Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Gift Buying Traps – Don’t Fall In!

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

Perhaps you’re rushing about, buying some last minute gifts and stretching your brain to figure out what to purchase. Beware! There are gift buying pitfalls that you should avoid. They’re the route to clutter for the recipient and likely a waste of money for you. Read before you buy!

Trap One: Here Comes Another One, Just Like the Other One

Susie enjoys her subscription to Better Homes and Gardens, so she’d surely enjoy a subscription to Good Housekeeping as well. Leslie has a life-figures drawing book that she really enjoys. Surely she’ll enjoy another book and maybe an additional set of pens to go with it. The girls enjoy their set of wooden “paper” dolls, so I’ll get them another set, as well – maybe two because Look! How cute!

We are so easily swayed by this idea that if one is good, two is better, and three is best of all. Really? How about one is enough, two is too many, and three is way too many? I have a piece of garden art made by two local women that I absolutely love. I can see how it would be tempting to get me another piece – it seems like an easy way to a successful gift. But I love my piece. I think another would dilute the pleasure I regularly get from looking at this piece.

This is an especially easy trap to fall into if someone is a “collector.” How easy it is to buy yet another shot glass, Hummel figurine, or character salt and pepper shaker? Does the recipient really love these items, or has everyone gotten so used to giving them as gifts that it’s just become the thing to do?

Think twice before you purchase duplicate items.

Pitfall Two: The Thematic Gift

A theme-related gift can be the biggest mistake of them all. A girlfriend of mine is an avid gardener, and her sister gave her what must have been one the ugliest lamps ever with a garden scene as the base to commemorate her love of the out-of-doors. The sister was so pleased and excited, and my friend was so horrified that she lied and said that, sadly, the cat had knocked it over and broken it rather than confess that she’d returned the lamp as quick as she could.

A love of dogs does not equal the desire for a dog figurine. An enjoyment of travel does not equal an enjoyment of a souvenir t-shirt, especially one commemorating someone else’s travel.

Be careful when you follow the path of a theme; it’s easy to lose your way.

Pitfall Three: She loved it when she saw it at Franny’s house!

I love having fancy coffee drinks made by my friend Steve. But if Steve bought me a snazzy coffee maker like he has, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I do the once-a-month coffee he makes for me. In fact, it’s the companionship of him making coffee for me that makes the coffee twice as good. Clearly, I couldn’t duplicate the experience at my house, yet how easy would it be to buy me this gift?

I think parents especially have a hard time avoiding this trap. I know I fell into it many times. Precious so loves playing with the fancy wooden dollhouse at the doctor’s office, that we buy her one for home. She loves the 10,000 Legos her friend has or the mini-trampoline, and we buy, buy, buy. But these toys are not nearly so enjoyed once they get to our house. Anyone else seen this movie?

It took me a long time to learn that it’s okay, even desirable, for there to be something you enjoy and not own it. That’s not part of our US culture, which tells us that if we like something, we should own it. But, really, it’s OK.

So, still have shopping to do? I may have just made your shopping trip more complicated, but I hope I’ve made your decision-making process a more successful one as well.

Today’s Declutter Item

These cards were all handmade samples from a card swap I used to participate in at one of the craft stores I worked in in America. They kept getting passed over in preference for other more suitable cards. I finally decided that they were never going to get used so I packaged them up and sent them off to the thrift store.

Craft Clutter Be Gone

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Jamie Oliver’s ~ My Favourite Curry Sauce.  C’est très bon.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Great post. I remember in the remake of the movie “Sabrina”, she tells Harrison Ford that “More is not better, it’s just more”. It really got me thinking years ago about this. We think the bigger house is better, and don’t think about the extra utility bills or the extra house cleaning or the extra money for furniture, etc. When there is a Buy one, Get one free sale, we buy twice as much instead of buying less and saving money. When we get “more” for our money, we tend to eat or use more it seems. It seems like the more presents under the tree, the better the Christmas. But, we don’t stop to think that if we just bought less, we could enjoy the ones we have more and save a bunch of money in the process. It is hard though, since mom is the one who makes the magic. We went on a trip last year for Christmas and that was our Christmas present to our kids. No gifts from us, other than the trip. I loved it and they did too. The kids each drew a name and they all had one gift to open. We played games and went to the beach and did other things together and had a great time. They remember roasting marshmallows and making smores on the beach. Who knows if they would have remembered what they got if we had given presents. We get so busy in all the preparations sometimes that we forget the real meaning of Christmas. Santa gets more attention than Christ, and the gifts get more attention than the reason why we even celebrate Christmas.

    • Your last line reminds me of an ancounter I had at the bank the other day. The nice man who often helps me asked, “Do you have all your shopping done?” A perfectly civilized and typical comment, yet I felt irritated. I thought, “Is my heart ready for Christmas? Have I made a home that feel welcoming? Have I remembered the Lord?” Even, “Is all your baking done?” would have sat better with me at that moment.

  2. Thank you, Cindy. I’ll keep this in mind.

    You reminded me of some childhood gifts I hated the moment I received them: I had a much beloved teddy bear and consequently, one year I wished for a baby buggy to push him in and another year for a seat for him which could be fixed to my bycicle. I got these – but each time, I got a new doll with them. First thing I did was to pull the new doll out of the seat and throw it onto the floor. Obviously, I didn’t like those new dolls sitting in the seat/buggy I wanted for my teddy bear. I’d have liked the gifts far better without the dolls.

  3. This is a good post Cindy. My mother and I have a difference of opinion over things like this. She wants to either give something to add to the clutter or some type of food item that no one needs to be eating. I try to think of things I know someone will like or a gift card to a store I know they will like. Most of the time though, I try to not give a gift at all. I’d rather take someone out to eat or provide them an experience.

  4. Also, at Franny’s house, she might have just complimented the new kitchen doo-dad to be polite and she didn’t really think it was useful or clever at all 🙂
    So a) be careful about false compliments and
    b) double check if you are buying a gift based on the compliment s/he gave to Franny 😀

    • Aha – I was thinking the very same thing, Cat’s Meow!

      • Me too! I was like, how many times have I said ‘oh that’s lovely’ just for something to say to compliment a host!!

        • We “scored” a wedding present that way. I looked round my to-be relatives-in-law’s not-very-appealing lounge the first time there, and, at some stage, trying to keep conversation flowing, admired their “unusual” coffee table. Yes, we were given an identical one! Beware compliments of “unusual”, “interesting” and “unique” – they may not really be compliments. 24 years on and living in the same city, we still have it – it is useful, and the only coffee table I own, I don’t dislike any more, but I couldn’t rave over it!

    • My friend with the ugly lamp started using this phrase regularly, “What a lovely X, although I wouldn’t want it for myself.”

  5. Great points for me to keep in mind as the deadlines loom, Cindy – thanks.

  6. so very very true!
    I love seeing a rainbow, and I have one crystal in a sunny window that makes them in my dining room… BUT I DO NOT LIKE RAINBOW-COLOURED “THINGS” (very clearly I don’t because of the caps typing). I like rasberries fresh from my garden, but I don’t like raspberry flavour… etc, etc.

    Unfortunately I can relate to the temptation to get the “complete set” of her favourite toy for my neice for Christmas… even though I know from my own boys that the one or two faves are all they play and the rest collect dust.

    • I think another problem with Christmas is that there’s a deluge of gifts than nothing until the child’s birthday. (Especially a problem for children with December or January birthdays.) Maybe if the complete set were delivered one piece at a time over a number of months, everything would be played with.

  7. Another great post and oh so true! I loved, and have fall for, all three pitfalls but right now three resonated with me the most. I was just asking Steve the other day whether he ever remembers, from childhood, receiving less or more gifts than friends or even ever making the comparison. Neither he or I could remember such a time. I said the beauty of a friend receiving different gifts to me was that when we played at each other’s houses we got to play with different things. Things just seemed like more fun at other friends houses because you weren’t playing with them all the time at home. The novelty would have worn of much quicker if you owned the item.

    This is the reason we don’t buy a fancy coffee maker. The novelty of a nice cappuccino would soon wear off if we had them all the time. Going out to have one is 50% of the enjoyment factor. Anything that leaves you wanting more is always far more enjoyable than things in abundance.

    • We have a zip line in the backyard. My children rarely use it, except when their friends are over. Then it’s such a novelty item for the other kids, that everyone gets out and has a great time with it. One neighbor even called it “the kid attractor.” If every kid had a zip line, none of them would use it.

  8. I really enjoyed this post. It hit home for me in so many ways. I have done all of the above in the past, especially in regards to my daughter and myself with clothing. One pair of black pants was really useful in my wardrobe, I may as well have ten ! Thank you, I will reflect back on this many times.

  9. Cindy, I wish I’d read this post when my children were small! I’ve come to this realisation slowly over the years, but after falling into the trap many, many times. My downfall has always been books, and used to think that if my daughter loved a series of books (readily available at the library) I MUST buy her the complete set. Actually, the joy of the hunt for the set was important to me too, but I’m slowly letting that go.

    • Oh funny, Loretta, because is books is one thing I DO buy all of. My eldest is a voracious reader, and she loves series. She’ll read them all, several times over, so it’s nice to have them on the shelf. She reads a lot from the library too, but the minute she’s read all her library books, she turns back to her series. She’s also gotten a lot of pleasure of being able to loan them to her girlfriends to get them hooked on the same books as her. (Clever girl, then they have something else to talk about / pretend to be.)

  10. Can I second pitfall 2?! I never could get MIL to understand that the fact I love my cats, and may even have a mug with a cat on, does not mean I want cat themed everything! I do remember my mum saying some years ago that yes, she likes owls, and yes, she likes the owl ornaments she has, but please don’t buy her anymore! I’m definitely at a stage in my life where I can appreciate that.

    MIL (and my father too actually) can’t see that more is not better. If something comes with a free gift, you get that rather than the other version. I think it’s a value for money thing (in their eyes, anyway). MIL was also famous for her love of fleece blankets. Buying them for our children, anyway. Does more than 20 fleece blankets sound to many for 3 children?! Asking her to stop didn’t help; she thought it was us being mean because the children would be pleased at the picture on it when they opened the gift.

    • Twenty fleece blankets sounds like an opportunity to help the homeless by sharing the love; that’s what it sounds like to me. I can (maybe) see yearly socks and underwear, but a yearly blanket? We still use a blanket my husband got when HE was a teen. (It is a bit tacky now, but he’s very, very fond of it.) Wow, Hazel, I don’t know what to say!

  11. A friend of a friend once bought (secondhand) two novelty wall vases in ceramics which she displayed in her sitting-room because they amused her. They weren’t a matching pair so they were seen as a “collection” in the making. For each of the next several birthdays and Christmasses, this woman was presented with ceramic wall vases from all and sundry until she had more than two dozen plus, no more wall and was driven to distraction by them. It only stopped when she publicly cashiered them all. It is so true that more isn’t better. I try to give gifts which will be consumed and then gone.

  12. This is why I love Christmas lists, though I know some consider them tacky. Our children make them, with different price and desire levels (and sometimes, yes, the $2 item is at the top!). We know we’re getting them something they will really enjoy rather than having our guess go astray. Even if you are close to someone, you don’t always know their taste, or the secret desires of their heart. Yay, lists!

    • We’re big list makers. I don’t think they’re tacky at all. I think they’re wise. Otherwise, how would my dear husband know that I want a garden hose reel (purchased and installed), rather than a piece of jewelry or some other stereotypical wife gift?

  13. Probably most everyone who is going to read this post has done so, but just in case you’ve made it here to the bottom, I would like to add: If you are buying a gift for a teacher or a religious leader, he or she does not want more cross book markers or scripture plaques or apple-themed gifts. Not at all. He or she wants a bottle of wine, a gift certificate for dinner out, or a donation to the church or classroom.

    • Oh, I second this, Cindy! I am related to a lot of teachers and was room mother for years: gift certificates or wine. The favorite with the teachers I worked with was a gift certificate to a nearby mall — I would put the word out and whichever families wanted to donated whatever they wanted, we got the certificate, the kids signed the card and done! One year the teacher came back after the Christmas sales and showed off the dress and shoes and necklace she had bought on sale; the kids loved it when she wore “their” outfit. She was also a wonderful teacher who had enough teacher and apple based ornaments to fill a ten foot tree (long time teacher) — oh, and she is Jewish;-). But I like the idea of getting something for the teacher personally — one teacher told me that getting a gift card to spend at a teacher supply store made her feel as if the parents did not think she was doing enough for the kids, which I KNOW was not the intent.

      Oh, and my Grandmother used to buy a bottle or two of wine for the nuns at the school in town whenever she made a liquor store stop and she was very popular with them!

  14. Oh Sabrina I had to laugh when I read your post! I remember as a kid my mom would bake a cake or bread for the nuns at the neighborhood rectory? nunnery? She always included a bottle of wine or sherry and the nuns loved it!

    • Convent I think is the word you are searching for Jessiejack. When I was in high school (Catholic) there was one priest who used to flirt with two of the young nun. One day during math class he was being so amorous with one of the nuns that she ran over to the convent to escape him, with him in pursuit of course. We were left alone in the classroom for a short while until the priest came back to leave a message for her on the blackboard. It read “You are the mustard in the ham sandwich of my life!” He then merrily went on his way. When she returned she was so embarrassed. For us girls it was the highlight of the semester.