Personal Finance 

Gifts Are About Feelings, Not Dollars

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How many jewelry commercials have you seen on television in the last week? If you’ve watched any TV at all, the answer is probably at least four or five dozen. Turn on the radio and you can hear the marketing machine going full blast with spots for jewelry and electronics places. Why? Well, because both classes of products are expensive and top on the list of anyone you can think of. However, before you go the easy route and buy something expensive, think about the point of gift giving… not the actual gift itself.

“It’s the thought that counts.” That’s a line that’s thrown around a lot but it really does ring true. Gifts should be about feelings, about putting thought into the act, and by putting forth effort and not just dollars. Ultimately, it’s about making someone happy and not about getting a particular thing or tickets to a particular event.

Why is jewelry? I don’t know if this is sexist or what but these are my opinions, so you can tell me if I’m totally off base here. The allure of jewelry isn’t because women absolutely love having more sparkly things or expensive things or envious things. Jewelry, like makeup and perfume, empower its wearer (male or female!) to feel more beautiful or attractive. When someone feels more beautiful or attractive, it boosts their confidence and their overall demeanor. This isn’t true for everyone, so getting diamond stud earrings for someone who hates jewelry, despite it’s widespread appeal, would be a terrible idea.

So, why are fancy electronics popular? Here’s a bone to throw to primarily (but not entirely) guys and our love of fancy electronics. Guys like fancy electronics because it’s in part a way to show off (that’s also a reason why guys get their girls fancy jewelry, it’s a way to show off), it’s a way to show that they’ve made it so they can spend their discretionary income on something like a TV. While someone may not want to admit it, that’s in some small way a reason for getting that stuff and there’s nothing wrong with that. Another reason is because you want to be able to host your friends at your place and ensure that everyone has a good time. A part of a good time is being able to watch the game or watch the movie and hear the sounds of either, people like to have a good time and people like to be able to provide that.

So, this holiday season, while we’re coming down to the home stretch (it is Christmas Eve after all!), think about the “why” of your gift instead of the “how much” of the gift. There are plenty of frugal ideas that will yield much more in brownie points than another high priced item.

(or this post comes a week too late… oh well, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!)

{ 3 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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3 Responses to “Gifts Are About Feelings, Not Dollars”

  1. Jonathan says:

    There is a societal pressure to “one-up” other gift-givers, another manifestation of the all-powerful drive to keep up with the Joneses, or the Smiths, or the Jacobsens, or anyone else for that matter.

    Personally, I would much rather receive a gift that is thoughtful, useful, and demonstrates that the gifter really knows me, rather than an expensive paperweight that I will lovingly display in the back of the storage closet.

  2. Ryan S. says:

    Well, I admit I do like nice stuff, but being the frugal guy I am, the reason I like that stuff is to see how long I can keep it working. My iBook keeps saying “replace me”, but it’s still going strong at nearly four years old at this point. I’d love to get a new MacBook to replace it, but I’m not sure when that’ll happen (it could be soon, since AmEx is offering me $100 off $1000 at the Apple Store for Business). I love my iPods too, but I use them heavily, and I almost always have one on.

    OTOH, I don’t own a TV. 🙂


  3. Foobarista says:

    We have some rules:

    1. We do “real” presents only for immediate family. When my mom or grandma mention that something broke in the house or something, we note it in the “Christmas candidate” list; we subtly check whether the item got replaced in the meantime. My brother and I just ask each other what we want for Christmas (within budget reason) and buy it; what we lack in surprise is made up for in avoiding deadweight loss. The presents are wrapped and put under the tree, of course, and we’ll always buy each other a few DVDs as well.

    2. When we visit the in-laws in China, we bring back lots of interesting – and cheap – little trinkets, which make for good presents for coworkers and admins.

    3. For my wife and I, we take what some may regard as a coldly rational approach, but one that works: we plan one house upgrade or purchase and announce it at Christmas as our “present” to each other, although it may not actually be done at Christmastime.

    It helps that everyone in my family is quite rational and likes to stick to the “one big, good present” doctrine.

    As for commercials, the ones for fancy diamonds are interesting: even I couldn’t help noticing that every jewelry ad was promoting a S-shaped pendant with a bunch of diamonds in it; doubtless DeBeers was doing its thing. And does anyone actually buy their SO a Lexus or Benz for Christmas? My wife would kill me if I did that 🙂

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