened that I needed to buy a bridal shower gift for a friend. Normally, I'd want to buy something exciting for the kitchen like a mandoline or nice wine glasses. But taking Baskin's advice, I thought, “Let's be practical here.” I pulled up the bride's registry online, and I immediately knew what I'd buy: a cast iron skillet. Practical, super affordable, incredibly durable — it's a kitchen workhorse. My dad has used his cast iron skillet for decades, and my husband and I use ours almost daily.

When the bride-to-be unwrapped it, she was ecstatic. She also wants detailed instructions on how to season it and wash it. And I have to admit, it was actually fun to give her something practical, knowing that that gift would likely be used in her kitchen for decades to come.

So now I'm curious, what's the “fanciest” gift you've ever received, and what's the most practical? Which one made you happier?

More about...Giving, Psychology

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Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
6 years ago

What a Great article! A relative got married years ago and the bride’s family and friends gave her tons of candles (she collected them) when they were young and needed everything. Said marriage didn’t last (see young above). My friends and family don’t want for a whole lot. I make something for the nieces and nephews at the holidays (luggage tags last year) and torture myself to come up with a great gift each year. I’ll definitely keep this article in mind as graduation season approaches. (Go to grad gift for family members is a quilt for the dorm.)

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
6 years ago

I am ALL about practical gift giving. Grocery store gift cards and bottles of olive oil are some of my favorite things to receive. The important thing to remember about practical gift giving, is that when you give those kinds of gifts, it frees up the gift recipients money to spend on discretionary items. I saved on two months worth of groceries after Christmas, that money is going my trip to Europe in two weeks.

Alix
Alix
6 years ago

It depends on the recipient. Some would rather get practical gifts, while others would prefer to receive something they’d never buy for themselves. If you focus on the recipient, and not yourself, it’s hard to go wrong.

Money Saving
Money Saving
6 years ago
Reply to  Alix

Very sage advice! Focus on the receiver and what they would actually want.

I’m one of the folks that like receiving gifts that I would never buy for myself vs. practical stuff. Different strokes for different folks 🙂

Abby
Abby
6 years ago

A close relative was in the hospital long-term recently and I was so impressed with the gift his company sent. They took up a collection and gave it to this relative’s wife to help pay for hospital parking expenses for her and for any visitors who might come. I thought that was such a great idea! So much more useful (and really more thoughtful) than flowers. Although I felt fairly helpless to do much for them while they were there, I did manage to make some cookies and drop them off so that they could share them with his nurses.… Read more »

Madam Glamour
Madam Glamour
6 years ago
Reply to  Abby

That’s a great idea Abby, thanks for sharing! Flowers are nice but family members and friends not having to worry about parking is a really nice gesture during such a trying time.

Regards,
MG

KSK
KSK
6 years ago

A couple of years ago, my niece and her husband purchased their first home. For a house-warming gift I gave them a gift-card to a home-improvement store, and a framed work of art (I’m an artist). I knew they would need a practical gift, and I wanted to give them original artwork that they would hang in their home. When they sent a thank-you card, they only thanked me for the gift card, with no mention of the art. A couple of weeks ago, I attended my niece’s baby shower. When I went into their guest bedroom to hang my… Read more »

Kingston
Kingston
6 years ago
Reply to  KSK

Art is tricky as a gift. I’ve received gifts of art from friends, which I never hung. One artist friend, though, invited me to pick something out from her studio, and that worked better.

JoDi
JoDi
6 years ago
Reply to  KSK

Taste in art is such an individual thing. That’s a tough one to get right unless you know the recipient’s preferences really well, and even then, I think it’s hard.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  KSK

I am with the others. While they definitely should have still thanked you for the artwork, art is truly subjective and not something I’d want to give or get for a gift unless explicit instructions were involved (as in: “I want THAT painting, over there”).

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Y-E-S. My sister-in-law is an artist and has given us a couple of her pictures. One is a picture my husband saw & admired; she gave it to him and it hangs prominently in our living room. That was a much-appreciated gift. The other picture she chose & framed for us, without taking our preferences into account; we hung it in the back hallway purely out of guilt. Do we like it? No. Does it fit with our decorating scheme? No. But does the fact that it was a gift mean that we are obligated to display it, now and… Read more »

Kathleen
Kathleen
6 years ago

*If* it can be done at all tactfully, do consider offering the art back to the giver first, before getting rid of it. It may still be worth something to her (or others) – both emotionally and financially. (You may even be able to negotiate a trade for another piece you like!).

jane savers @ solving the money puzzle
jane savers @ solving the money puzzle
6 years ago

I only buy practical gifts. Soft fluffy towels for a new baby, a garbage can as a house warming gift and a new CO2 detector for a wedding anniversary. If you have been married a while you need a new CO2 detector.

I love receiving practical gifts too. Unfortunately my friends seem to like to give me decorative things that sit unused and will end up in my yard sale this spring.

RazzBari
RazzBari
6 years ago

Fanciest – a leather coat that had to be specially cleaned and wasn’t a good color for me – sold it as soon as the ex left.

Most practical – my parents replaced the ratty old cotton clothesline in the basement with four lovely parallel lines AND installed a spare fluorescent light over the washer. Use them every week!

Rachel Davis
Rachel Davis
6 years ago

For friends who don’t have it all…. it’s so easy to give a gift. If they’re under a lot of stress, I like to give dining out gift cards (which are both practical and frivolous) If they’re starting out in life, I like to give household essentials (one of the best wedding gifts we received were the contents you would find in a “junk drawer”) If they’re working hard, I like to find something they are needing at home or a gift card to a store they shop at to finish home projects. For people who already have it all,… Read more »

Hoping to Adopt
Hoping to Adopt
6 years ago
Reply to  Rachel Davis

If you are giving a “date night” style gift card to parents with young children, consider arranging for childcare as well! We have a couple of restaurant gift cards that we haven’t used yet because if we are going to be paying for a babysitter, we would rather go to an event during that time than just go out to eat.

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

The date-night restaurant gift card definitely works best when paired with a free-childcare-when-you-need-it card. 😀 However, unless the gift recipients are good about asking for help, you may need to follow up with them to let them know your free-childcare gift is sincere and to schedule a time.

Lizzie
Lizzie
6 years ago
Reply to  Rachel Davis

I struggle with choosing gifts for friends who “don’t have it all;” it’s a hard balance to strike between feeling generous and feeling like I’m rubbing money in someone’s face. I’m afraid that if I give them something like a gift card or household essentials, they might be offended. But I’ve given one under-employed traveler friend a cash card, saying that I didn’t want to give her something she’d have to store or drag around, and she seemed to appreciate it. So maybe it’s all about the presentation.

Ursala @ Diamond-Cut Life
Ursala @ Diamond-Cut Life
6 years ago
Reply to  Lizzie

I totally understand the perspective of not wanting to show off with money. I made the mistake of buying my sister a fancy silk, rug from India. She was shocked and keeps it out of sight in the spare room where it won’t get ruined. One of the best gifts I have given was a nordstrom jacket at a clothing swap. It was a great jacket, but I already had so many, I gave it up. A year later my friend told me she wears it all fall and winter, and loves it. I’m lucky to live in Portland, Oregon… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago

My fanciest gift? Maybe a designer handbag, which was pretty but not at all my style, and I felt bad because I never really used it. The most practical? Uh, my boyfriend got me a Brita water pitcher for our first Christmas together…I gotta say, I wasn’t too excited about it. Basically, there’s no pleasing me, ha. I think a lot of this depends on the occasion and the giver, though. For a wedding or baby shower, I’d definitely want practical gifts, because I’d be building a family and you “need” stuff to do that, I guess. For birthdays or… Read more »

Abby
Abby
6 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

Ha! Our first Christmas together my now-husband got me a Magic Bullet. This was many years ago when they were still new and while yes, we had laughed together at the infomercial several times, it was not what I was looking for in a first-ever Christmas gift from the boy I loved. To make matters worse, he hadn’t shopped around online for a great deal with lots of extras, he had just gone to the “as seen on tv” store in the mall and spent way too much on it. Luckily, I got over it (and didn’t tell him until… Read more »

Hoping to Adopt
Hoping to Adopt
6 years ago

I make handmade baby quilts for each of our nieces/nephews. But, after having a newborn, I see that everyone else likes to give blankets, too. You only need so many blankets, so now I ask if they would like me to make a quilt or if they would prefer a different gift before I spend the time and effort to make one.

Jane
Jane
6 years ago

I was about to come on here and say the exact same thing. Baby blankets and towels might be practical, but there’s only so many you need. I got WAY more blankets than I needed. I’m on the third baby in a few weeks, and some of them have still hardly been used. Plus I gave away a bunch of those hooded towels the last time around. I don’t need five of them – just one or two at the most :). Baby presents are hard in general, because family and friends usually go overboard. Onesies are great, but 50… Read more »

Laura
Laura
6 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Cheap, dollar store washcloths that come 6 or 12 in a bundle are definitely one of the very most practical baby shower gifts! I bought a bunch that were decorated for Halloween for something like $2/pack in November. They go to certain friends when they’re expecting; with all the other baby stuff being in pastel colors, they think the designs are a hoot, and as one of them said, when Baby is howling nonstop at 2:30 AM, the black cloths wrapped in a bow decorated with mummies feels more appropriate than pink bunnies. But if you want to go for… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

Fancy – When I got married 15 years ago (first marriage), I did receive a lot of so-called fancy gifts: leaded crystal vases and crystal wine glasses. Despite popular judgement I did find them useful (though I wouldn’t buy it for myself) and still use those items today. I rarely receive gifts in general so I tend to make the best of what I receive – unless of course it doesn’t fit or if I’m allergic to it. Practical – A year an a half ago my mother had a new Vitamix Blender sent to me. It gets a lot… Read more »

Kingston
Kingston
6 years ago

When I was young and broke my boyfriend at the time treated me to a trip to the dentist as a Valentine’s Day gift. Because it was so badly needed, I felt VERY loved. Note: We discussed this gift ahead of time; I was not expecting diamonds or a trip to Aruba.

Kate Long
Kate Long
6 years ago

For Christmas this year my husband got me a very nice camera, one that I would never have picked out for myself, and have to remind myself to use. I will also be spending a boat load to get a better zoom lens. He could have spent less, as I am only a hobby photographer, and gotten better bang for his buck. My Sister in law got me a FitBit, I would have never purchased it for myself (I did get one for her!) but I use it every day! There is something like a $400 difference between the two… Read more »

Crystal
Crystal
6 years ago

I like all gifts. From the fancy jewelry and jewelry case to the practical mixing bowls we use daily in the kitchen. Yes, if I was getting a gift card to a restaurant, I would want one to the closer restaurant. But I don’t mind impractical gifts like jewelry, fancy clothes, or flowers. Just like I love practical gifts like Crock Pots, shirts I wear every day, and awesome kitchen knives. All gifts welcome! When I give gifts, I just try to think of something that person mentioned before that they won’t buy themselves. That can be a funny $10… Read more »

Lizzie
Lizzie
6 years ago

Our wedding gifts ran the gamut from Waterford wine glasses to cash. To be honest, I forgot about the crystal until I read this post, but the cash went right into our honeymoon fund.

Even better than picking the perfect gift, in my experience, is the ability to come to an agreement with friends or relatives about not exchanging gifts at all. I plan to suggest to more people this Christmas that we share recipes or baked goods, which takes the guesswork out of it a little.

Carol
Carol
6 years ago
Reply to  Lizzie

YES!!!!!!!!!!!! to your second paragraph!

Carol
Carol
6 years ago

I’m remembering the woman that commented on a previous post about receiving cases of disposable diapers as gifts, when she planned to use cloth. You only need so many for trips out. What seems practical for you may not be practical for the recipient.

Mona Gerstmann
Mona Gerstmann
6 years ago

As wedding shower gift, I give a selection of my favorite things that I use everyday, like plastic cutting mats, my favorite paring knife, apple corer-slicer, a cookie scoop, bamboo spoons, long handled spreaders, good towels, etc. I include a note explaining how and why I chose each item (since many young people don’t necessarily have lots of hands on kitchen experience). I wrap it up in brown paper and string as a nod to the song. Wedding gifts are generally a gift card to a home improvement place. Everyone eventually needs something from there. When I look at their… Read more »

Carol
Carol
6 years ago
Reply to  Mona Gerstmann

I like your idea of the bath sheet for kids. Whenever we go to a birthday party, I feel guilty for bringing some plastic toy I bought because I don’t know the kid that well. Especially when the whole class is invited, I feel bad for the parents having to deal with so many new toys.

Dee
Dee
6 years ago
Reply to  Mona Gerstmann

One of my go-to gifts for kids’ birthday parties is a child-size apron and some boxed mixes (cake, muffins, jello, anything that would be fairly easy to do with a little supervision). Kids usually get very excited about it, and I’ve had a few parents thank me for giving a gift that extends the fun of the birthday to another day. Of course, I also wonder if the parent ever groans internally because it require some help from them :), unlike a coloring book or handheld game.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Mona Gerstmann

As an encore bride, I really appreciated the gift cards to home improvement and department stores. There wasn’t much we needed but it was nice to buy new bedding and bathroom accessories. It was even more of a treat since we didn’t live together before getting married, ha.

JoDi
JoDi
6 years ago

The fanciest gift was a pair of diamond drop earrings from my husband that are really too fancy to wear anywhere we go. I would have preferred a pair of diamond studs that I could wear every day.

The most practical gift was a baby shower gift from my co-workers. They chipped in to pay for a gift certificate for a house cleaning from a cleaning service. That was fabulous!

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
6 years ago

My sister and I just ask each other what we want and get that. It’s nice because then we know we’ll use it, but can maybe ask for something that we would consider a splurge under ordinary circumstances. It’s how I got my grippy yoga towel. At $35 or whatever it was (for ONE TOWEL?!) I probably wouldn’t have bought it myself, but I have used it dozens of times.

PawPrint
PawPrint
6 years ago

I so agree with this. My son gave me an espresso machine a number of years ago. I don’t remember if I ever used it, but it sat in the pantry quite a while before I donated it. The most practical gift I received was an orange insulated water jug my mother’s friend gave us as a wedding gift. We did a lot of hiking and camping and took that jug everywhere, and when we had kids, we took it to all their soccer games, track meets, etc. We had it for almost two decades (held together by duct tape… Read more »

mitigateddisaster
mitigateddisaster
6 years ago

Really it’s all the same advice: what would they love to receive? My favorite gift I’ve received as an adult was jewelry, not very practical! In my family (Mom, sister, me) we pride ourselves on our gift giving skills, and the present generally has to fall into one of two categories: 1. something the person absolutely desires, except they don’t know it yet (examples: the underwater camera housing I received, the blown up and framed pic of the entire family we gave my MIL, big round ice cube maker for my cocktail-loving partner) 2. something they desperately want but will… Read more »

Ashley
Ashley
6 years ago

Just wanted to say that I really liked this article. Learned something and still on topic 🙂

I would add that you should encourage people to use a running wish lists on sites like Amazon, including normal boring practical items and exciting things. Like an everyday gift registry. That way gift givers can get the exact product the person wants.

Penney
Penney
6 years ago
Reply to  Ashley

My sister is a huge fan of using Amazon wish lists and has converted me! She has both practical and extravagent things on the list so as a giver you can take your pick. I don’t always buy off Amazon if I can find it cheaper somewhere else – but it gives me a starting point of things she would like to receive. We add things all year as we see them, but them right before Xmas and our b-days we update the list and take off things that might have looked cool but after a couple months we no… Read more »

Olena
Olena
6 years ago

The most practical gifts I have given to my sons were dry chemical fire extinguishers. At first, they thought it was funny (in our country, it is not a usual practice to have fire extunguishers at home – why?). Then they agreed that they may be extremely practical – under extreme circumstances. A sort of the emergency fund to protect you from troubles.
Moreover, I strongly believe that fire extinguishers can decrease the probability of the fire :).

Rose
Rose
6 years ago

My sister and I have started asking our parents – and each other – not to get us gifts for our birthdays – but to come visit and work on a household project with us (both are very handy). We have mulched, torn down old sheds/swing sets, built an herb garden, cleaned gutters, landscaped/planted plants, fixed fences, cleaned windows, etc., etc. Sometimes the tasks are more “practical” and others are more “extravagent/things we couldn’t do ourselves”. The list is always longer than what we have time for. But the chores always go quicker when you do them together. Plus –… Read more »

Saskia
Saskia
6 years ago
Reply to  Rose

This is a great idea!

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
6 years ago
Reply to  Rose

I’m totally going to talk with my siblings about doing that for my parents! My mom always has a mile-long list of projects she’d love to tackle around the yard, but she & my dad have limited ability to actually get them done.

Crystal
Crystal
6 years ago

I started giving “nice” practical gifts a couple years ago for Christmas. Everyone uses soap/bodywash so I started getting the females in my family nice smelling, large bottles of body wash (from places like TJ Maxx: cheaper than Bath and Body Works and smells just as good if not better) and so it feels like a little daily luxury. I remembered my aunt love hot cocoa so this past year I found and got her a thing of organic dark chocolate cocoa. She was really excited and actually emailed me the day after she got it to inform me how… Read more »

Julie
Julie
6 years ago
Reply to  Crystal

I have had allergic reactions to Bath and Bodyworks products twice. My doctor said she sees a lot of allergic reactions to the products. They are my least favorite present to receive, and I believe that ones I have received were a re-gift.

Jane
Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  Crystal

I have to disagree with the “nice smelling body wash for females” idea. Only do that if you know your friend or relative uses and enjoys that stuff. Some women just don’t like smelly body products. I personally hate to receive all the lotions and washes and often pass them on or try to return them if possible. What’s left is piled up in my linen closet. I prefer a bar of soap and don’t like all the smelly stuff. It’s just clutter in my opinion, and I imagine I’m not the only woman who feels that way. Candles are… Read more »

Old Guy
Old Guy
6 years ago

For almost anyone, I use cash. Why? Because I know almost no one who is good with money, and anytime they get a gift is typically a time they want more than anything to “catch up”. I wish I could count the number of times I heard someone say “But my birthday is coming up so maybe I’ll get enough money to (pay this off/replace my car battery/see the dentist…). No one has ever been offended, and my gift ALWAYS gets used. Also, everyone looks forward to my gifts. For full disclosure, I also give non-cash gifts. For baby and… Read more »

Saskia
Saskia
6 years ago

Fanciest gift ever? Hard to say. Most practical? Hard to say also. My mom gave me lots of kitchen stuff when I was in my 20s. Some of it I’m still using 30 years later. But did I love it? Not always. I’m one of those who has trouble spending money on herself. Please don’t give me stuff I’ll buy anyway. Sure, it’ll save me money, but it doesn’t make it any easier to do something for myself. Give me something that’s one or two levels nicer, better, more expensive than usual. I used to study registries and then buy… Read more »

Teinegurl
Teinegurl
6 years ago

I also give cash or gift cards. I love to receive them and i feel like people already have stuff the best thing they need is cash. Though i will say i dont give large amounts maybe max $50 for a birthday just depends on the occassion.

One of the best gifts i got (from my ex) was a full spa day. Something i would have never bought myself but i still think back on it and wish i could do it again. got a body massage , facial, manicure & pedicure.

imelda
imelda
6 years ago

In Japan, laundry detergent is a common housewarming/goodie bag/raffle gift. I didn’t fully appreciate this until about 2 years after I arrived, when I had to buy my first container of detergent. Such a convenient gift!

The one thing I can’t stand as a gift is cash. It really is the thought that counts, and unless the money is badly needed, that says to me that the gift-giver didn’t bother thinking at all.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Different strokes for different folks? Cash is a common gift in my family and I like it because it’s allowed me to save up for something big rather. To me, it’s very thoughtful to say “I know you’re saving up for x, here’s a little something to help towards that goal.” Case in point: my nieces and nephews don’t need any more clothes or toys. The parents appreciate cash for their education savings — especially since the government matches 20%. Quite a few of us do it, so the parents are able to max out the contribution matching each year.… Read more »

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
6 years ago

One of our wedding presents was a cheese-sampling party set (marble slab tray, stainless steel cheese slicers, etc). It was quite fancy, very good quality, expensive… and totally useless for a pair of low-budget college students – especially since I am allergic to dairy! >_<

On the other hand, I was in heaven when my husband got me a much-beloved crockpot for my birthday. Stew, roasts, granola, yogurt, and more have come from my helpful little pal.

Marcy
Marcy
6 years ago

Right after Christmas I send my son & DIL a check for their 5 kids. This is to buy clothes on clearance sales for the next Christmas and/or birthdays. I do the same thing about mid June, so my DIL can shop the summer sales. She knows the kids’ sizes, and also what they like and need. I pick out some toys for Christmas, too. We have done this the last few years and it works out well for everyone.

No Nonsense Landlord
No Nonsense Landlord
6 years ago

I hand made gift certificates, and put that and a $100 bill in an envelope. It could be spend anywhere, of at the place I had made the certificate.

Cash is very practical, it just depends on how you present it.

Lanthiriel
Lanthiriel
6 years ago

Since picking up knitting a couple of years ago, I’ve begun making all of my gifts. I love having a hobby (I think of knitting as yoga for my brain) and can more easily justify the expense by cutting out the cost of gifts. I try to pick patterns and yarns that suit the recipient, but I figure that even if they don’t like it, I’ve enjoyed making it so someone enjoyed it 🙂 Better that than picking something off a shelf that no one will ever use.

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

My favorite wedding gift came from a bridesmaid, a devout scrapbooker who offered to create our wedding album. This was obviously not an immediate gift, since she had to wait for our photographer to return our photos before she could begin making it. I paid for the photos and handed over little trinkets I wanted included (a piece of beading from the cake, a napkin, et cetera) and a few months later she returned a gorgeous intricate book that I will cherish forever. I have no interest in scrapbooking myself…the money and space you lose to fancy paper, special scissors… Read more »

iamnospecial
iamnospecial
6 years ago

Nice article…
It reminds me of my uncle. From my 3rd bday onwards, he only gave me books to read. He started with comics, then moved to story books and finally to utility books.
I had almost all the books till my graduation…

Nicole
Nicole
6 years ago

My dad is a camera freak! He takes photos of families and friends whenever he gets a chance! Then print that photo, put it on a frame and give it to that person on the next occasion (his birthday, Christmas…)

It is amazing how many times we walk inside someone’s house and we see a picture frame with a photo taken by my dad. It is cheap, practical and always love by the recipient. This is popular especially if you were able to take a photo of a whole family!

Now I do it too!

K. Fallang
K. Fallang
6 years ago

For those of you who are thinking of graduation gifts for college-bound kids, consider the best graduation gift I received: a laundry bag with my name embroidered on it, a full-size bottle of laundry detergent, a box of fabric softener sheets, and a couple rolls of quarters. Sometimes, the best gifts are the basic things we really need, but aren’t fun to buy for ourselves. I graduated from high school 20 years ago and still remember that gift fondly. (Who knows though – maybe college Laundromats don’t take quarters anymore! Ha!)

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