Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is It REALLY A Gift?

Now that the holiday season is upon us, the commercials have started in earnest! You have the tear jerkers, the celebretories, the sentimentals,.... all the gimmicks Madison Ave. uses to get us to buy buy buy for every damn person we are acquainted with. Some of the gift ideas I can totally see myself buying for someone, like electronic stuff (not too pricey.), or a nice sweater, maybe a kitchen gadget or something like that, but others..... I just don't get those choices.

* Lottery Tickets: I live in Florida where we have a state lottery and a powerball that works in conjunction with several other states. You have the drawings for big money, and you have the scratchers. This time of year, the lottery pushes the scratchers as a "good" gift to give your mail carrier, teachers, favorite waiters, lawn guys, pool guys, etc etc etc. How it this a good gift? Most of these things aren't big winners. You maybe get your money back for the purchase price of the ticket at most in most cases. (anywhere from $2 to $10.) Say, I go with my family to our favorite eatery and we have dinner. With our family of 5 that will cost anywhere from $50 to $100 depending on the eatery. Instead of a decent tip, I am supposed to believe that giving Joe Waiter a $2 scratcher is ok? And then what if it's a losing scratcher, where it pays out nothing?? Does this convey that my family thinks nothing of the server who has been friendly and personable the whole year? It seems insulting!! I'd much rather add a $20 on top of his 15% and say happy holidays.

*The New Car: All the car companies are showing families wrapping up cars, of all things, and taking mom or dad out to the driveway and "surprising" them with a brand new car. Oh the JOY on their faces as they share in the beauty of fuel injection and leather interiors! How is this a gift? Most people finance their cars for 3 or more years. That seems to me to be the gift that keeps on giving (you bills!) for the next 36 to 60 months! And since most car payments for a new car are running around $499, we're talking $17,000 to $30,000 over the life of the loan, not including maintenance, insurance, and gas. That's a gift? Come on!

*The Cash Card: Now, I was on the fence on this one. Yes, if you don't know what to get Aunt Sarah for a gift, a cash card would be an easy gift choice. Your Aunt could go where ever she wants and use the card to buy what ever she wants and no harm, no foul. I just don't like these for two reasons. 1. As long as it isn't someone close to you, they are ok. If, however, you are getting a cash card for your sister, mom, son, etc... uh-uh. Not ok. Close family should be personal, and your gift selections for them should be just as personal. Don't be lazy and weasel out on doing a little leg work to find out just what that perfect gift they want is. That's part of the fun of gift shopping. 2. Most cash cards have waaaaaay too many service charges attached to them. There are some that charge $.50 to $1.00 per transaction. So if you get a card for $50.00 and you use it 2 or 3 times for $10 or so, you will pay up to $1.00 each time. So you've spent $33 not $30. And those are the low end estimates. Some cards also charge $3 for use at an ATM, $5 for online use, and even $1 to check your balance over the phone!!! OMG!?! How is this a gift? And if the person you gave this to doesn't use the whole amount? Some cards will charge $.50 to $1 every month till the money left on the card is gone. Wow. Thanks for that! That is an awesome gift.

So there you go. I guess you could say this is my "What not to buy" list. I just think gifts that are well thought out, and given with caring are so much more precious.

Happy Gift Giving!


Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to spending time with people for the holidays, rather than STUFF?


Russ said...

Big ol' Blazing Saddles "hurumph" at you! well said.

Finn said...

I agree with you, except for the gift card, with a caveat: The card has to be fee-free. American Express is a good one. My mother gets us these every year and honestly, I look forward to them. I can get things I've wanted for a while rather than getting something that I usually don't really like. Mom tries her best, but this is just easier all around and we all like it.

Blondefabulous said...

ANON: I like that idea! Spend time, not money!

RUSS: Why thank you good sir!

FINN: I remember a spirited debate on your blog a few years back where gift cards were being discussed. And like I said, I was on the fence about these. I guess it just depends on the situation, but I totally agree about the "no-fee" rule!

Ren said...

We have occasionally given gift cards by request, but in general I think they're given just because they somehow avoid the stigma of giving cash. Except for iTunes gift cards -- those are great for teens and kids. :-)