Stress, gift wrapped
Most of us find the gifting season stressful, because it’s a battle of managing budget with expectations. But have you ever stopped to think how many gifts you shopped for the rest of the year? In an average year, we are invited to around 12 home dinners, 2-3 baby showers/baby birthdays, 1-2 weddings and 2-3 adult birthdays where we can’t pick up the tab so we carry a gift. And then there are loved ones’ birthdays, anniversaries and various occasions where we pick up the tab as a grand gesture.
Since we tackle these instances one by one, it is not as stressful as Christmas shopping. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful at all.
Apart from Christmas and family occasions, there is an unspoken budget for casual gifting. The budget is normally $10-15 for a dinner invitation, $25-30 for a casual friend’s baby shower/ housewarming/ similar party, $100 or multiples for weddings, nothing for BYOBs and flowers/wine for pot lucks. But there are other nuances to gifting as well.
The biggest challenge is picking something in your budget that is right for the occasion, looks good AND will be liked by the receiver. Whew! And it becomes harder if you don’t know the person that well. Weddings and baby showers are simpler because gift-cards are more acceptable and the gift-list has been picked out, so you can’t be blamed for a useless gift. Drinkers make gifting easier too. Whether or not the gifter drinks, wine and wine accessories are the cutest and most convenient gifts. Otherwise, what do you find under $15 that is gift-able and not too preposterous? The health conscious don’t eat chocolates, fruits are boring and flowers may be inappropriate if you or the host/ess is single and not your type. Gift cards aren’t always the best option and can’t be less than $25 anyway. I tackle this by gifting a kitchen accessory—a Misto or a cool timer is always appreciated. Wind chimes and bird-feeders are nice ideas too.
Then comes the more complicated issue of meeting expectations—you neither want to appear cheap nor preposterous. It is stressful to remember who brought a wine to your holiday party and who gave a crystal stemware set, so you can return the sentiment at their party. Moreover, lavish gifters—the ones who bring along a $100 wine for a dinner party—are stressful too, because you are compelled to reciprocate on a similar scale, whether or not they expect you to. Gift unto others how they gift unto you. Women are normally great at this so either maintain a file or get a girlfriend. And my rule of thumb is that I’d rather be preposterous than cheap to keep my friendships.
Finally, there is the suspense game of whether the gift was liked. Did they return it or exchange it for something else? Did they push it off to someone else? Did they give it to charity? Do they like me a little less?
There’s stress on the other side of gifting too. After the rush of unwrapping, what do you do with all the gifts? Not all gifts are made equal. Many exchange for a better one and although I frown upon re-gifting, many do that and it’s a win-win. Some re-gifters don’t even bother re-wrapping; I received a re-gifted package at my wedding that was probably just peeked into before resealing the gift-wrap. Too bad the original gifter had left a note inside the box. I do reuse cute gifting covers, but only because that helps the environment. Whatever. After all, reduce, reuse and recycle, right?
I think the key to making gifting less stressful lies at the receiving end. You can’t always put up gift registries, but how about maintaining a public wish list that is subtle yet easily found whenever someone is second-guessing their choice of gift? Also, if you are using their gift, show it to your friends the next time they come home. It wouldn’t hurt to send a quick thank you message or email either (although thanking for wine is normally an overkill). It will help your friends relax, feel happy and it’s also good karma. Maybe someday you will receive a thank you note for spending your precious time to pick a gift, wrap it and add a personal note just to make someone happy.
So, did you thank Santa Claus yet?