Shopping for the holidays can be challenging: Trying to come up with the perfect seven to 10 items for everyone on your list, making sure each one says “I put an appropriate amount of thought into this, as well as the proper amount of money to communicate that I value you as a human being,” and getting it all done in a few short weeks while working, taking care of your family, eating enough holiday food to gain ten pounds, and making travel plans can make it feel like you need a clone of yourself to get it all done.
Here’s a helpful list of suggestions to make sure you don’t ruin whatever religious or secular holiday you’re celebrating approximately near the winter solstice this year:
1. Start with what’s on sale. Meaningful gifts do not begin in the heart; rather, they begin with items whose prices are slashed just in time for Black Friday. Ask yourself: What item are people punching each other in the face for at Wal-Mart on November 27th? When you find out, buy one for each of your friends and family members.
2. When selecting a gift for someone near and dear to you, don’t think about who that person is—think about who you’d like them to be. A subtle (or not-so-subtle) hint at self-improvement always makes for an awkward moment when the whole family is unwrapping gifts. “I thought maybe you’d like a tweezers so you could put in some work on that unibrow,” or “A lot of women I know have lost weight with these Jillian Michaels DVDs, so I thought you’d like one, too.”
3. If you don’t know someone very well, for example, your son’s new girlfriend or your daughter’s new boyfriend, just get them a gender-specific item. i.e., “Steve, I know we don’t know each other that well, but I figured since you have testicles, you would like a fishing pole/pool cue/socket set,” or “Jen, we thought you could use some scented candles and lotion that is the same color as the candle but is a different scent.”
4. Clothes are always a big hit, because adults don’t like to pick out their own clothes. If you’re unsure what a specific person’s clothing needs are, get them a sweater. Also, try to get the incorrect size, and then it’s like you got them a “bonus gift” of a trip to the mall to exchange it. And then they get to go to Cinnabon too.
5. Buying a gift for your spouse? Here’s one romantic idea: Pick the household chore you dislike doing the most, and buy a gift for your spouse that will make it easier for them to do it instead. Dishwashing gloves, cat litter scoops, and snowblowers all make fantastic gifts.
6. Finding yourself a little short on money? Stop whining and put it on a credit card. The holidays are more memorable when you pay 19 percent interest on all the gifts you bought through the following July.
7. When in doubt, just give them a 5 x 7 photo of yourself in a classy frame. Or some comfy-looking sweatpants or slippers.
8. Remember the “two months’ salary” rule: If you don’t spend at least the equivalent of two months of your take-home pay from your job on holiday gifts, you will ruin everything for your family, who will all feel like Bob Crachit’s kids. If you’ve followed all the above guidelines and still have a few dollars to go before you’ve spent two months’ salary, just get everybody a bunch of socks.