Gifts and Stuff

We’re in the middle of packing up our apartment to move.  (Yes, we’ll be moving in the middle of my third trimester. I suspect whichever highly paid university administrator that came up with the ‘pregnant students must move from married housing to family housing in the third trimester’ policy has not actually been pregnant.)

Being in the middle of packing to move makes one take close look at all the accumulated stuff.  A lot of this stuff was received as gifts. Gifts are a funny thing.  We spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out what the perfect gift is for someone else but our ability to hit the mark with a good gift depends largely on how well we know the person, and how well we are able to get over our assumptions about that person to really see what they really want or need. Ever received a gift from someone you’ve known and loved and felt like you needed to go reintroduce yourself?

I’ve also had several holiday seasons where I’ve been able to pin down the perfect gift for several on my list, yet got down to the wire for other people on my list and ended up just giving them whatever I could find.  Sucks for me as the giver, and then the receiver is left holding on to something that their not sure if it’s ok if they just throw it away because, ew, not so much something I want, but thanks anyways.  This is of course after you paid too much money for it in the first place and then paid to ship it across the country.

Gah! Gift giving can be frustrating at times.  It’s even more frustrating when you don’t have any money. Well actually in that case, you can just not give anything to anyone.  But half the fun of Christmas is picking out that perfect gift.  I love the feeling when you find the perfect gift for someone.  But you can’t give a gift to just one family member and then just leave everyone else hanging.  Still frustrating.

My husband and I have been giving each other non-tangible gifts for years; one year it was a whale watching trip, another a day on a sailboat….  There is quite a large Waste Free Holiday movement here in the Seattle area, many vendors even offer discounts for their non-tangible gifts.  There are a lot of great ideas including: dance lessons, sporting events, cinematography classes, spa days, concerts and dinners out.  Unfortunately, these are not cheap gifts; a ride in a hot air balloon can run $200 per person, and while I can give a certificate for an eye brow wax for $18, that’s not exactly an appropriate gift for most on my list.

So what about you?  Have you come up with any ideas for inexpensive gifts that will be actually useful and valued rather than just an accumulation of stuff?

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