Reader Response: Holiday Gift Guide, Vol. 6, Issue 40

Dear Etiquetteer:

I've read your gift guide for this year and I have a few comments/suggests. Your gift guide is great for those who are not on a very limited budget. If you are, or if you are shopping for that special person who has everything, I have a few suggestions:

1) I know you are not a big fan of the gift card. I, however, love them because I take the time to find out if there might be a remodeling project the recipient might be planning yet just has saved the money to complete it. A gift card to their local home improvement center can be just the thing to complete that project or get that project started.

2) For the couple on a very limited budget and very little time, a gift card to a favorite restaurant and a night of your time to babysit if needed. Sometime that is their only night out whether or not they have kids the couple can afford.

3) There may be that special someone who has almost everything. Get them a gift card for a good bottle of wine or liquor of their choosing if they enjoy such things. Use your imagination.

4) For that elderly person on a limited budget, a gift card to [Insert Names of Big-Box Store Here] can be used for everyday items they may need. A gift card to their pharmacy to assist with their medications can be a blessing. Even a gift card for their local grocery store is greatly appreciated.

5) For children, savings bonds are great. It teaches them to save and invest wisely and it can grow along with them. Also stick in a dollar or more just to give them a little money in their pocket. Gift cards to [Insert Name of Big-Box Store Here] makes those kids feel like they are big.

6) For the elderly that want to remain at home, pay some on their caregiver services if they require them or even yard maintenance services for during the summer. This can give them that feeling of independence.

Just think outside the box. The more creative and individualized the gift, the more meaningful and appreciated. Ask people what they want. If they won't tell you, ask their family, friends, neighbors, or caregivers. Even making some cookies or candy for your shut-in neighbor or just spending a little time with them or those in the nursing homes that their families live away and can't be with them for the holidays. With the economic times like they are, the least gesture of kindness can make this the best holiday season ever.

Dear Giving Lovingly:

Well, Etiquetteer has had to rub his chin thoughtfully contemplating what you suggest. Your heart is so very much in the right place, and if you know Etiquetteer doesn’t really like gift cards, then you know Etiquetteer well!

And why is that? Because gift cards set an expectation that one deserves to get a gift that one wants, when in fact all one might deserve is a lump of coal. And really, Etiquetteer doesn’t think a gift card is that imaginative; in effect, it’s like giving in and saying, "I have no idea what to get you, so here’s some money that just isn’t cash." One also wants to avoid making the recipient feel like he or she is receiving charity. A gift should make one feel special; not that one looks like one needs help paying the bills.

Some of the other situations you describe could be addressed more imaginatively with a gift basket rather than a gift card. For the elderly, why not fill a beautiful basket with everyday necessities and a few gourmet treats and wrap it all up with a big shiny bow? Or for the person who has everything, a basket of holiday greens or other plants?

But for the family on a limited budget or undergoing a home renovation, a gift card to dinner and or the cinema (plus babysitting services) or a home improvement shop could be the perfect gift to give. And as an early recipient of savings bonds, Etiquetteer can vouch for their resulting long-lasting gratitude.

Etiquetteer was so glad to see you mention homemade holiday treats. Tins of cookies and other goodies should always be welcome in season. Really, Etiquetteer doesn’t know how he’ll face Christmas without Mrs. Keith’sincomparable shortbread hearts!

You may be surprised to learn that Etiquetteer isn’t a fan of asking people what they want for presents. It can lead to disappointment if you can’t find what they ask for, if it’s more than you want to spend, or if you just plain decide to get them something else. But detective work with mutual friends and relatives is fair game and very instructive.

Etiquetteer wants to thank you for your generous and well-meant thoughts. Would that everyone could be so Perfectly Proper!

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