What not to give: Stuff in jars to neighbors (or ANYONE)
“Dear Santa, I want stuff in jars this year. Preferrably stuff that needs to be mixed with other stuff and baked in a size pan I don’t own,” said no one ever. Never. Ever.
Here’s what happens to this jar of exotic mixed bean soup mix or 99% fair trade cacao brownies or pumpkin spiced hamburger buns or whatever. IF, and its a big IF, the recipient’s annoying child (toughen up–each family has one) is present when the jar is handed over there IS a remote possibility it will be baked, simmered, or whatever–if they can read the calligraphy-like font you chose for the ever-so-cute faux chalkboard paint label. If no child is present it will be put at the very back of the Master closet behind badly stained sheets being saved in case of another pregnancy. Don’t believe everything you read on Pinterest, ok?
Give this instead: Some bitterly cold morning, scrape the car windows or shovel the snow or run out with a hot travel mug of coffee to add to the one they’re carrying. Hey, it’s cold! Not a snowy, cold climate? Go over at 5 minutes till “Oh-crap-they-want-dinner-again-today-time” and hand them a freshly made casserole. Don’t worry what their supposed intolerances are. At that time of day they’d serve Lunchables to reclaim sanity. Be nice, throw in caffeine-free pop to drink. Rotting the kids guts is fine, keeping them up all night isn’t.
What not to give: Cheesy kid-made teacher gifts. [No, I do not mean heart-felt sincerely made stuff from children who made them on their own with no input from the parent. I’m talking about those parents force their kids to do and then the parent skips-out on a real gift.]
Yes little Bragson is indeed a budding Picaso. He also has to be told to be quiet 943 times before lunch. This is the teacher who makes your sanity possible. Remember, if this relationship doesn’t workout, you and Bragson will be homeschooling. Enough said. Yes, Mrs. Teacher walks your kids through making you that marvelous hand-decorated fly swatter in colors that clash with everything in your home, but that’s not the issue. The issue is r-e-s-p-e-c-t. This woman (most are women at teacher gift giving age) deserves a real gift.
Give This Instead: While booze would most likely be gratefully accepted, it could cost her her job. Amazon, Staples, Barnes & Noble gift cards (as well as any other place that sells school supplies) are usually the top request from teachers (well, after booze). FULLY PAID day long spa packages are great too, so long as they are in another school district where she will encounter no Mommies from school (make sure to warn the spa so she’s allowed to park her 79 Renault in the parking lot). If you are as badly paid as a teacher, then a sincere, in person, “thank you” is fabulous gift. So, too, are random acts of kindness– Send a fresh cup of coffee (even homemade in a travel mug with your name on it is ok) or pack an extra lunch salad and send it with your child or help out with a thankless task like following up with other parents for field trip permission slips or cutting out 84 construction paper leaves for a bulletin board–ask the teacher what would help though, don’t assume you know.
What not to give: Leftover wedding centerpieces to your Secretary. [You laugh–I got one, a heart candle]. Just as your secretary does not want the perfume your wife or mother-in-law never opened, she also doesn’t want your daughter’s truly ugly wedding dinner table centerpieces. Just no. Your secretary makes your life possible. She covers your you-know-what in so many, MANY ways.
Give This Instead: Cash. Don’t be cheap. 3-year-old’s know that $10 won’t buy anything worth having. No unwanted gift cards, either. Cash. Greenbacks. On a simple card just write “thank you” and mean it, then put in the cash. I like $100 per year of working for you. Above anything your company may give.
What not to give your staff: Tacky company logo-ed Christmas decorations. Just No. That’s just a waste of advertising money and a gift in very bad taste. Ditto t-shirts. Nothing says “we don’t care” like a one-size fits all cheap blend t-shirt or a man’s golf shirt for a women who is 5’1″ and 100lbs. If you want to start a fitness program that is mandatory give out logo-ed Fitbits, not logo-ed bra tops in one-size fits all.
Give this instead: If you insist on giving a logo-ed item give logo-wear appropriate to be worn on the job, in the correct size and for the correct gender. The only other logo-ed items I’ve ever seen appreciated are black collapsible umbrellas.
What not to give to anyone: Re-gifted stuff no one would want.
When to re-gift and how: I don’t object to reasonable re-gifting. If someone brings an unexpected guest with them to your Christmas gift exchange then anyone would rather have a nicely gift wrapped new, XL Charity Run t-shirt or a bottle or unopened cheap perfume (or even something in a jar) than be left out. Likely it wasn’t that person’s choice to crash your party. Savvy women have these stashed somwhere. Ditto saving extra copies of kids books or duplicate games for unexpected kid gifts. Small gift cards to Starbucks or Applebees do the job too. Saving unwanted new children’s everyday-type clothing (not a red velvet dress!) or little unwanted new toys for Operation Christmas Child is fine too.
Get two of that bestseller you and a friend both want to read? Re-gift the extra to her over a cup of coffee and suggest you read it together.
Get something the wrong size, wrong for you but perfect for a friend who WOULD really love it, re-gift it as she helps you take down the tree or before you help take down hers. No need to wrap. Its re-gifted, but she’ll like it. And, your sister-in-law in Cleveland will never find out.
Other ideas instead on when to re-gift instead of returning (i.e. when you don’t want Aunt Bertha to see your return on her credit card statement next month.)
- When you get gift cards you don’t like sell them online–if you feel guilty, give the money to church or charity anonymously.
- When you get perfume you hate, a woman in a shelter might love it–fill a nice purse with that gifted perfume and lotion set and other supplies and donate it.
- Make up a “white elephant” basket and donate it to a silent auction with all the odd-ball, mis-matched gifts you got. Throw in that gift card to the restaurant you hate or that store that is for someone other than you. It’ll sell and you’ll help a good cause.
Remember that women’s shelters and nursing homes usually DO need women’s Mommy-ish nighties or jammie sets, new pants and tops that can fit multiple sizes (elastic waist, knits) slippers and lotion for residents who need them or who have no family to give them gifts. Men’s products–similar.
Shirt and tie you hate? Did you receive another shaving kit or beard trimmer and already have 3? Women’s sweaters or scarves or a purse that aren’t ‘you’? See if a newly released prisoner needs clothing for a job interview. (Check with local parole office or churches with prison ministry or half-way houses–your state department of corrections website has the information) This kind of re-gifting is fine. It fills a real need. And stop worrying about if it can be deducted on your taxes. Give a hand up, you’ll feel better.
Leave a comment with other ideas! I love to get your comments.