It’s the Thought That Counts…

Christmas time is fast approaching and that means the shopping centers are quite full and will be for the next 6 weeks as people flock to buy gifts for family and friends. I have never been a fan of Christmas shopping. I have always loved giving presents; I love the look on the faces of loved ones as they open them. It is a wonder the amount of joy to be had from the act of giving, but in order to get to that moment requires a lot of thought. That, my friends, is the hardest part and that is why sometimes I don’t like Christmas shopping.

My wife and I have for the past two years taken a weekend in October to go Christmas shopping, but this year our schedules have not permitted the usual trip. We did go to the mall this weekend, however, but we have not yet made an appreciable dent in the list of gifts to get. We have gotten some, but the list still seems long.

My mother has always admonished me to shop all year long so that I wouldn’t have to pay for the gifts all at once and to take advantage of periodic sales throughout the year. I tend to procrastinate however and while I like browsing, shopping for others requires a lot of effort. You have to think about what that person would like, what interests they have at the time (because, let’s face it, some people change hobbies like they change underwear) what’s new and interesting and, of course, how much to spend.

I mean, if it is perceived you spent x on this family member, then you need to spend the same on that family member. This is especially true with teenagers. Toddlers and infants are easy. An education toy like a leapster or maybe a Disney toy is common, but in reality, the kid would rather play with the packaging that the toy itself. Adults, however, are the biggest challenge. The more the years go by, the more difficult shopping gets.

Sometimes you have a relative for whom it is easy to shop. You simply get a tie, or a pair of slippers, or a book and you’re set. For years my older sister and I traded holidays that we would get our dad a gift card for books-a-million. I always bought him a can of Planter’s cashews as a stocking stuffer. House shoes were another staple gift. Yes, dad has been the easy present to buy.

My wife is actually not the hardest to gift to get. I don’t know if it is because we are so in synch or because we talk, but I usually know what to get her. I have had to think hard on a few gifts, and aside from one misstep with dance dance revolution, I think she has been pretty satisfied with the gifts I have gotten her.

The most difficult is usually my younger sister or my mom. The two of them usually require the most thought and leave me doubting the first and second gift choices I make before I finally find the gift I want to give them. Find a blouse here, or a pin there, or a makeup case or the Mickey Mouse commemorative pen holder, but which one to buy? It gives me a headache just thinking about it.

I know I bring the stress upon myself by second guessing the gifts I buy, but I want them to be the right gift. Sometimes I wish I didn’t care about it. I could just buy a gift card and be done with it (and sometimes I have given gift cards, but only when I knew what kind of gift to give, but not what title such as iTunes or Best Buy cards), but I like to make a gift count for something. There is something about getting a gift that shows the thought behind it that gives the gift its power. It’s what makes the axiom “it’s the thought that counts” relevant.

When I was a kid, I had something like 5 bucks to get my mom a gift. I went to the store and the first thing I saw was the comic book rack and it had a book or two I wanted. So I figured out how much I would have left over and bought a small plastic trinket that matched the price and bought my comics. The look on my mom’s face when she saw that gift cured me of that degree of selfishness. I don’t think I have ever seen such disappointment since. Maybe that is why I stress about what gift to give now.

Whatever your traditions, remember that no matter how much you spend, no matter who you buy for, to think about how that gift will be received before shelling out your money. It really is the thought that matters.

Now excuse me while I try to figure out what I’m getting who this year. Anyone have an antacid and an aspirin?

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