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JLeslie's avatar

What are your thoughts regarding gift giving and receiving?

Asked by JLeslie (59781points) December 27th, 2014 from iPhone

Do you prefer impractical gifts? Do you like gift cards or do you feel a gift card exchange is kind of useless? If at a time of possibly mutual gift exchange, like Christmas, do you like to know ahead of time if someone is going to give you something so you can get them something in return, or does that not matter to you?

Have you changed over the years? Your attitude? What you like to receive? How much you appreciate a gift?

I’ve changed a little. Slowly I’m getting better at receiving gifts. I’ve pretty much always preferred practical gifts (except as a very small child) but as I get older I appreciate token gifts that have sentimental value.

I’ve never made it through a Christmas feeling great. I like birthdays and house warmings and similar events when it isn’t an exchange.

I think cash is usually better than gift cards, unless the gift cards are for the supermarket, or a place you know the person goes every week. I don’t want any gift cards sitting in my purse more than two weeks.

Finally, I want to give credit to @jca for helping create the idea for this question and some of the questions within the details.

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29 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

Do you prefer impractical gift? Nope. I prefer practical gifts, but anything can do me fine as long as they are gifts. That is, you can give me anything, but if I am to choose I will choose a practical gift. A friend of mine once gave me a bottle of paper stars in my birthday. Extremely impractical, but I still happily accept it. Now it’s still on my desk and acts as nothing more than a decorative.

Do you like gift cards or do you feel a gift card exchange is kind of useless? I like gift cards a little. I think it’s the best gift if you absolutely don’t know what to give. Like I said above, I’m fine with whatever comes to me.

If at a time of possibly mutual gift exchange, like Christmas, do you like to know ahead of time if someone is going to give you something so you can get them something in return, or does that not matter to you? No need. I know that it’s the time for mutual exchanging and I have to give someone something. Usually I don’t ask for something in return, but I’d love to have someone give me a gift out of a sudden. It’s nice to be surprised.

Have you changed over the years? Your attitude? What you like to receive? How much you appreciate a gift? I don’t think I have changed much, except for the attitude toward practical gifts. As I grow older I appreciate practical gifts more. And as long as they are gifts, they are valuable. I may give anyone anything, but I never give my gifts.

yankeetooter's avatar

I’ve become rather cynical about gift giving. My family always wants a list of ideas from me (and each other) which feels like me giving them a list of what to buy me. Personally, I prefer the person give enough time and thought into knowing what I’ll like so that no such list is needed.

I felt like the Christmas day exchange felt empty this year, like we were going through the motions. ..

The best gift I gave this year was giving someone some unlooked for acknowledgement at work. He told me afterwards how much he appreciated it, and how touched he was. He said he was very humbled by what I wrote, and had tears in his eyes while telling me all this. I was blown away by how much it meant to him…and seeing his reaction was the best gift I have ever received.

dxs's avatar

I used to love gift exchanges up until a couple of years ago. Now I see it as materialistic. This is the second Christmas that I haven’t given or received material gifts. Well, I’ll take/give cards (bonus for the personalized ones), but that’s about it. I think the thought and intent is what matters most, and I don’t find much genuine thought nor intent going into most material gifts that get exchanged nowadays.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Both practical and impractical. I like gifts people have thought about, but we all do help by providing guidance about things we’d like or need. So if I fancy a particular book, I’ll let people know I’d like that book. We’re all adults so it seems pretty silly to leave us all to guess what we each might want. None of us are mind readers and Christmas is expensive so I’d rather make sure I’m buying things my family members actually do need or want. However, we all do buy presents the other person will have no idea about. For instance, my children bought me earrings and a bracelet I did not expect, but that are just lovely. My husband bought me a guitar. I had mentioned I’d like one. He also bought me one book I’d said I’d really like to read and another I had no idea about but love.

While I like practical gifts (books, perfume, clothes etc.), I’m not fond of household goods for presents. I can buy those through the year and I don’t think a new food mixer is for me as much as for the family. I did buy my son some household items for presents because he’s planning to move into a flat on his own where he’ll need his own pots, pans etc.

I’m okay with gift cards but not as the only present I buy someone unless they’re someone I’m not close to. I do buy my kids gift cards on occasions so they can buy themselves some new clothes or whatever they need. Again, I’d rather the gifts I give are of value to the receiver. So on occasions, gift cards are perfectly appropriate.

Berserker's avatar

Free shit? Give that shit up yo.

JLeslie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit You made me think of another question. If people think differently about gift giving and receiving in their nuclear family compared to extended family and friends?

I actually, similar to @dxs, get a little bothered by the materialisn, so I think that’s why I like practical gifts. I bought my MIL two things for the kitchen, I hope that she liked them? What if she is like you? I have no idea. I bought her two items, because she has bad arthritis, and some things were painful for her the last time I cooked with her. Now she has an electric juicer and can opener. Let’s see if she keeps them or exchanges them. I guess the difference is she probably wouldn’t buy them for herself, so hopefully she appreciates them. I know she appreciates that I worry about how much pain she is in no matter what.

I don’t understand giving your own kids gift cards. Why not actual cash? I understand why coworkers, frineds, and even extended family give gift cards, some people think it is very odd or tacky to give cash, but to your kids? Why burden them with having to spend the money in a soecific place, and having to remember the gift card is in their wallet?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t want them to use the cash on bills. I want them to buy themselves a gift. If I give them cash they might use it for petrol or something like that. I know when cash was tight when I was younger, had someone given me cash, I’d mostly likely have used it to pay a bill or to buy something for my children. I think women especially will tend to put themselves last. I remember my dad saying he took my mother to buy a coat because he knew if he gave her the cash she would have bought the kids coats.

You know your MIL has a need for those things and she isn’t likely to buy them for herself. When I’m older if my kids bought me something to open cans because my hands are arthritic, that would be a thoughtful gift. My husband buying me an iron might see him wearing it :D

My ex used to buy me things like electric carving knives. He did most of the carving so it wasn’t really a gift I’d get use out of. I’d rather buy people gifts that are for them and are personal. Not necessarily impractical, but not household items.

JLeslie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I understand better now. I think we were defining household item differently.

Your point about using cash for bills, that is actually something that troubles me about Christmas, but I have the opposite problem with it. I can’t understand buying something one doesn’t really need when there are bills to pay.

Giving cash to children is different to me then giving it to an adult. But, I come from a culture that giving cash to children as a gift is very nornal, and has thousands of years of history behind it, so my view is probably different. I don’t remember ever spending the gift money I received as a child, I always stuck it in the bank. I guess maybe I spent some of it and don’t remember it well, but I know as I got older I just stashed it away in the bank. I do think growing up getting cash and practical gifts caused me to be very uncomfortable with gift giving and receiving of surprise gifts and impractical ones. Only in the last few years do I appreciate it more, and am I able to worry about gift giving less. Only recently have I been able to not care as much about whether the recipient of my gift likes it or not. Or, needs it or not. Or, thinks it’s good enough or not. I still have trouble with it, but I’m getting better. Only recently can I have a geneuine smile on my face when I open a gift and didn’t expect it and don’t even necessarily want it.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@JLeslie if they need cash, they can come to me at any time. I’m not talking about desperate for cash. However, cash is easy to use for other things. If I buy gift cards, I buy them for Westfield or somewhere like that so they have a whole range of stores to shop from. If they really wanted to they could use it for grocery shopping, but I think they’re less likely to.

I also don’t want to buy them things they don’t need or want. That’s why on occasions I will supplement their gift(s) with a gift card. I do want to buy them something they might not be able to spend their own money on. So that dress they’ve admired but couldn’t justify buying. Or that new box set of DVDs. Things they do want that I wouldn’t think of buying, and they might feel guilty about spending money on.

Without wanting to be insulting (that is not my intention and this is a cultural thing) but giving cash feels a little gauche. I’m not suggesting this is the truth in your case, but culturally for me, it would feel even more lacking in thought and effort than giving a gift card. I don’t give gift cards as a routine. They’re usually an additional present over and above a real present.

ucme's avatar

When I give I demand they go down on one knee & kiss my ring finger.
When I receive I expect a fanfare of bugles, blown by topless wenches from below stairs.

JLeslie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit Not offended at all. Chanukah gelt (money) is a tradition from long ago. Over time it has morphed. When I was little we were given chocolate money and gifts usually. The gifts basically became popular for Chanukah, because since many of us Jewish people lived among Christians and over time Christmas became more and more commercial, we started doing what the Christians were doing that time of year, and Chanukah was the holiday during the same time of year. Mostly, I think it was to help Jewish kids feel less left out. I know for me, I wanted a tree, and Santa Claus, but those things didin’t happen in my house.

There are several stories about how Chanukah money became a tradition. One is that Jews finally were able to study their religion again (after being oppressed) and make coins and the coins were given to children to pay for their studies, to pay the teachers. So, the money was for religious and spiritual education, not material things. Or, for the poor it helped them buy candles at Chanukah time so they could celebrate the miracle of the oil. Here is one link but if you google there are variations on the explanation. Anyway, the tradition kind of held, but it has changed over time.

You talked about being younger yourself and possibly using the money for bills, that’s what I was referencing when I mentioned paying bills. It really troubles me when people live paycheck to paycheck, and then when they get a little windfall of cash they splurge on something material. Having savings is better than having a new dress or TV when someone already has a dress or TV that functions. They will have more dresses and bigger TV’s if they put a little away. You obviously don’t live paycheck to paycheck, I don’t either, but I still think in more practical terms usually. Although, recently I have loosened up a little as I mentioned. For me money in the bank gives me a good feeling like a new car or pair of shoes. I like the feeling of security and freedom the money represents. If you have plenty of money, then $50 doesn’t really make an impact, and so a gift seems more thoughtful I guess. I understand that better now as I get older. I’m in my 40’s so it took me a long time. To clarify, the money is usually given to children, even adult children, not between friends or to parents.

Giving children money is for their future. It also is so they can buy exactly what they want and the money isn’t wasted. Children write lists for Santa, and that is another way they get what they want.

I do understand what you mean about a mom buying something for her children rather something new for herself. I can see why her parents and her husband would want to buy gifts specifically for her.

JLeslie's avatar

I wanted to add, I think my MIL spent several hundred dollars on Christmas dinner and buying Christmas gifts, and just two weeks ago she was worried they haven’t paid their property taxes yet. Where she lives, if you pay in Novemeber (when they first come due) you get a discount. Each month through March they go up, and then after that they are overdue. She will pay a few hundred more to the county, because she is buying me perfume? That drives me crazy. There moeny situation is complicated, I’m not going to write all the detail about it here, but sufficed to say, I wish she didn’t feel like she has to give at Christmas. She did decide not to give her grandchildren as much money as she usually sets aside this year. What the hell those kids did with the money in the past years I don’t understand, because it is a ton of money to me, and supposedly the kids don’t have much money in the bank. Although, that could be a lie. She used to put $40 aside every week and give them the money at Christmas. That’s $1,000 each kid years in a row. Plus, Christmas gifts. And, last year I had to go to my bank in a hurry, to get a cashiers check to pay those damned taxes for them. They did pay me back, but still. It’s awful for them to have to admit they were broke or ask us to help in that way.

I just generally am uncomfortable when I feel money is wasted, spent, or given, unnecessarily, because of societal pressures to give.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie You know I hate waste. That would drive me nuts. Perfume? Really?

It kills me to see my nephew buying more junk for the twins when he can’t pay his taxes and electric bill. Yet he does manage to have the super up-option cable TV so he can watch sports. I stopped paying for his stupidity when I realized the money I give him for his bills actually subsidized his purchase of two gas powered 4 wheelers for the kids. WTH?!

Pachy's avatar

Over time I have learned to give gifts when moved to do so, not out of obligation, and never to assume I’m owed one from anybody.

jca's avatar

During a time of one sided gift giving, like a birthday, to me it’s easy. When it’s my birthday, I expect gifts from nobody except maybe my parents, and anything else I get is icing on the cake. When it’s a time of possible mutual gift giving, like Christmas, it’s a little more complicated (for me).

At Christmas, I like to have an idea that someone is going to get me a gift so that I can give them a gift in return. I will often read (here and other places), you give if you want to and don’t if you don’t. I don’t really feel that way. I feel like I want to reciprocate, except if I’m giving the gift is a “thank you,” for example to the teacher, other school staff or the guy who mows my lawn.

I work for an organization that has a board of 10 people. 4 of us work together in the office. When I started there 3 years ago, I asked my boss if we all gave each other gifts. She told me to give them a gift if I wanted to. I don’t mind buying for 10 people, but at a minimum of 10 per person, it all adds up quickly and I don’t want spend that if I don’t have to. To me, this was a big dilemma. I did not want to receive gifts from people and have nothing for them. Fortunately, two girls gave me something and I ran into my office and had two nice boxes of fancy chocolate, which I tagged and gave to them and we were all happy. Guys who were not in the office gave me anything so it was fine. Us 4 in the office exchanged and it was then easy – we gave, we received, easy.

I was making small talk with a woman at a Christmas party recently. She told me she was having people over for Christmas, which included one son’s long time girlfriend, another son’s new girlfriend who they only met recently, and another girl who was just a friend. She told me it was a dilemma for her because she didn’t want to have a big disparity in gifts or quantity of gifts for each girl, because she didn’t want awkwardness or hurt feelings but yet she felt differently about each girl, due to the relationship status.

I don’t like to tell people what to get me, even if they ask, because to me, leaving it up to people’s thoughtfulness might lead to something really thoughtful or clever. If I want something specific, I buy it for myself.

I also think mutual gift card exchange is kind of silly. Just my opinion. I have a ton of gift cards in a box (these don’t expire – I checked) and it’s just such effort to spend them.

I have a new friend this year. She’s the mom of my daughter’s friends, the twins. She dropped a hint that she got me a gift (other than the gifts the kids were going to give each other). I was in a big dilemma about what to give her. I went to the department stores looking at jewelry. For friends like that, I have a price range in mind, wanting to spend no more than $40. I ended up with a nice bracelet that cost me a bit less than $30. She loved it and she got me a gift certificate for getting my nails done. I was glad she dropped the hint about getting me the gift. I would have felt not too good about receiving without reciprocity.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It was OK when my kids were younger, but anymore. I mean, I’ve gone from 3 people to buy for to over 24, and it’s just awful! And any more everyone goes SO overboard, spending hundreds and thousand’s of dollars on their kids I can’t help but feel mine will get lost in the mess.

As far as receiving….well, it it’s a gift that really pertains to ME I am very touched. Last year my husband’s daughter gave me a tripod for my camera, and that was really neat, although I already had one, a metal one I bought in the 80’s. Much sturdier than the plastic one she gave me. I don’t want to chance my $600 camera on it. But still…it was special and unique to me and I appreciated it.
My 7 year old Grandson made me a book mark in school! I said, “How do you know I read? You usually see me on the computer when I have down time.”
He said, “Well, when you are at our house you read!”
So that was cool.

I just wish we could scale the madness down.

JLeslie's avatar

@LuckyGuy I picked out the perfume. Lol. I was out shopping with her, I was ready to buy it for myself, and then she stepped in and bought it for me for Christmas. I let her. I didn’t want her to buy me something I won’t use and she would have bought me something and it would not have been for just $20.

jca's avatar

Here’s another dilemma which is typical of one I’d have at this time of year (and similar to the one in my conversation, discussed above, with neighbor at party). I am invited to a friend’s house on Saturday, and there will be about 4 other friends there. One is more like an acquaintance, two are close friends and one I’m more friendly with than the other three. The one I’m just an acquaintance with, I’d not ordinarily be giving a gift to. However, I feel like it’s really awkward and almost improper to give gifts to two but not her, and more awful to give a better gift to the hostess, the one I’m closest to, and lesser gifts to the two, and no gift to the one. So to me, this is a big example of my annual dilemma. I just found out the acquaintance is attending, so now I’m like oh, Jeezus, what do I do. I have these tins of cookies that I can give, but I’m not sure what to do. They’re pretty nice tins with nice cookies. A good idea would be just to go to a store and buy some nice ornaments on clearance, but it’s not likely th stores will have anything left at this point. Shit.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I love regifting. My husband though, gets really mad at me when I suggest it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Shit is right. Usually I think it’s the hostess’ obligation to make sure everyone has something to open, but in this situation, just 3 other people, it will be obvious one person didn’t give or get, or got a much lesser gift. Personally, I would be very uncomfortable in that situation and probably buy something nicer than I would have originally to make sure it didn’t look like I singled the person out as not as close a friend. But, I’m paranoid and bad at the whole gift giving thing, so I wouldn’t take what I would do as the thing to do.

If I turn it around, and I was the one receiving a gift from you and we weren’t very close friends, I would be fine with a token gift. I probably wouldn’t expect you to buy me anything necessarily.

Generally, as long as everyone has at least one thing to open I think it’s all good.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’d give her the cookies (and be thankful it’s not that lucky man who hates Christmas cookies). It’s a token and she’ll know it’s a token and I’m sure she will be very thankful you thought of her. To add to your dilemma is the question, will she bring you a present? If you take her one and she doesn’t have something to reciprocate – ahh embarrassing. Perhaps take a big bag and only bring the present out if you’re sure she’s also brought something for you?

jca's avatar

I am thinking I may leave the gifts in the car and give them to the people when we leave. “Let me walk you out. I need to get something from my car.”

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

That would resolve your dilemma. If everyone else pulls gifts out earlier, you can always go and get them if you feel the situation demands you hand them out earlier.

jca's avatar

Ugh, the whole thing is so annoying and messy and awkward (for me).

JLeslie's avatar

Can you just ask the host if she is going to do gifts. If she isn’t expecting for everyone to swap gifts then it doesn’t happen, right? You can still bring her hers, because she is the host.

jca's avatar

She is going to give gifts – she’s a real gift giver, giving several to each person. She’s just that way.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s obnoxious. It feels like she is just showing off or compulsive. Maybe I’m wrong.

jca's avatar

I can bring her hers because she is the host, but another of the girls gave my daughter something, so I want to give her one too. Then a third I am friendly with, so I will want to give her one just because I like her. Then that leaves the other one, and a possible 5th. I will probably put my thinking cap on Friday about it and make some decisions, and determine what I have or if I need to shop.

JLeslie's avatar

Possible 5th?

I think if you bring nothing for the other one or two it probably won’t be a big deal. The host is gift giving happy, so no one is going to be empty handed.

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