Christmas gifts

Lotsa people talking about giftcards and cash… are they tacky, are they appreciated, and so on.  Here’s Donna Freedman on the subject, and here’s Graceful Retirement.  Also GRS.

We do all of the above, and presents too, and we think there are good and thoughtful reasons to give cash or a gift card.  Sure, sometimes they’re the equivalent of bath salts, but sometimes they really are the best present.

We gave cash to:

Brother and sister-in-law #1 because they just had an offer accepted on a house… and we know how unexpected expenses tend to crop up when you buy a house, especially those first couple of months.  If they don’t need it for an unexpected expense, they can use it for tchotchkes.

Relative with the passel of kids who is bad with money.   Every year we say we’re not going to, and then every year we end up doing it anyway.  This year it was the burst appendix of kid #4 that was the straw that made me write a check.  DH almost suggested purchasing a chastity belt with it in the enclosed card (very funny story there… assuming it wasn’t *your* daughter as female lead), but thought better of it.

We gave gift cards to:

Father-in-law because his favorite activity in the world is shopping for his hobby.  And my mother-in-law prefers he not spend all their money on that.

Brother-in-law #2 because we asked his wife what to get him and she said that his favorite gift ever was an Amazon gift certificate.  That’s easy.

My  mother because there is nothing she likes more than shopping at our bookstore when she comes to visit.  It’s what she asks for.  It keeps her happy in our boring small town.

Grandmother-in-law #1 because she’s on a small fixed income and she likes to buy things for people and is sad when she can’t afford to.  A giftcard to Walmart helps her do that, or just get things for herself.

DC’s teachers because cash would be weird and we understand teachers like gift cards.

We gave presents to:

SIL #2 got a cookbook to go with her new crockpot and a subscription to audible.  MIL got a professional book she’s been wanting and another thing.  The little cousins got various books and toys.  My sister got ballet tickets and backstage passes to enjoy with DC.  My father got a bottle of fancy rum.  Grandmother-in-law #2 we already talked about (MIL says she got her copy last week.)  The other half of the blog is getting an assortment of goodies from her Amazon wishlist… some things she really wanted and some I selfishly think she should have.

What kinds of things are you getting for folks?  Are you avoiding any of the above categories in your giving or receiving?

14 Responses to “Christmas gifts”

  1. Rumpus Says:

    I bought myself books. Because a gift card is just weird. Oh, and Audible…because books in the car make the commute a neutral activity instead of one I dislike. In steampunk, I’m currently reading Behemoth, and I just finished listening to Boneshaker. The latter was fine as a novel, and interesting as a read piece; I liked the juxtaposition of a male reader (Wil Wheaton) when the boy was the chapter’s protagonist, and a female reader when the mother was….some people didn’t like that though.

    Also, I’m beginning to think that audiobooks can really be immersive in terms of describing scenery…there’s something about someone telling me a story that makes the scenery better. (Probably I just skim over it if I’m reading a book.) I guess if books are going to cost $10, then it’s not so much more to get the audiobook…if only so many weren’t abridged.

    As for Behemoth, did they really need to put so much space on the page between and around the small type? I mean, if you’re talking about comics you can argue that something (e.g., time) happens between panels, but nothing happens b e t w e e n every letter in a novel, or at the sizable margins.

    Now I’m listening to Name of the Wind by Rothfuss…definitely recommendable if you like fantasy coming-of-age stories. Spoilers in the rest of this paragraph. It’s told by the protagonist as a biography about his wunderkind/streetrat life. It made me laugh to hear them describe the professors at the magic university….I just kept thinking that the author did a pretty good job of hitting the faculty stereotypes and what it looks from the outside. I could only grin to think about what their faculty meetings must be like when assignments are made to do all the work for the accreditation team visit. And then there’s the part where the professor said he’d take on a student as an advisee if the student jumped off the roof….and the student jumped.

    I’m also still slowly reading the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I’m about halfway through the series now. They’re incredibly misogynistic. The women are all useless except the cop (slash love interest), and she’s mostly useless after getting scarred for life. There are various ick scenes or overtones because the world is dark. All that said, I can’t stop reading them because I love settings of magic in the contemporary with hidden wizards etc, and I love gumshoe detectives, and I really get drawn in to the action scenes. If you love Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series…mix in some gumshoe and women being unable to do anything and that’s about where this is. Note, Butcher has also written the Codex Alera series, which is fantasy and starts out with much better writing quality than the Dresden Files, asks what if the Romans had magic and had to fight the bugs from Starship Troopers, and is less misogynistic, but unfortunately still is misogynistic.

    As for gift cards, I’m for them as long as it’s to a generally useful place. I also like cash, though it is a bit odd if you give money or a gift card to someone and they do the same back ( http://www.sheldoncomics.com/archive/101226.html ). I try to get people something they want…but when you rarely see somebody and only talk to them on the phone once every couple weeks, it can be hard to know what they want. I’d rather get them something they want than something they think is junk. That’s why I like Amazon’s wish list. I get to pick something that they’ve already said they want. I’m also ok with not getting someone a gift, but that’s been known to epic fail with regard to in-laws before.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hm, I tend to think of the Rachel Morgan series as much higher quality than the Dresden Files. Much more intricate plotting, a lot more stuff in each book. Dresden is more of a soap opera/romance/episodic kind of thing. It seems more like the Kitty werewolf novels to me, but you know, misogynistic and not as good.

      • Linda Says:

        Yeah, I tried to read the Dresden files books, too. I think I got through 1. 5 before I had to just stop. I didn’t care for the quality of writing, the messed up details about Chicago city layout really bothered me, and the characters bugged me. I do like the Rachel Morgan books, but haven’t been keeping up with the series. I know authors need time to write books, but the lag time between them can throw me off.

  2. Linda Says:

    I’m giving people food gifts that I made. Everyone likes to eat or needs to eat, right? I’ve done my best to match the personality/tastes of each person. So I have jam/preserves for some folks that can be eaten on toast or with cheeses for entertaining; granola for folks that don’t do much of the latter two activities; seasoned nuts for others that like to nosh with cocktails. I still have to make the nuts, granola, and some crackers to pair with the preserves for cheese, but I can do that over the next few evenings. I also will be giving away pickled things (cucumbers, grapes, beets, and peaches) to folks that I think will eat them (many of these pickles are great with roasted meats and poultry). I enjoy canning stuff so I do this throughout the year. Now if I could just get people to give me the darn jars back then I could save more money; my cash outlay on jars can get pretty high each year.

  3. Donna Freedman Says:

    Thank you for the link. :-)
    Food gifts (homemade caramels with sea salt and/or jam): To family members and a few bidness acquaintances.
    Anchorage Daily News moose calendars: See above.
    Presents bought with Amazon gift cards that I got for free from Swagbucks: To DD and DSIL and also to his parents, who have moved in with them due to impending bankruptcy. (Ho, ho, ho.)
    Gift cards, part 1: To DD, DSIL and my niece. However, I did not pay for these — I got them with rewards points, was given one as an honorarium for a writing presentation and one for doing favors for the owners of the building in which I live, and won one during a live chat.
    Gift cards, part 2: I bought discounted movie-theater gift cards on the secondary market for a friend who has tons o’Stuff and doesn’t need more but who LOVES to go to the movies (and whose part-time job plus Social Security aren’t keeping pace with inflation).
    Toys!: To my great-nephews, several playthings from the 75%-off table last Christmas and also bought with yet another gift card that I won during the live chat (I got three in all during the four-hour event).
    Books: One to the older great-nephew, also bought with a gift card that I won; four PF books (sent to me by various publishers and by another PF writer) to a close relative and family (all of whom have financial, um, issues); one to my dad and his wife and four to yet another great-nephew were paid for by those free Amazon gift cards.
    Conference swag!: I picked up a startling number of small gifts and stocking stuffers at the four conferences I attended this year — everything from “Phineas & Ferb” Band-Aids to Fast Flats shoes.
    Daily deals: I bought a $20-for-$40 voucher at a fancy-schmancy food place and used it to buy fair trade coffee, niiiice handmade organic soaps and several bars of dark chocolate with ginger. These goodies were distributed among several friends and the young woman who watches my mail while I’m gone (I watch her cat while SHE’S gone, but I wanted to give her a little gift, too).
    Regifting: A couple of things (books, fancy soap) got passed on.
    Clearance + gift card: I used a Bed Bath and Beyond card that someone gave me last year to buy four b’day/Christmas gifts for the nephews plus a four-pack of workout tank tops for their mom.
    Free-after-rebate items: Mostly lip balms and lotions, for stocking stuffers.
    All these frugal hacks helped pay for my gift to myself: The ability to continue to live as a freelancer and, in fact, to spend the holiday in Alaska. Although, come to think of it, the ticket purchase and mileage will put me over the edge for another free airline ticket — and since I just found out I’m gonna be a grandma, I can sure put another ticket to good use.

  4. profgrrrrl Says:

    I try to avoid cash and gift cards. Let’s see … this year I’ve done:

    Homemade: cookies galore for staff, service providers; chocolate bark for friends and round 2 of service providers; ornaments and beaded jewelry for my family.

    Gadgets: kitchen gadgets, hobby gadgets, study gadgets — I like to buy people things I think they’ll enjoy using but might consider a bit frivolous to buy themselves (or might not even know about)

    Toys: for the kids, of course (mine, her young cousins, friends’ kids)

    Cosmetics: some sampler kits from sephora for my younger sisters and older nieces who will love having such a treat

    Gourmet treats: sent oysters (shucked and in shell) and lump crab to my mom/stepdad, due to arrive on the 23rd. They love seafood and they don’t need stuff. It was my stepdad’s family tradition to have oyster stew on xmas eve. It really pleased me to think of and order this gift!

    Magazine subscriptions: either because I knew the person would love it but wasn’t spending the $$ on him/herself or because I was otherwise at a total loss

    Memories: I’ve filled 402’s advent calendar with memories of our time together, and I’ve been putting together a little memory book for him as an xmas gift

    Sharing: I’ve created a blog from B to the in-laws, and I’m pledging to post a photo and a “letter” from B updating her grandparents on her adventures once a week. They’ll love it. It costs me nothing but a little time here and there, and it will go a looooooong way in terms of family good will (since I think I’ve been a disappointment as a DIL re: sharing and letting them into my life, and they crave grandchild info/contact. I’m really not a bitch, but I have to do it on my terms, y’know?)

    I don’t think I did a single gift card this year.

  5. chacha1 Says:

    To sis and sis-in-almost-law: alpaca convertible glove/mittens; a small Kenyan drum; and a painting. They have to share everything but that shouldn’t be a problem.

    To mom and dad: alpaca dressy sweater and pr of zebra-patterned legwarmers; book of classic-car porn + CDs of 50s music.

    To the Man of the House: “little big soldier” on DVD, ginger wasabi chocolate, and a paella pan.

    To aunt & uncle: gift card for their favorite restaurant.

  6. bogart Says:

    Hmmm. My own personal preference for gifts, in order, is 1. Stuff I didn’t know I wanted but did want, especially if it helps me remember/think of the giver and something about our unique relationship (which it often will just by definition if it’s in this category): 2. Stuff I want that I knew I wanted and probably shared information about wanting; 3. A gift card, particularly if I can use it online (I do not like to shop, though there are a few stores for which I’ll make exceptions); 4. Stuff I do not want. Cash falls sort of between 3 & 4 … it is sometimes an invitation to save and that is sometimes good but lacks the “treat yourself!” insistence of a gift card. On the other hand, it can, in effect, be spent online, putting it ahead of a gift card I’d have to go to a store to use.

    We do whatever seems to work/be desired following roughly the same order of preferences listed above. Of course the risk is that what one thinks is a 1 may be a 4, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this (and of course I’ve experienced it). But that’s when “it’s the thought that counts.”

    I also make and give some stuff (generally food), but this tends to be a category of people to whom I give smaller (less expensive) gifts for whatever reasons. And I will also buy and give good/locavore/gourmet items rather than make stuff, just depending on time available.

  7. Leah Says:

    What I am most excited about is the present for my brother. He is notoriously hard to buy for, but this year he sent a list to my mom. Years ago, I bought him a wee wood box for his guitar picks. He’s apparently outgrown it, so got him a lovely, large wood box with subdividers (it’s a touch bigger than a videotape). I used to do leatherworking as a hobby, and I still have all my tools at my parents’ house, so I am going to take my best shot at making a leather case for it. Making a cloth case is my second option if the leather doesn’t pan out (tho I think I still remember enough to get ‘er done, and I’m excited to do some leatherworking again, but that’s another long story).

    I got my soon-to-be-husband a travel cribbage board, long underwear, and a firestarting thing. Not super fancy, but they’re all things he’ll love.

    I got my dad a travel ping pong kit, and my mom is getting headphones for her new iphone. And my other brother is getting an Amazon gift card, because that is also his favorite present ever.

    Finally, for all my in-laws (essentially), I send a box each year with fun stuff in it. They live in the midwest, and I go out to Oregon each year for Christmas, so I always send them jams, Tillamook cheese, and other sundries. One BIL asked for an Oregon duck’s hat, so he’ll get that. And I got the niece and nephew one of those new crayola modeling playdough type kits — it is WAY cooler than normal playdough. The kids I babysit for love it, so I think it will be a hit.

    With receiving, well, my mom got me a new iphone, so that’s my big thing. I imagine everyone else will get me stuff off our wedding registry. Oh, and my little bro (the amazon gift card) went in with his girlfriend on getting me a wii for Christmas and wedding, so that will be awesome.

  8. Cloud Says:

    We do gift cards for the day care teachers, cash for a tip for the cleaner, and gifts for everyone else. My big revelation this year was that browsing Etsy was a good way to find gifts for some of the hard to buy people on my list. I know, the rest of the world figured that out several years ago. I’m slow that way.

    Probably the “nicest” gift this year is for my husband- he’s getting a home brew starter’s kit which was sort of pricey and also signals that I’ll put up with the mess, smell, and time that home brewing means, because it will make him happy.

  9. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I don’t do gift cards. I don’t care if other people do anymore. That’s their prerogative.

    I got all of the women in my family a little gift set I put together of a fancy shower cap and a travel size container of shower gel and lotion. Cheesy? I don’t know. Maybe. But they all like girly stuff and I tried matching the shower caps to their personalities. Besides, it was affordable. I got books for a LOT of people– books on beer tasting, ultralight camping, crafts, popular fiction, etc. One brother is getting some gourmet salts. The other brother is getting a watch. Mom’s getting a DVD of America’s Test Kitchen for her birthday (12/22) and a gift from the Square One fundraiser from each kid that features their artwork for Christmas plus a photo book from me. Dad’s getting a cool pizza serving thing because he loves to make pizza. Bestie is getting a purse. Super cute perfume for Boyfriend’s daughter. Toys and/or pajamas for children of friends and family. I’m making something for a couple I’m close with because they’re both artists and will enjoy it. Grandma got a tin plate filled with Yankee Candle tarts because I gave her some tarts one year and she fell in love with them and reportedly gets disappointed when I don’t give her a bunch of new ones for Christmas because she won’t actually buy them for herself. I sort of HATE that my gift is now predictable but 1) she really enjoys them all year long 2) they’re consumed and she’s constantly complaining that she has too much stuff and she’s going to die any day now and it’s such a pain for us to have to go through stuff so she gives things away all the time and 3) at least I can have fun with the container. Boyfriend and Children are being spoiled compared to everyone else but they’re the ones that in Boyfriend’s case need it the most and in Children’s case enjoy/deserve it the most.

    Closest I get to cash is a couple of scratch cards for an elderly couple and an elderly single woman in my family because they like them.

    As for me? My favorite gifts to get, besides anything handmade, are the things I just can’t bring myself to buy myself because I find them extravagant or too indulgent. This includes things like yummy bath products, purses, jewelry, books, nice linens, nice cookware, nice anything really because I usually go for Cheapest I Can Get. My second favorite gifts to get are things I’d have to buy myself anyways like practical clothes and practical shoes and even underwear– nice versions of any of these bump them into Category 1.

  10. Carnival of Personal Finance Australia Says:

    […] from Nicole and Maggie: Grumpy Rumblings presents Christmas gifts, and says, “Are you tired of the cash vs. gift card vs. gift debate yet? Here’s grumpy […]

  11. Tourist Town | Unique Gifter Says:

    […] – to quote Nicole and Maggie from Grumpy rumblings of the half-tenured on the subject of Christmas Gifts and relocating: And BIL keeps talking about how we told him there would be unexpected expenses […]


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