Posted in Blogmas, Lifestyle, Ponderings, Regarding polly

Polly’s Pondering’s – Why do we have such a problem buying presents?

Polly’s pondering’s are very quick posts (that I can type into the WordPress App during my lunch break!) It is just me chatting about something that I have ‘pondered’ today and speedily typed up while munching on my bread-sticks and hummus. Consider it a take on modern miscellany with an older person’s perspective. This weeks pondering? Why do we have such a problem with buying presents?


The problem with presents:

Have you ever had someone ask :
“What would you like for Christmas?”
and you have replied :
“Don’t really want anything…ummm… I need some tea towels? A pack of tea towels?”
I’m not buying you that! – I’ll get you a nice soap set.”

Why ask if you aren’t willing to listen to requests! If you are just going to totally ignore what I needed and get something completely different why bother asking for input?

One year I asked for a wine rack and received a fleece jumper – I do not do fleece; I am not a fleecy kind of girl. You also cannot store wine in fleece…it makes it warm…totally unsuitable.

Some people feel that asking someone what they want ruins the whole point of Christmas; your gift should be a surprise, or maybe you should know your friend/ loved one well enough to instinctively know what they would like – or definitely NOT like. I feel it is more important to get someone something that will be of use, or at the least enjoyable for them.

While doing my research for this piece, I was surprised at the number of posts that actively encourage not buying gifts at all; That Christmas is all about your ‘presence’ not your presents.
From an economic standpoint, Martin Lewis argues that presents are a zero-sum game. I buy you a present, you spend the same money as me, no-one has gained anything – especially if the present is a bit naff. Why have we got like this?

Are we doing presents wrong?

Giving a gift is the simplest thing in the world. Why have we made it so complicated? I think the real reason people refuse to buy you what you have asked for, especially if you have asked for something as simple as tea towels, or a pack of pens for school, is because they are more concerned with how they will be perceived. Presents aren’t about the person receiving them for some people. It is about ‘top show’; about looking good, and looking generous. Presents should always be about the recipient. Have you ever seen someone say ‘don’t get me anything’ only for this to be countered with the suggestion that they ‘need to have something to unwrap’, despite their protestations?
Gift buying is not about the buyer. You buy them something they would like or, if they have asked for something specific, buy them what they want. Buying something small is not a poor reflection on the buyer, if that is what was requested. We need to take the ego out of gift giving. It doesn’t matter if the other person hasn’t spent as much back, or if their gift isn’t as thoughtful or as meaningful as yours. Like the old saying goes: you do not give to receive.

Do gift giving properly:

Have you ever spotted something and thought ‘she will really like that’ or ‘that is so them’. When you know someone well it is easier to get them a present that you know they will enjoy, because you know what they like and what they want. I am always bemused at the long list of recipients to my Mums gift buying: friends of friend’s grandchildren, people she hasn’t seen for years, friend’s partners who she has yet to meet… so the first rule of gift buying?

You are under no obligation to buy ANYONE a present. You choose to buy them.

What is the worst that will happen if you don’t drop a tin of biscuits around to your old babysitter who you occasionally bump into now and then? Absolutely nothing. Life will go on and it is possible that they won’t even notice.

Buying cheap tat to pad out a present is unnecessary.

I always used to do this for the kids. I felt they had to have exactly the same number of presents or it would look unfair. To who? No-one, that’s who. My boys know it is easy to buy small presents for girls – bath bombs, ear-rings – while they want computer games that cost the best part of £40 a pop. They know they will have less in terms of physical presents, because I have explained they all get the same spent on them.

Just ask!

We have to buy a Secret Santa present in work. I was always a bit wary of them as I have been stung by some shockingly bad and thoughtless presents. I now look on it as a gift buying exercise, not a gift getting one and with my low expectations anything will be a bonus.
I have approached the person I am buying for on the pretense that I was asking for someone else, I asked for suggestions and have bought them something – I believe- they will quite like.

If you don’t know what to get someone – ask them!
And if they give you a suggestion? Use it!



Mature (technically) graduate, vlogger, blogger, dreaming of travelling, mum of 4, K-pop addict, Japanese culture fan, and wannabe minimalist. And that is what this is all about... I am clearing, decluttering and "minimalising" with the long term aim of travelling and completing the adventures on my #kettlelist (Bucket list seems a bit final!) Come visit me on twitter and instagram @Pollyplaits , or on Youtube for my Polly put the kettle on (#PPTKO) weekly vlog that is DEFINITELY #NOTa50x50

19 thoughts on “Polly’s Pondering’s – Why do we have such a problem buying presents?

    1. Thank you Karen
      I think I am terrible to buy badly for, if that makes sense!
      I am attempting minimalism so I don’t like ‘stuff’ – but anything remotely stationery or Japan based, and I am happy 😊
      I also have my eyes on a pair of shoes… And have created a none too subtle Pinterest Board called ‘Things I would like to have…’ which I direct people to😂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post! We learnt at cultural antrophology that giving gifts is like extending a contract. We exchange gifts to extend our friendships for a year. It probably seems very empty in a way, but I do think it works to some extension. It was very interesting topic and our professor was very pro when it comes to giving gifts. With gift you do show some respect, love, kindness to that person and I think it is a beautiful way to give someone something they want, especially if you asked in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The social obligation behind gift giving fascinates me. I am now in my forties and my mums friend of over 50 years suggested they both stop buying for ‘the kids’ ie me, my brother and her 4 sons! The idea that you need to extend from your friend, to their husband , to their kids and then grandkids gets a bit expensive after a while!


  2. Hats off to you, Polly because everything that you wrote here is absolutely true! I’ve always been the kind of person who loves to give gifts and I don’t even ask the people who I’m gifting what would they like, but surprisingly, everything that I gave them turned out to be pretty useful for them! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I tell people I don’t want any gifts for the holidays, I mean it. I’m a very particular sort of person – I don’t like junk, I’m not against donating or tossing something I won’t use, and I hate feigning surprise and happiness over a gift I genuinely don’t want.

    Bless them for trying of course, but I think it’s more respectable to simply listen to what that person tells you – so you nailed that one!

    I try to buy what a person needs – I know my mom needs new bath towels, she’s been complaining about them for years. I know my roommate is twitchy about his guitar capo’s spring being broken and needing to find a new one. I know my brother loves any and all things garden gnome and always expanding his collection.

    Some people are easy. Some people, I have to ask about. I try to respect their wishes either way.

    Great post and a good reminder for a lot of people!~

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a really great post and honestly i definitely agree with what your saying! I am guilty of so many of the things u mentioned oops ahaha i didn’t even realise! The expectation of gift giving has honestly got a bit out of hand thats for sure

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is all so accurate! Don’t get me wrong, I like giving gifts and I like receiving them, but I HATE tat! You’re so right about it always being more about the giver than the receiver – I’ve got so much stuff on my wish list that my parents refuse to buy because it’s “boring stuff”, but it’s stuff I want! I wish everyone just had a wish list and we all just got each other things from the lists, or nothing at all. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gift giving is always such a mine field. I think as the gift giver you want the other person to be happy and feel valued but your thinking about your budget, feeling guilty if they spend more on you…and so on. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves and really we need to simplify it right down and like you said – Just ask! I really enjoyed this post!! x

    Linda ||

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s