[I wrote this post on my birthday, July 27th, but since I am the laziest of the lazy (and it was my birthday so I did whatever I wanted) I never posted it? Seriously though, it's been almost three months and I have a backlog of already written posts. I'm hilariously awful at consistent anything.]
It’s my birthday today, and since I can do whatever I want since thankfully I’m not working all day this year, I figured why not finally write this blog I should have done several weeks ago! Welp, at least we can get a jump on next year, eh?
My friends and family usually don’t have too much trouble figuring out what I want for birthdays/holidays/housewarming/whathaveyou, because that answer never changes: books. Or if I’m feeling sassy, books, duh.
However, there would also be the usual slew of bath & body sets, hair brushes, clothes that invariably didn’t get worn, and once, for Christmas, a High School Musical DVD box set…(uh, thanks Mom). When I decided to minimize my possessions and get really vocal about consuming less, I fear I made what is already a bit of a tricky process a bit trickier.
So here are some tips for gift giving (and gift receiving) I totally could have given friends and family *before* my birthday:
1. Make use of a wishlist.
I created one on Amazon. My rule is to only add things I actually need or want.
Ok, ok, I don’t NEED a 20 inch Appa plush, but it’s sold out, and I’m only human. Everything else on the list is either useful (clothes, shoes, books, super awesome Tardis mug) or not going to happen (Kitchenaid stand mixer, expensive pillow with French curse word embroidered on it). i.e. wishlist. A girl can dream of curse word pillows.
Anyway, this is the best option if there are a couple of gifts one might desire, but need specific colors or sizes. Also no one has to put on pants and go to a store. Mystery is retained, etc.
2. Give/request gifts that are intangible.
We all have stuff. Sometimes we need a thing, most times we don’t. Sometimes the best gifts are experiences: Concerts, plays, theatre tickets. Dinner & a movie. Camping trip. Hiking. Sign up to be in the audience at a game show. Surprise picnic with lots of wine and friends. A trip to Medieval Times, or Pirate Adventure. Set up a scavenger hunt that leads to a treasure chest full of chocolate chip cookies. Build a blanket fort and watch the Lord of the Rings inside it, also with cookies. Organize a flash mob dance party. Pay for their new tattoo. Take them to the beach and throw them in. You know. Nice gestures.
Trust me, if your friend would honestly rather you bought them a thing that will break, or they won’t use longer than a year…maybe you need more interesting friends. And some chocolate chip cookies. I’m just saying.
3. Give or ask for something practical, or useful.
Self explanatory, non? Some of my favorite practical gifts to give are:
- Gift credits, instead of non-recyclable gift cards. Alternative to this is to reload an old card, or give a paper certificate. My personal fave, as a college student, is Amazon or half.com credit. Textbooks, man.
- Subscriptions to magazines or journals. My poor stumped BFF Jenny got me a subscription to VegNews last year. I love their Veg Escape feature, each month they map out all of the cool vegan eateries in a different city. I haven’t been able to visit any of said cities, but I’m better equipped to take a mental vacation to all of these gourmet veg restaurants.
- Scarves (badly hand knitted), but make sure they’re a scarf wearer first…
- Vegetable seedlings (tomato, bell pepper, pomegranate bushes I’ve grown from organic seeds),
- Hand made jewelry (I did some cool bangles and a ring out of old bass guitar strings),
- Awesome thrifted finds (This might be more of a communication-y type gift, size-wise and desire taken into account).
- Bottles of wine (Justin did a fancy wine-selection-crate for his sister’s wedding, with a reused wine crate from BevMo and a handmade wine list), spirits or craft beers (you can’t tell me that’s not practical), mason jar brownie mixes, or your recipe for kick ass vegan cupcakes.
3.5. Gift wrapping.
I try to wrap gifts in reusable, reused, upcycled, or biodegradable material. Why buy new, plastic coated wrapping paper when newsprint or vintage, falling apart book pages are FREE, can be reused, recycled or composted afterward. Or something even more awesome, like comic book pages:
4. Give/ask for nothing at all.
I’m not sure why most cultures perpetuate the obligation of gift giving. It’s stressful and wasteful and most people hate it.
There’s the awkward moment when your friend forgot to scratch off the price tag and tackles you to destroy it before you can see it—or the more awkward moment when it’s left on deliberately so you can fully appreciate how valuable this gift was. Yes, both have happened to me.
And then there is the etiquette labyrinth of the thank you note, having to make the “Oh, I’m so delighted” face, even if you are actually delighted, just not particularly emotive. It always feels uncomfortable to return or exchange a gift if you don’t like it, even if the giver tells you it’s okay.
Just tell your friends and family you love them, and if they tell you they don’t want anything, don’t buy them anything!
If they seem miffed about it, tell them to say what they mean next year, cackle, and twirl your villainous mustache.
All the birthday cakes R belong to me!
iPura vida!Original handmade gift photo by erika g., comic book wrapping photo by QuinnDombrowski, original present photo the Italian voice, all used with permission under Creative Commons.