While the holidays are a time filled with happiness, joy, love, and family, it can also be a time of stress when you don’t know what gift to give or when the gifts you have purchased are taking a toll on your wallet.
Being the anthropology major that I am, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to reference Marcel Mauss’s words about cultural practices of exchange. In his short book “The Gift,” he argues that systems of exchange are centered around “the obligation to give, to receive, and most importantly to reciprocate.” And if you have no idea what I am talking about, it is comically depicted in this short clip from The Big Bang Theory.
We all know it's “the thought that counts.”
However, if you ever opened a present you received in a Secret Santa exchange and wondered “what the hell was this person thinking,” or ever been guilty of giving a not-so-great-gift yourself, or just need a little help this holiday season, I have provided some tips about gift giving to be aware of.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. As a frequent shopper, (I shop at least once a week), I have noticed that the best sales are during the weekdays. When the holidays come around, the best sales are usually WEEKS BEFORE HAND. Don't be fooled by a "deal" that says Buy One, Get One Half Off when chances are a week or two before it was Buy One, Get One Free. So if you can ever stop by the mall before or after work or school, Monday-Friday, weeks ahead of time, you’ll see a difference in sale prices, amount of products in stock, and the lines are virtually non-existent. Most importantly, you’ll most likely walk out with everything that you needed and not pissed off because you could not find a parking space.
- Semi-Annual Sales are great to stock up for next year's gifts. It may sound a little crazy but I often stock up on lotions and perfumes the day or days after Christmas because they are often marked down up to 50-75% off their original prices. And they last A LONG TIME so there is no rush when the holidays come back around to race back into the store for a deal. Great places to check currently check out are Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
- Gift Cards are amazing. When you are stuck without a clue of what exactly to buy, I think it is better to give a gift where a person can end up choosing what they like, instead of you having to guess. To be on the safe side, anything that goes toward a restaurant or specific store is great. (And if you happen to know the person's favorite restaurant or store, even better)! And to be generous, it should be at least $25 dollars. One of the best ones I have given and received was the MasterCard Gift card, which can be used anywhere and not limited to one specific store or restaurant.
- DIY. Make something thoughtful and save money with DIY gifts. There are plenty of tutorials online that show DIY gifts perfect for any occasion, such as Youtube and Pinterest.
- What to buy and what not to buy from the 99 cent store. Often at an office party Secret Santa, or White Elephant exhange, gifts are meant to be cute, funny, and inexpensive but there is no need to give a “cheap” gift. Meaning, refrain from buying certain candies, (can end up being really hard to chew), or certain make-up products (such as off brand nail polish that can easily chip off) or things that can easily break or won’t last long from a 99 cent store. However, you can get great steals at a 99 cent store for gift bags and holiday decorations and gifts such as school supplies and house supplies.
- Give a USEFUL gift. It’s the thought that counts but put some REAL THOUGHT when you give a gift. Maybe the gift you are giving you may not like yourself but the person receiving it does. (Cool! Nothing to worry about there). In general, I am saying don’t give a gift you would not like to receive yourself! For example, just because a Santa Cause shaped paper weight is on sale, does not mean you should buy it.