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.
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!