Gift-Giving: Is It Really the Thought That Counts?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Have you ever had one of those awkward moments where the gift you gave didn’t compare very well to the one you got?

Maybe your gift was a lot cheaper than the one you got, or vice-versa. Or the present you gave was very nice, but pretty impersonal, while the gift you got was obviously selected with a lot of care and thought.

I can still vividly remember quite a few times when a gift I thought was pretty cool got me in the doghouse, for reasons I didn't understand. Maybe this happens to men more often than women, but it definitely takes a lot of the fun out of gift giving for everyone.

If you have a few of these bad experiences in your gift-giving history, the upcoming holidays might be a real source of anxiety and trepidation. Are you going to blow it again? How do you figure out what gift to give? You can’t go overboard just to make sure your present is the best, because that will make the other person just as uncomfortable as you are when your gift is the “inferior” one. Somehow, you have to figure out how to get it just right, and that can be pretty stressful.

Sure, people may say “it’s the thought that counts,” and act like it’s no big deal when a gift comes up a bit flat. And usually, that’s what we actually want to believe.

But obviously this is one of those situations where our thoughts and our feelings aren’t playing by the same rules. Mismatched gifts often do make people uncomfortable. What’s going on here?

Experts say there are probably several things going on. One is that exchanging gifts naturally triggers our innate “reciprocity calculator.” For social animals like us, the ability to recognize when the constant give and take involved in our social relationships is out of balance is pretty crucial for survival. It’s perfectly natural—and necessary—to feel some guilt, shame, or discomfort when we get more than we give, and disappointment, anger, or resentment when we give more than we get. Without these feelings, we’d all be sociopaths, out to get the best of everyone else, and no society or relationship could survive very long.

Just calling something a “gift” doesn’t turn your reciprocity calculator off. In fact, it may even throw it into high gear, especially when gifts are being exchanged with significant others you know well. That’s because we usually expect that the people we are closest to will know us well enough to give us a “good” present—not expensive or fancy, necessarily, but something that suits us and our personal desires pretty well. Another off the rack necktie or a new vacuum cleaner just isn’t going to cut the mustard when you’re looking for something that reflects and expresses your personal connections with the giver.

As this research shows, several other factors also influence reactions to the gifts we get, including gender and the nature of the relationship between giver and receiver.

Unfortunately, though, turning all this information into the ability to pick the right gift for the right person is far from easy or automatic. That still seems to be more art--and good communication--than science.

But at least it might help to know that all this stuff is often going on, whether people are aware of it or not. That way, you can at least talk about problems if they arise, or head them off in advance, instead of feeling like you really are from another planet, or wondering why someone isn’t speaking to you at the moment, despite that great gift you just gave them.

What do you think? Have you had any really bad--or good--gift giving experiences? What have you learned from them?

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My husband and I have learned that we are very different when it comes to gift giving. We have different styles. Over the years we have been together, we have learned to just tell each other what we would like or give a few choices of things that we would like. It takes out the guess work, and doesn't leave you falling short. Also, my husband is an impulse buyer and if he likes it, he will buy it. So for a while it was hard to get him anything, because he already had it! Hints, don't work because it is open to interpretation. My way has worked, and although it kind of takes the surprise out, it eliminates confusion, frustration and bitterness. Report
"It's the thought that counts." Well, that's been my issue when I've had bad feelings in receiving gifts. There was no thought beyond an obligation to provide a gift. The gift itself had no meaning to me, was not to my taste, mere "filler" in a wrapped box. I expected much better from a loved one who's known me my entire life. That the gift was "cheap" did rankle, but if it had been something I could use or to my taste and been of equal value, I would have been thrilled with it. Report
my Husband and i exchange emails in the fall with links to things that we would appreciate from the other. We also make note of things the other admires when we take a stroll through the mall so that there can be a "surprise" under the tree, too. Even though "its the thought" that counts, it really shows when you "put thought" into what you are selecting for your significant other.

At work, i participate in a gift exchange called "Alphabetaclause," where you select a letter and design your exchange gift around that letter, then at the party, we drew other letters for which ones to open. For instance, i got to open "T" which contained a Tin with Treats, lottery and Theater Tickets. It's usually just the girls, but the guys got into the act this year, and there were some hilarious gag "wrappings" for the actual gifts. Report
Our company asked if we'd like to participate in a gift exchange (Secret Santa) and there were no takers. I don't like to get all caught up in things like that, especially during these tough financial times. Report
I try not to get into gift exchanges with people other than family for that reason. most items I have gotten from co-workers, bowling league team mates etc are always knick-knack type items that I really don't need and I don't know what to buy them either. It's not that I don't appreciate the thought but almost everyone has too many of these "cute" gifts.
I try to purchase a few small toys and donate to the Salvation Army or toy drives for someone that really needs the items.
For family we pretty much make a list of what we would like to have and everyone buys from the list. Not much surprise but we do get something we can actually use. this works well because we have a small family--just my mom, hubby, sister and her family.
Except for my husband who bought me a box of chocolate for Christmas that I didn't need but he know I love chocolate although I have been trying not to eat any recently. It is a small box and I am just having a piece or two day until it is gone
The cost doesn't matter it is the thought behind it. Personally I like to give homemade gifts and hope the recipients like them. Report
My husband has been trying - very unsuccessfully - to get exactly what I want for Christmas. Unfortunately he thinks he has a much smaller wife than he does! I love that he wants to get me what I want and don't care that Christmas morning the only thing for me under the tree will be slippers I bought from him. Report
I don't mean to be a scrooge on the blog, but Christmas is not a favorite holiday for me. Until my son came along, I couldn't enjoy it. While he was young, it was wonderful making the magic of Christmas for him. Now that he is grown and moved away on his own, it is barely tolerable. While growing up, our house was very poor and very dysfunctional with physical and emotional abuse by Dad (he didn't work- I have never learned why. Mom wouldn't talk about it). So I NEVER felt loved. Dad criticized and blamed we 3 kids for everything wrong. He told us often we didn't deserved anything and were a burden. Mom was always too tired from working to pay the bills or too busy taking care of the house to have much to do with us. (Dad wouldn't lift a finger. He said it was "woman's work," but except for occasionally mowing the yard, he didn't do "men's work" either) .
Every Christmas Eve, I laid in bed worrying, with my heart pounding so hard that I thought it would burst. I just knew that I would be the only one at home that wouldn't get anything from Santa because I had been bad (which I really hadn't). Sleep liked to have never come. Christmas morning, I would awaken by my brothers squealing with delight in the living room. I was afraid to get up and see my brothers' stuff with nothing for me. Mom would call for me to come and see what Santa had brought. (Dad wouldn't even get out of bed). Reluctantly I would come, pausing at the door to steel myself for the disappointment. But I /we kids ALWAYS had something. Mom scrimped and saved through the year to get us a few things at Christmas- candy, a couple of small toys and some clothes. Honestly, I was always THRILLLED to get anything at all - and guilty because I never felt that I deserved anything.
Being so emotionally needy, it is no wonder that I believed in Santa Clause til I was 12 years old! The only reason I quit was one day Mom said, "This will probably be the last year Jim (my 7 year old younger brother) would believe in Santa." Stunned I asked why. Mom replied, "Don't tell me you still believe in Santa!?!" After I getting over the shock, I felt angry and betrayed at the deception.
So although I am in my 50s and a Christian, I have not been able to get over the trauma of childhood Christmas and be able to truly celebrate it the way it should be. I go overboard buying and giving to others, trying to make myself feel worthy of receiving. We have a new pastor at church and I have been thinking about discussing the matter with him to be able to truly celebrate Christmas.
Sorry for this long, depressing post. I just felt the need to finally get this off my chest (Not even my best friend knows that I still believed in Santa til I was 12). Maybe this post will be the beginning of my recovery and from now on Christmas will finally be merry and blessed.
It really should be the thought that counts. This year is a tight one, so the gifts won't be big. , but I just want folks to know I thought of them. I've worried about the receprocity thing before, but you can't give what you don't have. It should be a good Christmas, once again we have international students in the house that we are trying to introduce to the true meaning of Christmas and the true meaning of Christmas. Report
I have a brother who gave me popcorn for 7 years in a row. I was so upset because he gave nice presents to everyone in the family but me. I was so upset for years and because I got mad he quit giving all together. I finally learned to forgive him and eventually he started acting like a brother again. I've learned he thought that people who didn't live by God's law deserved nothing. I felt like he was judging and that wasn't his job. Anyways all is forgiven and hel's back to acting like a true brother. Report
How beautifully said: " are looking for something that reflects and expresses your personal connections with the giver." It is more than the thought that counts; it is the care and love that you intend. You want to show the person that you have considered their unique qualities and interests and celebrate them with a special gift.

Gifts are an important part of my Christmas experience. Beyond the presents themselves, I am giving a bit of myself to each of my loved ones. Report
This article is soooo true! My husband and I see his brother and his wife about twice a year, and one of the times is at Christmas. I spend two weeks completely stressed out trying to find the "perfect" gift for them, and when you know NOTHING about their likes or dislikes, or even what they already own shopping for them is impossible. I have tried in the past to stop the gift swapping between us adults, but they won't agree to it. This is waaay too much work and makes Christmas a complete drag. Report
to me it's the thought behind the gift and not the $$$$$ behind the gift. I love gifts that come from the heart. Report
How very, very sad that we have totally lost the reason for the season. The wise men brought gifts, not for the return of something else, but out of love and respect. I wondered why I had gone from loving Christmas with every piece of my soul; the decorations, the joy, the friendships, the fellowship, to dreading how I would afford it. I hate that this is what Christmas has come to. As for me and my family, we will enjoy each other and leave the gifts for someone else! Report
This is why wish lists exist. I have an Amazon wish list that I update throughout the year with things I want and I check it a month before my birthday and 2 months before Christmas to make sure the priority level is still the same or I haven't changed my mind. I put stuff on there in all price ranges from $3 to $200 for things I know we'll never get but it is a "wish" list! :-) I've had to do this because I have a well intentioned friend and a tacky MIL who have given us complete and utterly horrible gifts in the past. (A set of TWIN bed Star Wars sheets from the MIL for her 28 year old son and a pair of USED earrings for me and a tacky toucan plaster pin with BLOOD on the back!!!! My co-workers used to say the best part of Christmas was seeing what awful gifts she gave us) We live in a small house with no room for knick knacks or things we'll never use.

Wish lists may seem impractical or impersonal to people but I ask everyone what they want because I refuse to guess what they want only to have it donated like I've had to do in the past and then feel bad they wasted their money. I want to buy something they'll use or want to have but are too cheap to buy themselves. Report
I'm sorry but gift giving is supposed to be about the thought behind it. I feel sometimes people are too greedy in their expectations. If a person has no job no money he/she obviously can't compete with someone who has these things. I also think if a person gets angry over the gift, unless it is totally distasteful (like against that persons morals), then they are not deserving of the gift. Think about this scenario. Boy loves girl, she goes out and buys him a really cool I-pod, he brings her some beautiful flowers. She gets p.o'd, but it took him hours to get up the courage to walk into a flower shop and order a bouquet. Does that mean she loves him more? I guess I'm a romantic. Report
this year has been a great, yet financially trying one. We have had 3 grandparents diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and close friend just past this week. Instead of gifts, we as a family decided to end the year with letter of gratitude for the grand and great-grands of the family. Now I found it very interesting that the one grandparent who rarely acknowledges my kids on holidays responded with "oh, a card?" I responded with "yes and a letter" and left empty-handed, but content. Report
To me the worst kind of experience is to spend a lot of time and thought on a person in order to give the "perfect" gift and to receive a mass-produced, mass-wrapped, basically meaningless gift in return, or vice versa. This is my biggest stress of Christmas, feeling my own pressure to get it right with so many people at one time. It's easier, though still stressful, for other gift-giving occasions when it's possible to focus on a meaningful gift for one person. Report
Whether A Diamond, Or A Homemade Jar of Jam Preserves with a bow, or A Pair Of Shoes, or Toy! It doesn't matter what! What Matters Truly, Is From The Heart That it Comes From! & The Time & Thought That The Loved One Put into it!!! :) But, Remember, It's A GIFT TO GIVE THAN RECIEVE!!! ") Because When you Give, You Get Also!!! :) HAPPY HOLIDAY'S TO ALL & YOUR LOVED ONE'S!!! :) & GOD BLESS ALL & YOUR LOVED ONE'S!!! :) Report
for me giving a gift is saying " I thought of you" after years of thoughtful giving and receiving absolutely nothing(no phone call, email, note, nada) in return, i have cut my gift giving to just the most meaningful in my life. 3 gifts given and will probably get 3 in return. my hubby and i will treat ourselves as we are fiscially conservative most of the year. Report
This year I decided to donate money on behalf of my family and friends in lieu of gifts. A couple of great websites I found which have assisted me in my efforts: and World Vision is another great organization. I liked being able to personalize the gifts such as a garden on behalf of my father who is an avid gardner, or school uniforms on behalf of my uncle who's a teacher. It's sad that our society is so materialistic when the only things people less fortunate want is food, shelter and health. That's what should be important during the holidays.
Groovykarma1, I wish you were part of my family, because your thoughtfulness would not have been lost on us.
Tourdoctor, maybe donating money on behalf of your nieces and nephews would teach them to think of someone other than themselves. It sounds like it's a lesson they have yet to learn. Report
Unfortunately, I don't think it is always the reciprocity calculator anymore. It is simply the failure of people to be grateful for what they receive. I use to go to a great deal of effort to select meaningful gifts for each of my many siblings, their children and grandchildren. I travel internationally and often bring back one of a kind gifts for my family. Many times the gifts that I have given could not be found here in the states and if it could it would cost a fortune. I do it because I want them to experience the beauty and talent of the world. Unfortunately, they rarely call or even send me a greeting card, let alone a thank you. One year a niece called to alert me to the fact that their package had not yet arrived the week before Christmas. No call after it arrived to thank me. One year when I flew home for the holidays, I asked if they liked the Christmas gifts that I had selected on a recent trip to China. I was very hurt when they replied that they would have rather I just sent money. Ouch!!!

So I started just giving gift cards (like American Express Gift Cards) that could be used to buy what they needed or wanted. I included a note in my card stating that I was trimming back on the gift giving and would only send gifts to the minor-aged children. Last year when one of my nieces discovered that I had not included a gift card for the adults she called to tell me that I had forgotten to include it in the package. I explained that I would now send only gifts to the "minor-aged" children. (Gee I have 45 nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews . . . it was just too expensive to send it to all of them. Still with sending it to just the children under 18, I send out over 20 gifts. My niece made me feel I owed it to her to send a gift to her and her husband. This was indeed a wake up call regarding the commercial nature of the current holiday season.

It certainly is not a reciprocity calculator in my case because there have not been any gifts in return. . . nor do I expect any. My only wish is that someone would say thank you . . . send a Christmas greeting card, or even a birthday card. Ummm, I tend to get a birthday card for Southwest Airlines before I get one from one of siblings, nieces or nephews. They have come to expect gifts from their own personal "Christmas lady" . . . I guess I am their Santa and they don't even need to leave me milk and cookies. It use to bother me that they could not even send me a photo from their children's school pictures. All year they don't write or call, but then around the first of December one or two call to let me know their address is the same. The joy of giving has been lost. Don't worry I have already received two calls confirming their addressses so that I could send their gifts to the right address.

Today's parents do not teach their children to express appreciation for the gifts they receive. Obviously we focus on the commercial aspects of the holiday season. The bright lights, the blow-up decorations, the motion activated deer, the fancy ribbons and bows, the electronic games, and other "material gifts" that bring momentary joy but are forgotten a day or two later. The true meaning of Christmas has become a shoppers dream . . . shop shop shop til you drop!
if money is tight i dont care if i get anything. as long as the kids have a good day and family is togeather then its a good time.

but for people that are bad at picking gifts i usally tell them what i need. so that way i am not disappointed and i didnot spend the money to get it.
or i start telling people what i like, or my favorit colors or telling them what i think is ugly.
our family has a spending limit. $20. if we get 20 dollars from each little group family (sister&kids,mil&fil, grandparents,ect) we would have about 200.

but all in all as long as family is together it dosenot matter. my family has had christmas in july becouse that was when everyone could get together. Report
Gift giving is very stressful in my family because we usually only have enough to cover our children and we are strecthing it when doing that. I really wish that I didn't worry so much about the gifts that I get other family members. If it were up to me, I would focus only on my kids because I want them to have the best. But I really do not enjoy going to family functions and them getting us things, and us not returning the favor. This year my family will be getting cheap gifts. And I do hope that it is really the thought that counts with them...if not, then that's too bad b/c I have made it very clear before that I would rather them use the money that they (my parents and mother in law) use on my husband and I, on my kids if they are going to spend the extra money. Report
I've been on both ends of this dilemma and it's not fun. I've finally decided to use it as a lesson. When I'm disappointed with the gift I receive, I look inside myself to find out why it bothered me; usually, I can find an answer. When it's a gift I gave, I try to figure out where I went wrong; usually it's a miscommunication or a difference in values.
The whole point of the holiday season is to bring joy to the darkest time of year. In my family, gift-giving is a part of that. My parents love to shop and buy things for us - it's fun for them. I can usually find one or two special items for each of my closest family members - fewer than 10 people - and if not, I have made donations in people's names that were much appreciated by both "recipients". I love getting gifts but I never know what I want, which can be awkward; however, I just love whatever I might get (I've had some really nice surprises) and if I really don't like or can't use something I find a happy home for it.

I never do gift exchanges with people outside my close family. It's not in my budget, and I wouldn't be much good at finding the perfect gift for folks I don't know that well. Instead we throw holiday parties and celebrate our friends that way. When we do white elephant gift exchanges, it's about the fun of the game and not about the quality of the gift, so I don't stress about it.

Happy holidays everyone! May the "gifts" you give and receive bring you joy! Report
I need to keep things simple this year.
That's too bad, GROOVYKARMA1. I hope that worst you had to deal with were surprised expressions and that nobody actually told you it was a lame gift. Personally, I would have liked to know that a tree was being planted in my honor. Report
I gave a donation to a wildlife preserve where they planted a tree 'in-honor' of ____. Well, they gave me Christmas cards to fill out and these cards are then given to the people these trees were planted 'in-honor'. I thought this was a nice gesture and something that the recipients would feel 'honored' that I did this. They lacked for nothing so I really thought that giving a living gift would be a great lasting gift. Well, you can imagine.... it did not go over well; and I thought I was being creative. Report
Anymore for Christmas I give money or gift cards so that the individual can go out and buy what they need/want. How do you buy someone that has everything or one that has not as much? I would rather they get what they want and I know it doesn't get re-gifted or set in the closet. Report
Christmas has become so commercial that people have lost sight of the real meaning behind it and the most priceless Gift that the entire world was given thousands of years ago in a stable in Bethlehem. It is a shame that there are people who feel slighted if they don't get the gift they "think" they deserve and are less-than-grateful that the other person even thought of them at all. No one is ~entitled~ to anything. In my family we have solved the issue of stressing everyone out to the max about what to get each other and financial worries by agreeing to purchase things only for our own children, nieces, nephews, parents and grandparents. Report
This is really kind of sad, and much of why the "holiday spirit," has been tarnished and deteriorated for many. The mere fact that we need "expert advice" on the matter is ludicrous; and says a lot about our country. Report
I have trouble with gifts for extended family members. I finally have resorted to getting each cousin and spouse the same gift because I want to make sure that everything is equal.

If I do get a gift I will not use though I show gratitude for the gift then I re-gift it carefully to someone outside of that person's social group.

My mother is harder because she will buy some things that I will use and somethings that I will not use. Two years ago I asked her to stop buying me clothes. Ironically, this year I actually need clothes because I have lost weight.

This is going to be a horrible Christmas for me because I have no money at all to buy gifts with. I had planned to give baskets of stuff to my extended family that had candles, a gift certificate to Netflix (for a movie), popcorn, chocolate candy and a bottle of Amaretto (for all buy my AA/NA attending cousin and I was going to find something similar for him.)

All I bought before I lost my income were the candles. I figure I will give them the candles and remind them that I couldn't do more this year because I lost my income. On the other hand, I have serious thought about not attending holiday gatherings at all this year.

I understand "it is the thought that counts" but that platitude just doesn't work in real life. People get offended with a gift that does not cost the same as what they gave you. I would rather stop exchanging all together and have Christmas be about giving to charity and just spending time together. Report
Give a gift to a homeless person, and have someone who will be really thankful. Gloves would be a good idea. Report
Yes, it is the thought that counts, however...........trying to find someone the gift that is wanted or needed can be a very stressfull, especially as the years go on. I would really prefer not to exchange gifts at this time in my life. Money seems to get tighter and tighter. I think it would be great to just go out to a nice lunch or dinner and enjoy the time spent together and create another great memory. Report
I feel that it is the thought that counts. I enjoy giving to others whether they give back or not. I always put thought into the gift. I also love making my own cards. I have been told that sometimes the cards I make are a gift itself. When I get a gift for someone I think about what they would like...I make it as personal as possible. Sometimes I make or bake something for them as well. Photos in frames or a home video of an event they experienced the past year are among some gifts that have been favorites. I always love the homemade calendars with pictures of my brother and his family...I love seeing the smiles of my baby nephews year round!
I myself appreciate these gifts because I know the giver put a lot of thought and time into it...something that money can't always buy!
Have a good Holiday season everyone! Report
Well, I do enjoy the giving. It is the thought for me mainly. I buy for my neices and nephews and my immediate family. My siblings (4 others) decided not to get gifts for each other because we all have so much. My husband and I were planning to buy something for both of us...a new camcorder. We do get each other stocking stuffers and that's fun. I focus on my kids but limit it to 3 gifts (3 wise men) and a stocking. They have so much and we are trying to not focus so much on the material. It is HARD because we are a material driven society. Enjoy the season and try not to get stressed! LOL! Report
I think it is the thought that counts - the thought that the giver was actually thinking of the recipient.
But Christmas is really confusing for me. I used to really enjoy giving gifts, sometimes I would go shopping, sometimes I would make a gift - like a little specialized coupon book. But then there were a few times when I didn't receive anything at Christmas, or any particular "other occasion", and then I felt hurt. I felt left out,and assumed that no one bothered to think of me.
This is challenging, because another part of me knows that I am not ignored by these people, and I know that it is wasteful to just go out and buy "stuff" just to have a gift to give, and maybe they think it is hard to "find the perfect gift for me". But in the end, I don't like Christmas because of all the conflicting feelings and the hype that has nothing to do with the origin of the holiday. Report
For me, it is not about how much the gift cost or even what it is or if I really like it. It IS the thought that counts. No matter how impersonal or how inexpensive, tacky, or just plain silly a gift is, to me it means that the giver thought of me long enough to buy it and give it to me. And that is enough. When I give a gift to someone, I give from my heart...not from my pocketbook. If it is not received in the spirit in which it was given, I don't let that affect me or my nature to give. Report
This is a hard issue for those of us living in a culture obsessed with stuff. I personally think it would nice to go present free one year but frankly I'm afraid of the in law fall out. I give very modest, thoughtful gifts but it is hard to buy for people who already have everything they could possibly ever want or need.

I always have to think really hard to figure out what I want when I am asked. Being a very practical person, this year I asked for money for new running shoes and a few Turbo Jam workout dvds. :) Report
Your elderly mum, dad, grandma etc. who lives alone doesn't need any more stuff to dust. She/he probably grew up in a time when one was 'careful' with money, even if they are OK right now. Cooking for one is a pain. For the past 10 or 11 years I go to the freezer store on Christmas Eve, for Mum I pick out three boxes of good stuff I know she likes. For a neighbour (Mum's neighbour who has a car) I take Christmas dinner she can eat anytime, ie frozen stuffed turkey breast, stuffed baked potatoes, luxury mixed vegs (the one with the snow peas and little corn cobs), a package of frozen berries and a too tall cake. She can put them in her freezer for later or can enjoy them Christmas, often times when I have given this type of gift to one of Mum's friends I hear later that she has partaken of the meal too, after she got home from her week at my place. It can be a subtle suplement to their income, or just a gift of something they might not indulge themselves with and best of can give the same gift over and over and over, and never have to worry about getting rid of the stuff later when you close their estate..Rosie Report
I am having surgery on the 23rd, so my husband and I have decided that we will have a nice quiet Christmas. I will more than likely be passed out on the couch and he will get every opportunity to play video games and enjoy the day, but we will have each other. Report
This year, unless the situation changes before Christmas we are going small with out gifts. We had bought gifts for my folks before, during a vacation trip that we set aside for this (Winter items, so season appropriate). In better yearsI always try to get something personal and meaningful for presents, that limits my gift giving to friends I know well and family. For us it is the thought that counts. Report
I try to buy gifts as I see them. If I see something that I know will make a great gift for a family member or friend, I buy it. (Saves time later) Also, when I'm trying to get ideas or have an idea about a gift for someone, I'll strike up a conversation with her and lead the conversation toward my idea - being discrete, of course. That helps me to figure out if she would like the gift or has it.

Sheri1969 - I think handmade gifts are the most thoughtful. One of the most beautiful gifts that I have ever received was a scarf that my nephew knitted; he was 9 or 10 at the time. He had just started knitting, and this scarf was basically one of the very first things he had ever made and just the second scarf he had ever made. I had seen him working on it. Then, when he (and the rest of my sister's family) came over for Thanksgiving that year, he gave it to me. I cherish that scarf; I tell my nephew that it really isn't a scarf, it's really a big hug because when I wear it it's as though he's giving me a big hug.

Jazzercisegenie - A WII!!! Wow, you are an awesome grandmother!

Lynnot - too funny about the tires. But I think every guy would really like to get a set of tires for Christmas.

53pinkroses - all too often we forget about the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season. Report
My stepdaughters are easy to buy gifts for. Almost anything w/in reason from Victorias's Secret. My husbad on the other hand...manalive. A few years back..when he came home from buying deer slugs..he carried on about this pistol...a 92FS Baretta. How he wanted one for YEARS. Guess what Santa brought him early... Hubby was totally stunned. Like speechless. Can never top that gift ever again. Report
Personally, I've learned to tell myself that the other person is not going to give me a gift in return. That way, if I do happen to receive one, I'm much more appreciative because I convinced myself I wouldn't receive one at all. Report
Ah, well, I can't really remember a gift that was truly hideous. I'm just happy to get SOMEthing, which now that I'm a 'grown up' the only person who sends me anything, still, is my mom. Even my hubby doesn't go buy me anything. He tells me to go buy myself whatever I want, so that takes out the thrill and surprise.

What you CAN do with those gifts that you don't like is 're-gifting'. Just remember WHO gave it to you so that you don't re-gift it to them!

I am far away from my mother and (4) sisters, and it's not typical of me to send each something, but this year was kind to my husband and he had a lot of overtime, so I sent visa gift cards to 2 of my sisters who are struggling financially, 1 sister is getting a cocoa gift set and the other is getting a gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond. My mom is getting a gift certificate to Olive Garden. Did I spend a lot of 'time' on these gifts? No, but I did think about what each of my sisters and my mother need/enjoy and shopped accordingly.

And for those friends who give gifts? I've got some candles that I have wrapped and stashed in the front closet for a 'just in case' so that I don't feel on the spot. Hey, you can't go wrong with candles! LOL Report
I have sooo MANY ideas from all of you Christmas Angels, Jolly Snowpeople, Mis-fit Toys, and Scrooges, that I'm going to print out all of your comments! For those of you who want to send gifts to our military families that won't be here in the states for Christmas... and many who will not even have Christmas for their children... Sears has a place on their site... for donations to our soldier's holiday away from home... A-N-D... even if you don't have the funds to help... you can post Christmas messages and we can all help to fulfill any holiday wishes to our military families in need. It is:
and... below each story you 'click' on... there may be a Wish List of a few items that that family needs...
Also... if you'd like to help our HEROS at Home (Ty Pennington) just type in Sears Christmas- go to the first Official SEARS Site listed- look on the right of their home page and 'click' to take you there. May the RICHNESS of a
B***Balancing all the needs and wants to help to make some wishes come true
L***Loving all the WONDER of all the different 'snowflakes' in our lives
E***Energy to PLAY in the face of all negativity
S***Spirit of Cheerfulness and KINDNESS
S***Success in giving of ourselves to others
E***Encouragement to throw out any TOXIC thoughts that want to harm us or others
D***Devoted to all things GOOD... SPARKPEOPLE... fluffy bunnies... scruffy dogs... LOL!!
holiday be yours! Annie Report
A couple of years ago, my mom invited her sister's family over to have Christmas with us. She has two sons, but they are adults. I was in my upper 20s, married, with 2 kids of my own. From one of them, I received a Star Wars spinning lollipop. Weirdest gift ever, but I accepted it graciously and said thank you and threw it away when they weren't looking. I assume it was supposed to be for my son but they labeled it incorrectly. Either way, I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I love shopping, and I love giving gifts and seeing everyone's faces when they open their presents on Christmas morning. Don't get me wrong, I love getting presents too, but I enjoy the giving more, especially with the kids. Report
I always give what most people would think are impersonal gifts because I want to make sure the gift is liked! This involves giving things that are universally appealing, but aren't exactly tailored to that specific person. I wish I received more gifts like I give, because often I feel really bad if I don't like what a person obviously spent some time on to get me. The whole thing makes me anxious.... Let's move on! =P Report
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