How to choose the perfect gift or get out of giving one altogether

BY DOROTHY ROSBY

‘Tis the season to run up our credit card bills and give our loved ones a good head start on their next garage sale. It doesn’t have to be that way. The year I bought two talking trout and a fruit cake at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I decided it was time to change my gift-giving ways. As a public service, I’m going to share with you my tips for gift giving: 

When to shop:

Don’t wait until the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a gift has been bought, not even for your spouse. More worthless gadgets, doohickies and thing-a-ma-bobs are purchased just before Christmas than at any other time of the year. And most of them are bought in those last frantic moments before the reindeer appear. Shoppers who started out with high hopes break down on December 24 and settle for an electric carrot peeler—or a talking trout. 

But don’t buy your gifts too far in advance either. You could forget you bought them—or where you put them. Or you could find that by Christmas, you’re not even on speaking terms with the potential recipients.

Where to shop:

Shop locally whenever possible. It’s good for your community, plus it’s easier for your recipient to return a gift you purchased locally. And they may want to do that if you got them an electric carrot peeler.

How to choose your gift:

Think long and hard before buying a loved one a personal care item like a tube of cellulite reduction cream or a snore stopper. But if after careful consideration, you still think it’s a good gift idea, write “from Santa” on the tag.

Before you purchase a particular gadget or thing-a-ma-bob for some unsuspecting individual on your Christmas list, ask yourself if they’ll use it often enough to keep it within reach. Or will they store it away until that rare occasion when they want to use it but are unable to locate it behind their home snow cone machine and their frittata flipper?

Have more than one idea for each person on your gift list. Coming to blows with another desperate parent over the last Batcave Playset has a way of dampening the old Christmas spirit. So does calling home from jail. 

Whatever you choose, be sure and include a gift receipt when you wrap it up. Your recipient will appreciate it and you’ll never have to know that they returned the muffin top baking cups you bought them.

How to get out of shopping altogether:

Give gift cards. If you don’t like to shop, your recipient does it for you and they still feel like you’re doing them a favor.  

Consider re-gifting. It’s thrifty, earth-friendly and only a little tacky. Just be sure you don’t give anyone the gift they gave you last year. 

Make your gifts. Homemade gifts can be very meaningful. Unfortunately, how meaningful depends entirely on whose home they were made in. If like me, you’re not the crafty sort, you’ll want to stick to buying gifts—or gift cards. While it truly is better to give than to receive, that’s not what you want anyone thinking when they open your gift.  

Dorothy Rosby is the author of three books of humorous essays including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time. Contact drosby@rushmore.com.T