It all starts out so well. The gift radar turns on in October and by Thanksgiving I've got a great start.
I’ve made a list, checked it several times and even placed a few online orders. But I’m still feeling the pressure of getting the right gifts. Some people just have a question mark next to their name, meaning I can’t make any progress until I figure out what to give. Other people are so easy to buy for that I have to hold myself back.
The way the holiday issues of magazines push last-minute, homemade and inexpensive gifts, you wouldn't think anyone planned ahead, drove to a store and paid retail. They're filled with quick and easy "crafts" that would give Martha Stewart the dry heaves and plenty of ideas for "Great Gifts for Under $10." Yes, it is possible to do all your Christmas shopping at 7-11! But then how will you look those recipients in the eye when you know all their friends have heard the uproarious story of your Doritos gift basket?
I'm all for bargain hunting. Heck, I saved an amazing $74.59 at the supermarket last week using the Club Card and coupons. Of course, they were having a wine promotion that skewed the results. (Hey, I need to stock up for the holidays!) But when it comes to family and friends, it's time to bite the bullet and get something that they can return without being told, "That didn't come from here" or "This item was discontinued in the '90s. Hey, Myrna, come and take a look at this!"
Even if the gifts you receive are obvious pass-alongs, or come from thrift shops, rummage sales or the back of the giver's own junk closet, you can still take the moral high ground with a well-thought-out gift from a real store (on- or off-line) with a gift receipt. Unless you know that the recipient of your gift is into "vintage," you can knit like Monica Lewinsky, or you really can craft with flair, better to skip the homemade approach and do the right thing.
Originally published November 7, 2007