The funny disease.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Cursed Tongue Guide to Tightwad Gift-Giving

Happy Black Friday!

It’s once again that special time of year when you have to not only see people that you’ve been avoiding all year, but put down cash money to give the gift of, “Oh, isn’t that lovely?” I hear that the going rate for proving your love to family members at Christmas is $50. If we’ve learned anything from the myriad of
Christmas Carol rip-offs, it’s that Christmas is about much more than buying the affection of others, unless you’re rich, like Ebenezer. Then you better fork over or people will just think that you’re trying to take it with you. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Bill Gates can manage it, but I think it will be a while before that camel tries passing through the needle.

If you can’t be Bigspender Moneybags, you don’t need to accumulate rib-crushing debt to show that your loved ones that you care. For those of you who still don’t seem to get it, credit card companies are not really doing you a favor by carrying your balance month to month. They are charging you interest. Eventually, the Hickory Farms gift basket you charged in order to impress your in-laws will cost you as much as new condo. Trust me, that doesn’t mean you should have bought them the condo in the first place.

Thoughtfulness is your best bet if you can’t throw cash at the gift problem. Anyone can give Aunt Gertrud a big screen TV, but who would think of getting her the slipper socks that she always wanted. What is your giftee interested in? What are his/her hobbies? Conversations that may have bored you to tears at the Thanksgiving table may have held valuable clues to giving someone something they may accidentally like. You have to pay attention; did Grandpa using an electric knife that you’re pretty sure was a prototype to carve the turkey yesterday?

I was at my Grandma’s house one day, sitting in her recliners when a spring bit me on the ass. Now, there was no way I could afford to buy new chairs on my own, which brings me to my next tip: Go in on gifts with others. I passed the idea along to family members and luckily my cousin, the Honorable Super Organizer Wonder Woman in the family took charge of all of the plans. (So I got out of that one. Teehee.) We divvied up the cost of the chairs, and Grandma and Grandpa got comfy recliners that they seem to enjoy.

If you have lots of giftees spread all over the country sometimes it’s cheaper to mail order an item and have it shipped to its final destination. Or you could move by your Mom and she can send all of your gifts along with hers.

If your budget isn’t too tight, you may want to check out sending a caseload of something that the givee loves. For many things this is not as cost prohibitive as it sounds, and it will have a big impact on the recipient. My parents once got a caseload of Pirate’s Booty for a reasonable sum, and they shipped it for free. Just make sure that it’s something that has a shelf life similar to that of Twinkies. Or you could get boxes of nostalgia candy for under $20. I’m sure that any older relative would love to sink their dentures into a sweet piece of Bit-o-Honey. If you’re visiting them for Christmas, candy has the added benefit keeping people quiet for a while.

I learned something recently that was frankly, kind of surprising. Toys are cheap. It seemed that last time I was paying attention to that kind of thing they were expensive. At first I thought it was merely the change in my perception that came about from earning more than $10 a month. But through various pieces of information that have come my way, I’ve learned that toys are, in fact, cheaper then they used to be. The price of plastic fell and manufacturing is also cheaper. I.E. they aren’t paying the Taiwanese children that work in their factories enough so that they are able to buy shoes. If you’re callous enough that barefoot Taiwanese children doesn’t bother you, you could put together a “Forever Young” gift basket for those people in your life who don’t ever seem to grow up. Like your little brother, and his wife. Get a plastic basket, stick in some Silly Putty, a Slinky, some Monkeys in a Barrel, and some candy.

That brings us to the little tykes on your list. Kids are the best people to give gifts to. I once gave a baby cousin a mini bean bag horse for his birthday. It was in my cereal, for all intents and purposes, it was free. And that kid received about a billion presents that day, but darned if he didn’t carry the bean bag horse around with him all day. Just this year the
cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. I don’t recommend giving a kid a beautifully wrapped empty box, though. It may seem funny at the time, but trust me, you’ll feel like a big jerk.

If you don’t mind stampedes, another good tip is to brave the crowds of Black Friday to get $3.44 DVDs at Wal-Mart, and other such fantastically unpassupable deals. (Okay, I made up a word, but you know what I mean. You try being clever during a tryptophan-induced stupor.) Of course, if you’re sitting around reading this, you’ve probably already missed the best before noon deals, and all of the good stuff is probably gone. Well, you didn’t really want to be trampled by venomous middle-aged women with bargains on their minds.

If you’re still stumped about what to get for someone special on your list, I hear that everybody needs a lint roller. Maybe it was on a web site selling lint rollers, but I don’t feel compelled to argue with that wisdom.

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