Want, wear, read, need?

This is a post about Christmas presents. The timing and planning is somewhat off – I intended to write this about 3 weeks ago.  If you’re still contemplating buying Christmas gifts now, either swiftly go to Amazon or run away from the computer and find your local stores…

In this article on the BBC website, a ‘rule of thumb’ is suggested for the giving of presents at Christmas – a so called ‘Four Gift Rule’ that suggests that the gifts should be :

  • Something that recipient wants
  • Something the recipient needs
  • Something for the recipient to wear
  • Something for the recipient to read

I’m not at all convinced about this.  I’m pretty skint most of the time, but I do enjoy buying what are hopefully thoughtful gifts for the people I love the most.  Typically the ‘gift count’ is around four per child, and one or two per adult, with a pre-set budget (pre-set by my bank manager).  So, keeping to the number of gifts isn’t a problem, but the the suggested gift types leave a lot to be desired.

That’s not to say I might not get someone gifts in these categories, but it’s not at the front of my mind when I’m shopping.  Here are my issues…

Want – sounds great in principle. Until you realise that you have no idea what the big ‘wants’ are in people’s lives.  I want, for example, a big house with dark skies for astronomy and outbuildings for a workshop. It’s not going to happen. I have a rough idea what my niece wanted the last time we went shopping with her; her interests probably changed about 1 day later.

However…she did express a couple of wants that we were able to buy her.

Need – come on. If I need something, I’m not going to wait until Christmas on the off-chance that someone may buy me what I need. A few weeks ago my biggest need was a new thermostat for the immersion heater; oddly enough I decided not to put it on my Christmas list as staying clean for over a month without hot water might have proved hard.

But…the other day my cat Jarvis’s electrically heated sleeping mat conked out. It gives him GREAT respite from his aches and pains (he’s 21) and so Jarvis NEEDED that mat.  So, kind daddy blew part of his Christmas gift from work on a new heated pad.

Wear – one word here. Socks. Yes, buy me socks. And hankies. Please, please, buy me socks and hankies.  This is a serious request. What was awful as a child becomes a thoughtful gift when in your 50s.

Read – great in principle but there are a couple of issues here.  If you don’t know the reading habits of the recipient – and again, it’s not a given that you will because some of my reading habits are less obvious to friends than they could be, buying books can be a nightmare.  And if you DO know their reading habits, you still have the issue of determining ‘Have they got this book?’

I have, however, bought God-children a book each which I think they will like.

Now, the objections I give above can be dealt with:

  • I should get to know and stay in touch with my relatives and friends better, then I would gain a great knowledge of their interests.  And dress sizes, shoe sizes, reading interests, etc.
  • I can ask them what they want – rather removes the surprise element but it’s a no-nonsense, pragmatic solution.
  • I can give them a list of possible presents, ask them to remove the ones they DON’T want, then select the gifts from the ones they leave. Rather civil-servant like, but workable.

Alternatively….why don’t I just give money for the ‘big’ presents? Or gift cards?  A year or so back I gave a £50 note to someone for their birthday – nice, sharp, crinkle free from the bank. Don’t know what it was spent on but it looked good! I used to think that this was something of a thoughtless approach, but now I don’t know. Give money or gift cards, let them buy what they need / want / can wear and want to read.

And you can still spoil them rotten with a few little extras.

Or, maybe you can give those you love something that money can’t buy. You. Your time, your interest in them. Be there for them when they need you or want you.

Merry Christmas.

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