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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

10 Meaningful Holiday Gift Ideas

As my extended family gathered and opened presents one holiday eve, the Dad looked over at the gift his son just opened and said, “Hey, that’s cool! Who’s it from? I bet it’s a Lisa gift!” Then the mom got excited, “a Lisa gift! What is it? Let me see! Let me see!”

Me? I’m sitting there thinking,”Uh oh. I’ve totally done it again. The family I love but that has more Nos than Yeses when it comes to what’s allowed for their kids, is going to make my gift disappear because I screwed up their only-known-until-you-break-it-kid-gift rules. Crap!”


Quite the contrary, the Dad told me. In their house, a Lisa Gift is something unusual, awesome, and something the giver didn’t know that they wanted or needed until they got the gift and used it – a lot.





So, how do I do it? Well, in the beginning it wasn’t easy. I soon found that with a growing family and gift giving list that if I waited until December to do all of my holiday shopping, I’d drive myself crazy(er). As a matter of survival, I made a mental shift. I decided that the best gifts I could give were full of thought and meaningful to the person I’m giving it to. And, for the sake of my bank account, I started shopping all year round either for items or ideas, which I have listed on my PDA and synchronized with my computer. Where do I get my

kooky
fabulous ideas?

Here’s a list of 10 methods I use to buy good gift.



1. Shop from wedding registries. Even after the wedding, stores keep these lists active for a period of time – use them they are the perfect wish lists.

2. Shop from baby registries. Even after the baby’s born, stores keep these lists active for a period of time too.

3. Observe your target at the store. What item(s) do they look at closely, consider purchasing, and then put down claiming, “oh maybe later” or some other excuse. Husband is the Master of this technique. In fact, he purchased a pair of vintage sunglasses for me that I apparently admired in the store, didn’t purchase, and forgot about it. Lo and behold on my birthday, I get this fabulous pair of vintage sunglasses and screamed, “These are so me! How did you know?”

4. Think about their life’s circumstances and gift accordingly. Have they just moved? Then maybe a gift card to a to home improvement store/Container Store, etc. or gardening supplies may be appropriate or possibly a kitchen or household item upgrade. Started a new job? Try some new work clothes or a new computer bag. A college student? Try something computer related or dorm room living related likes a coffee maker.

5. Conduct year round recon. This is my favorite technique and it goes along the same lines as observing your intended

target
I mean

victim
, gift recipient while shopping except you aren’t at the store and the conversation or occurrence may not have happened at gift time. Some examples:


  • At a summer family reunion, one of my nephews kept asking his mom if he could use her digital camera to take a picture. I wrote this down on my gift giving idea list. It gave me time to look for an appropriate kid digital camera and in my niece and nephew price range (there are eight nieces and nephews on my gift list so I try to keep all of their gifts within the same price range) that had easy software that the kid can use on an older passed-down-to-the-kids-for-homework purposes computer. My nephew loved it because he wanted a camera but didn’t tell anyone. Thus, I secured my title as Most Fabulous Aunt on Plant Earth for yet another year.
  • During a mini-break to New York with some friends, we noticed that all of the tourists seemed to be wearing Burberry scarves. It became a silly in-joke during the trip. That Christmas, Husband, and friends got Burberry scarves for Christmas. In addition, I totally earned my Frugal Hacker badge because I got a deal on them – I bought in August at a reduced price. Shopping early saved me time and money. Score.
6. Listen for hints. As in the “someday, I need to replace X.” “I wish I could find an X that does Y better than the X I currently have.” or the best one “If you see an X for sale, will you let me know? I’m looking for one and can’t find it anywhere!”

7. Read the children’s letters to Santa. Before you mail them for your kids to the North Pole of course.

8. Ask!
9. Try giving one big family gift. Such as event tickets, maybe a new TV or electronics, Netflix subscription if they are movie buffs, tickets to an event or show, zoo or water park membership, etc. I did this the December we bought the Condo and it was a big hit. Some of these gifts seemed a little extravagant but in reality when I divided the overall cost of the big gift by the number of family members the per person amount in some cases the was surprisingly less than what I normally budget per person. I saved money, time, had less stuff to wrap and less wrappings to later dispose of = all good things in my book.

10. Above all think and gift something that would be meaningful to the person you are giving the gift to and not yourself. I believe that holiday and birthday gifts should be given in the spirit of appreciation not as a punishment or reward or to change someone’s behavior or lifestyle to follow my personal philosophies. If you go that route, it leaves the door wide open for the recipient to turn around and give you gifts that try to force you to change your ways and subscribe to their religious, political or whatever philosophy they hold dear. That never works and the only thing it accomplishes is starting a huge argument during what should be a peaceful family get together.

So Greenzillas, that means no compact florescent light bulbs as holiday gifts, unless you give them a lamp to go with it. K?