For one thing, you are usually expected to get a gift that costs around $10 to $20, and it has to be something physical, something someone actually wants, and something they don't already own. What $10 object does someone really want that they aren't going to already own? Also, who buys physical objects anymore? The cool stuff we used to buy each other in The Good Old Days is now all digitized. Think about it: books, music, and movies. Those were the perfect gifts, and they've all run off into the cloud. Unless you want to put a piece of paper with the gift code for the digital thing inside a box and wrap it, you're screwed. In general, I fully approve of storing all entertainment in the cloud and getting rid of 90% of household clutter, but this one aspect makes gift-giving much trickier.
Gift cards are, of course, an excellent option, and most people like receiving them. I know I do. But they're not that much fun to give. What you really want, when you give a gift, is the pleasure of seeing the other person's face light up with joy and recognition when they unveil that quirky-but-thoughtful thing you selected. Plastic just doesn't evoke this response, even if it is a $20 card to shop at Williams-Sonoma. (Hint: I will not turn down a gift card of any amount to Williams-Sonoma.)
My extended family has found one way out of this trap, which works because we live close enough to actually get together physically on Christmas day. We do a white elephant exchange. I love these, because the point of such gift exchanges is the laughter and the fun, not the stuff. But also, because you are able to exchange things with the other participants, you usually end up going home with something you want. (Or at least something you can give to someone else at the next white elephant, like this one. Or this. Or this. You're welcome.)
|Redneck wine glass|
So now I turn to crowdsourcing: what are your holiday-shopping tricks and tips? Have you figured out a way to stay creative and keep people happy without losing your mind or breaking the bank?