I was sitting in my stylist’s chair when I overheard two women talking in the waiting area. One was holding a large white box her friend had given her from a retailer so expensive, the store manager could demand a cover charge and customers would pay it.
“What is this?” the box-holder asked.
“It’s an early birthday present,” her friend responded, clapping her hands as if she had invented gift-giving.
The woman lifted the lid and found a shoebox inside stamped with a logo for a well-known, overpriced designer. I thought please let it be a prank gift where boxes get smaller and smaller until only one tiny box remains and inside that box is a note that reads, “Besties forever!” with a heart above the “i.”
This gift was no joke.
Within the second box, under three layers of tissue, was a pair of multi-colored striped platform sandals high enough to skydive from with a sky-high price to match. (Of course I had to search the store’s website to find out how much she had spent.) The hideous shoes reminded me that money doesn’t always equal good taste.
I’m all in favor of giving gifts, but there has to be a monetary limit. Mine definitely is less than what I would pay for, say, a night at the Four Seasons (which explains why I’ve never stayed there), or a root canal.
My friends and family don’t expect me to spend a small fortune to prove how much I care and I don’t assume they’ll spend a month’s salary on something I’ll never use. If I dropped what amounted to half my mortgage payment on a gift, I’d like to think my family and friends would feel obligated to spend the same amount on a present for me, but instead would pool their money to buy me a gift certificate for a psychological evaluation.
Some of the best gifts I’ve ever received were the ones the giver put time and thought into rather than simply ordering the first item on a morning show’s “Deals and Steals” segment. The gifts have nothing to do with how much the giver spent or where he or she purchased it. My sons in college still make homemade cards for Mother’s Day and my birthday. The effort, sentiment, and occasional drawings they put into each card make their gifts invaluable to me.
Some people don’t wait for a special occasion to exchange gifts, considering that finding a gift-on-demand can be as challenging as discovering your soul mate at a speed-dating event. My significant other and his sister are the perfect example. They purchase random gifts for one another throughout the year. When he spots something he knows his sibling will like, he sends it to her and she does the same.
Normally my sons ask for cash for their birthdays and the holidays, but last year one son requested winter boots and the other a jacket. I spent more than if I had given each one cash, but these were gifts I knew they would use for years. Considering that originally my younger son requested a $250 cooler for tailgating at football games that I vetoed immediately— the cooler, not the tailgating — the boots were a bargain.
As I thought about the two women from the salon, I had to wonder: Are my gifts less valuable if I put more forethought and feeling into them than cash? Does putting more emphasis on cents than sentiment, matter?
Ultimately, I decided no.
Giving a gift is not about impressing someone and assuming he or she will be eternally grateful, (although a thank you note or an email is always nice). Instead, it’s about acknowledging someone’s special day by offering a gift, mailing a card, or simply sending an emoji-filled text. Making that person know how much you value him or her is worth more than anything on a shelf or in an online shopping cart.
But if you’re able to find an expensive gift at a deep discount, good for you. Although you may want to include a gift receipt, just in case.