The Top 10 Practical Christmas Gifts

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For many of us, Christmas gift shopping has become more of a nightmare than a series of pleasant excursions to the local malls and shopping venues. Gone are the days when you've browsed the shops for prettily packaged soaps and bath salts, the latest bestsellers, or next year's calendar or diary. Christmas gift shopping has become more complicated for a number of reasons:

1. Christmas is now big business.

When I was a child, people could expect finding an acceptable Christmas gift for under $ 20. Books, stationary products and bathroom gift packages were always good choices if you did not have the knowledge (or the budget) to buy someone what they really wanted. Everyone seemed pleased by these simple gifts and no one was left seriously in debt after their Christmas shopping spree.

The nature of Christmas gifts has changed over the years from small generic items to more specific choices. Children are given the latest must-have toys, while both teens and adults often receive gadgets and appliances such as iPods, mobile phones, cameras, computers, sound systems and televisions. The cost of the average gift has varies substantively, with the result that we're often able to deal with credit card bills after loading up our cards with Christmas gift purchases.

2. Most people already own whatever they need.

In the age of ready credit, most people tend to buy things as they need them. We're not necessarily talking about big ticket items like cars or big-screen televisions, but items like technology, household items, appliances and clothing. Children and teenagers from upper middle class families seem to be especially well equipped with "toys" of all kinds. As for adults, as long as they're making good money, they tend not to skimp on life's little luxuries (as well as necessities), so you're often hard-pressed to find a gift that they'd actually want but haven 't already bought.

3. Most people have very specific preferences.

Even with small items you can run into problems:

  • Does the book lover in your family already own the latest bestseller? Has he or she moved on from reading legal thrillers to spy novels? The same questions apply to DVDs.
  • Do the women in your family still wear the same perfume, or have they chosen a new favorite scent?
  • If someone uses a calendar or a diary, what type do they prefer? Many people like a specific size or page layout and will not use a calendar or diary that is different.

No matter what the item, do you know the brand or label someone prefers? Most of us are very clear on what we like so it's a waste of your money to buy something that does not fit that category.

My Top 10 Practical Christmas Gift Ideas

So how do you buy for people who, on the surface at least, have everything they need? Here are my solutions after wasting far too much money in the past on Christmas gifts that were not appreciated.

1. Give cash.

Handing everyone a $ 50 bill enclosed in a pretty Christmas card may seem crass but it solves a couple of problems. The recipient can buy exactly what they want with the money, plus you've eliminated all the stress of gift selection. Everybody wins. We instigated this system in our family once the children reached their teens.

2. Set up a one-gift-per-person system .

Everyone in the family lists a list of 5 choices (within a specific budget) and places it into a bowl. Each family member then selects one list and buys one item on it. At Christmas everyone gets something they actually want and the expense is kept to a reasonable limit.

3. Give gift vouchers.

If you know someone loves a particular store, buy them a gift voucher from that store. Again, they can purchase an item that they really want.

Unless you know their tastes extremely well, do not be tempted to create some other kind of homemade gift that they'll feel obliged to keep because you put so much effort into it!

4. Make up a gift basket.

Buy an inexpensive basket, some cellophane and a ribbon, then fill the basket with a dozen or so small items. The best choices are bathroom products (check out the person's bathroom first for preferred brands) and food items (check out their cupboards and fridge!).

5. Buy clothing and accessories judiciously.

Unless you know a person's tastes very well, it's difficult to buy clothes for them. The exceptions are items like bathrobes and luxurious underwear, but always keep the receipt so they can exchange the gift if they choose.

6. Buy a membership or subscription.

No, we do not mean a gym membership or something that requires active participation – unless you know the person really wants it. Depending on their tastes, you can buy a membership in clubs like wine of the month, coffee of the month, flower of the month and so on. You can also buy a subscription to their favorite magazine or newspaper.

For children you can buy a series of swimming classes, martial arts classes, etc, that they've requested, or you can sponsor them for an event or field trip.

7. Buy tickets.

If you know someone is a fan of a particular performer or sport, buying them tickets to the next event can be a very appreciated gift. If the tickets are not on sale yet, print up a voucher on your computer that spells out your offer. And be sure to follow through!

8. Give a travel voucher.

This is more suitable for a romantic partner or spouse. Book a surprise weekend getaway but be sure the dates are convenient. If it's too early to set the dates, create a voucher on your computer and honor it.

9. Give a service voucher.

Create a service voucher for items such as an annual spring-cleaning or monthly gardening service for an elderly relative, a series of massages, romantic dinners, etc, for a spouse or partner, and so on. You can do this for any task, and either perform it yourself or outsource it.

10. Give them exactly what they want.

If you've checked with other friends or family members and you know FOR SURE that someone has been pining after a particular item, providing it's within your budget, buy it! It's not often you get an opportunity to please someone like this.

So rather than searching online for a one-size-fits-all list of the top 10 Christmas gifts this year, take a step back and consider what the people in your life already have and / or really want. Then choose something that fits their wants and needs as well as your budget.

Happy Christmas gift shopping!



Source by Marguerite Bonneville