I shop at bargain discount stores. I do. I love the feeling of digging through random stuff to find a perfect item for myself (and for others) at irresistible rock bottom prices.
Maybe it’s the thrill of the deal or the primal urge to be able to say I-got-this-for-less-than-you while beaming with pride that upon hearing a compliment, I have to blurt out where I got it and how much I paid for it.
Mom would be proud.
On a not so distant day, I escaped a rather mundane and stereotypical repetitive day to engage in shameless commercialism. Although I did not buy anything, it was the focused shopping technique of power moms that made me stop, for a second, and smell the price tags.
I was eavesdropping.
“Do you think she’ll like the orange or the lime green?” one determined woman asked another while looking away.
She was holding — in my humble opinion — rather unsightly and robust candles inside an oval glass container. She was definitely shopping out of obligation.
“I like the green one,” her companion responded not quite interested in her friend’s predicament. She was preoccupied inspecting what looked like a general Lego-like toy box.
And with that, the question was not exactly answered. The shopper was looking for feedback on what the recipient would like and not what her companion thought was more pleasing.
Unfortunately, I did not find out how she rationalized her decision as my attention was displaced by the vicious look of disapproval of another shopper trying to make her way around me.
That day, I did not practice swiping the all-American credit card and made a swift exit.
On my way out I noticed another quintessential example of the misplaced holiday spirit: The inevitable car horn fight over parking spot real estate rights. A question of who was there first metamorphosing into a rather colorful word exchange. The stress of the gift-giving season was showing its ugly side.
On a recent show, Suze Orman explained that "I try to give things that get consumed, because I don't want to add to anyone's clutter — a true gift doesn't burden the recipient."
And the burden can extend to feelings of needing to reciprocate.
At a time when money is tight for many, we are presented with an opportunity to reel ourselves back in, focus on the essence of the season and attempt to shift our paradigm and priorities.
“Rather than give from obligation or feeling like you need to do something elaborate, you also have the opportunity to make the process of gifting meaningful,” Dee Dee Lubow, longtime friend and therapist, explains. “From the recipient, receiving something that holds meaning is definitely more aligned with a loving spirit.”
“There is a difference between a present and a gift,” she continues. “A present is something you want someone else to have while a gift is something they would enjoy having.”
Then it occurred to me. I am a horrible gift-giver and guilty of often purchasing something because it looks cool or because it is packaged nicely. I should have definitely asked myself: Would they want it? Will it burden them? Is it meaningful?
As I sharpen my holiday skills, Dee Dee shares her dos and don’ts of gift-giving, shopping, friendships and relationships.
- Devote time thinking about the recipient. Try to focus on who they are and what they like doing so you can find something thoughtful. Avoid feeling like you have to make a big splash with a big box containing an excessive amount of tissue paper. Consider their passions, their hobbies and interests.
- Avoid random shopping at all costs. Have a plan before you go out or else you’ll end up frustrated or worse, give something that could be a candidate for re-gifting.
- A thoughtful gift does not have to be an expensive one. At a time where many are feeling the crunch of an unstable economy, a meaningful gift could be a journal where you have taken the time to write something personal and special for the receiver. It is more about value rather than the latest electronic or the oversized box.
- Put away the credit card and preempt buyer’s and giver’s remorse. If you feel like your gift creates an expectation of a return gesture, a burden is placed on the recipient and your relationship
- Share the gift-giving process with others to enhance your available resources to create a win-win. If you are giving baked goods, make them and present them in a group.
A few meaningful ideas that won’t break the bank
- Offer to watch their children (or pets) for a day or two.
- Plant flowers for someone at their entrance. They will see them every time they come and go.
- If they love a particular dish you make, gift the ingredients, the recipe and a lesson on how to make it.
- Look for a magazine subscription that is aligned with their interests.
- A journal with a special message written inside.
Funny. I feel like Dee Dee’s wisdom is her gift to me. There was no box, no bag, no tissue paper and no card. And it was quite valuable.