Snap Out of it, Santa! How to Be a Better Gift Giver This Year

The first thing my dad says to me last Sunday, as he quietly approached me in the laundry/furnace room (he and my mother live in an in-law suite downstairs since last year, and we share a laundry room) was: "What is that book you want? How about I give you the money and you go get it?". He spoke in a low voice and had a sneaky demeanor, like he was trying to sell me an eightball of cocaine while worried I was an undercover cop.

It was at that moment I felt my soul leave my body 😱. It does that sometimes, when my mind can't compute what just happened and so I mentally and physically shut down, while I spiritually realm-travel in hopes to find a parallel universe where there is some form of common sense.

The "Secret" part in Secret Santa just doesn't work for some people. Papa Pino, as we call my dad, is one of those people. Come to think of it, neither does the Santa part for him...🤔😔

I had a sneaky suspicion that he pulled my name in our draw YET AGAIN this year (there was something about the way he burst into laughter and leaned forward in disbelief), so I alerted everyone at my husband's birthday dinner, the night before our unfortunate laundry-room encounter, that whoever has me should get me this book. I also mentioned at the draw that someone needs to monitor Pino and what he plans to get his person...but then I forgot to follow up on it and now the damage is done.

Last year he got me a gift certificate for McDonald's and I told him it was the worst gift I had ever received (because it was). We almost never go to McDonald's, the only thing we get are McFlurrys when he brings them to us. So he basically bought that for himself even AFTER we specifically said no gift certificates. It takes a special talent to mess that up, no?

Pino has his qualities but gift-giving is not one of them. 

So this inspired me to write a quick-and-dirty blog post about giving better gifts, that I am mainly writing in hopes that he figures out how to access my blog and reads it 😄

Make This List, and Check it Twice (or several times, if you are Pino)

Here are some good questions to ask yourself when buying a gift for someone:

-what are their restrictions/preferences? Example: chocolate is a go-to gift for many but there are weirdos out there who don't care for it. A lot of people actually prefer savory to sweet. So, something savory like chips or a fancy popcorn might be more suitable for some. Are they on a diet? Are they gluten/lactose/joy intolerant? Those are points to keep in mind.

-what is their daily routine like? We all like things that make our lives easier! Maybe it's a sturdier lunch box or a pair of those mittens that turn into gloves for someone who smokes outside regularly. Don't underestimate the mundane stuff. Example- thermal socks are useful for many and are about $11 a piece or more. It's maybe not the most exciting gift but it's still not something people typically want to spend money on. Car-starters, nifty snow removal gadgets, pretty laptop pillows...the possibilities are endless, from pricey to pretty cheap.

-what are their interests? As an artist and a writer, I never have too many pretty notebooks. My brother loves fishing, which would present a lot of possibilities for both cheap and expensive gifts (from hooks to a new rod). Whether it's gardening or snorkeling, there are always options for cheaper *but thoughtful* gifts that would actually get used. The name I pulled this year for our Secret Santa at work, is for someone who was learning to solve the Rubik's cube at one point. So I got him a little game challenge thingymajig that I know he will like better than, say a generic ornament.

-did you consider the conversations you've had with them? This comes back to good listening skills. People reveal things about themselves all. the. time. I remember last year a small group of us at work did a secret Santa, and as soon as I came in, I saw a wine bottle and knew it was for me. I guess they weren't listening the dozens of times I said I don't drink except for occasional bellinis. That bottle is still unopened and in our cold room. It's disappointing when it shows that someone doesn't listen to you...not a good approach to gift-giving! Learn to listen and catch clues in conversations. It's even more meaningful when you retain something said in July and surprise them in December with something thoughtful.

-will you be using/reading/wearing it too? This could be just me, but I prefer giving gifts to my loved ones that I know I won't benefit from at all. Otherwise, it feels like I'm giving myself a gift...instead of really making the gift unique and specific to that person. Example: if I bought my husband a series that we both enjoy...well, it's kind of a gift for "us". If I bought him an exercise thing and I end up using it- same thing. Even if you don't mean to, by default, you can end-up using it and to me, I rather spoil my loved ones with something that has nothing to do with me.

Is it personal? The closer you get, the sweeter it is to get personal. Enter stores like Things Engraved. You can surprisingly order different gifts online and get them engraved with a personal message and delivered to you (here in Ottawa at least). Pictures are also sweet ❤ Even a beautifully framed (hint-hint) photo or a nostalgic gift that represents something special to someone will touch your loved ones where it matters most- their hearts! 

-have you asked them what they want? If you're stuck, then asking them OR even better asking someone close to them (especially if it's for a Secret Santa thing) might be your best bet. Just don't ruin that surprise! Be extra sneaky and careful so you can keep the fun going.

Things to Consider

🎅 Unless you're really close to someone and know what they are sensitive about, it might be better to stay away from sized clothing. I remember a friend of mine being offended that her boyfriend bought her a pair of size Medium pants and then was even more pissed when they actually fit 😆. And this is a friend who is skinny, so you can't assume that all skinny people are satisfied with their sizes. Staying in a safe, one-size-fits-all zone might be a better option in some cases.

🎅 Focusing on individuals rather than gender stereotypes is a much better approach to gift-giving. This is especially true for kids. Girls= pink and dolls, boys= blue and trucks and pretty much all the way cooler toys out there. I remember an old colleague saying she intercepted a gift that her neighbor wanted to give her very young daughter, because of the message behind it. It was some kind of "take care of this baby doll" toy that was well-intended as a gift, but was subliminally saying "this is what girls are supposed to do" 👎 Some girls will definitely like pink and dolls, but it's always best to consider what a child's interests are before assuming they would like what society says they should like.

🎅 Don't give the same gift 3 years in a row. I once received the same lemon-flavoured Body Shop gift set 3 years in a row from the same family member 😂 Even though it was funny, it didn't really say "I put a lot of thought and effort into thinking of you". The worst part is that they didn't even realize it till I pointed it out. Try to remember what you are giving people and maybe switch it up this year. Change is good!

 🎅 Two birds, one stone- shop local. Especially given the year we just had, it makes way more sense to support small businesses (hey-oh 👋), instead of making the Jeff Bezos' of the world even richer.

So there you have it- simple ways to make your gifts a little less sucky this year 🤗 It basically boils down to 2 things: thoughtfulness and giving the smallest bit of effort. For when you don't give effort, it shows. Why not take advantage of an opportunity to make someone feel good and get them something they would actually want!

Cheers to being a better Santa 🥂 🎅 

Wishing you all safe and happy holidays ❤ 🎄🌟



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