It’s The Thought That Counts…Outdated Gifts YOU Shouldn’t Give

December 23, 2011  |  
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Unfortunately, most people don’t enjoy ripping the wrapping paper off of good intentions.  The holidays are just around the corner and you may find yourself scrambling through the sparse store shelves looking for that gift that doesn’t exist.  If you’re like me, you’ve saved the most difficult people on your list for last and you are now completely panicked and at a loss.  But before you pick up that President Obama Chia pet or the leopard print Snuggie, you may want to save your money for a gift that doesn’t seem…well, so desperate.  Here are seven gifts that aren’t worth the holiday hassle–for you or the prospective recipient:

1.  Gifts That Benefit the House

My mother had a rule in her house that you don’t purchase household appliances as gifts, because they aren’t gifts for people, they are gifts for the house.  Unless it’s a housewarming, or someone specifically asks for a George Foreman grill, save your change.  Everyone has different tastes about what they prefer to display in their home, and chances are, your guess will be way off. The last thing you want to see is your gift sitting in a cupboard collecting dust.

2.  A subscription to anything you won’t foot the bill for.

The gift of satellite TV or radio is no good unless you want to keep on giving every month.  Anything that the recipient has to spend extra money on to enjoy can’t truly be called a “gift.”  When it comes to gift certificates and subscriptions, make sure that you cover any hidden expenses so your recipient doesn’t get any unpleasant surprises like a hefty bill in their name.

3.  Self-help

Last Christmas a close relative of mine was going through a hard time and as I browsed the Barnes & Noble shelves of titles that included “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “How to Be Happy,” I thought about how I would feel if I opened the wrapper to basically a backhanded insult. #ThatAwkwardMoment when someone gives the gift of reassurance that you have issues. The holidays are no time to be reminded about all the things you need to improve. Save that for the New Year’s celebration.

4.  Cash

If your momma gave you any ounce of home training, she probably told you that giving cash to anyone who isn’t a close family member is impolite.  I don’t know what the origin of this etiquette rule is, but I do know that the gift of cash comes across as lazy.  You basically should just write in the card, “We’re close and all but I have no idea what you need for or what might amuse you.”  The ATM shouldn’t be your one stop shop for gifts for loved ones.  It’s impersonal and a blatant flag of commercialism.  You could at least fake some affection or invest some thought into a nice gift card.

5.  Major credit gift cards

Major credit cards like Visa and Mastercard may seem like a good choice since they can be spent everywhere…in theory.  However, American Express is not accepted at many popular retailers and you usually have to pay an extra activation fee, unlike store gift cards.  They’ll also have to find a way to make the most of the limit on the card since many of these cards do not allow the user to reload more money, leaving them with that annoying $3.20 cents that they’ll probably never be able to use.

6. Cheap make-up kits

The only time this would be considered acceptable is if you have a teenager who you’ve finally decided you’ll allow to experiment with makeup.  Since she’ll be learning about looks that work for her, it’s okay to give her something to experiment with.  However, if you’re dealing with a cosmetics connoisseur, you can expect your gift to end up in their closet all the way in the back.  No shade to those drugstore all-in-one kits, but you get what you pay for, and that’s makeup with little to no coverage that doesn’t last and doesn’t translate well on all skin tones.

7.  Food items or Gift Cards to Restaurants

Last year, I had the interesting experience of working with a bunch of vegans. As I stood in an aisle avoiding nutrition facts including danger words like “dairy,” “eggs,” and “honey,” it occurred to me that I didn’t want anyone to sacrifice their beliefs because I was too lazy to read a label.  People’s palettes are as varied as their opinions.  So if you are left with no option, keep it safe with a Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks card if you know someone who really, really likes Coffee Coolattas and “Everything” bagels.

8.  Movie Box Sets

In a world of Netflix and, the box set is quickly becoming a bother.  No one wants to carry all six seasons of Mad Men in their airplane carry-on when they can access their Netflix account with the touch of a button on their phones, laptops and TV (and even game system).  Unless you’re looking for a vintage show or you know someone like me who is a die-hard fan of The Office and needs a collection to display underneath my flat screen, save yourself some time in Best Buy and put it towards helping a friend discover the big bright world of Hulu.

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