Skepticism

AI: Holiday Shopping

It’s that time of year again.  The airwaves are full of ads, trying to convince you that if you don’t buy their particular product as a gift for your loved one, you are a bad husband/wife/sibling/child/human being/etc.  I especially hate jewelry ads.  I suppose this quantification of love as a direct derivative of the amount of money spent is an inevitable result of living in a capitalist system, but I still hate it.  I’m much happier to get a cheap, yet thoughtful gift that shows someone knows me than something so expensive it’s going to break the bank of the person giving it to me.  Then again, some people enjoy lavishing gifts on their loved ones, and to them, this is an important part of the holiday season.

What kind of holiday shopper are you (if you celebrate at all)?  Do you prefer to give small, but meaningful gifts, or do you go for the big stuff?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

tip o’ the santa hat to mully410.

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37 Comments

  1. Small but usually meaningless. My family is the type that buys what it wants when it can, so by Christmas time, all that’s left is DVDs put on order on a whim, or things that are well out of my price range.

    Except for my nieces. They get spoiled.

  2. I am definitely in the small but meaningful category, primarily because I never have any money (thanks to my nasty addiction to regular meals and having a roof over m head).
    But it’s not a bad thing. you have to pay close attention to the person to choose the right gift, but I’ve found they enjoy the gift all the more because it shows someone has been paying attention.

  3. My family doesn’t really treat the whole gift giving to seriously. Birthdays typically go without any gift-giving or we give practical gifts. Christmas is a little more special, but than we just give each other what they tell us to buy them or gift-cards. Unfortunately for me, people outside the family tend to frown on this approach and it has gotten me in a little trouble with those who expect a little more effort.

  4. In my family we all tell each other what we want, so they tend to be mid-priced but appreciated gifts. I also tend to buy small things that I think people will like months in advance; for example, I saw a pair of $10 earrings over the summer that looked like exactly the sort of thing my sister would wear. I’m almost done my shopping, and the ones I haven’t bought yet I’ve mostly decided on.

  5. I hated Christmas shopping when I celebrated Christmas because I was young and broke and never really saw much of my family. Thus, I had many people I didn’t know that well to buy things for, but with very little money. I also never liked the “you got me something, so here’s your gift” tradition. I’m so glad I don’t celebrate, now. Occasionally, for people I know well and truly appreciate, I’ll get something (or make something), but I don’t feel obligated to and don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t expect presents, either, and pretty much everyone I know is aware that I am not religious and don’t celebrate Christmas. People that insist on gift-giving because “that’s what you do on Christmas!” annoy me, even those I like. They never seem to question it, and I’m tired of getting useless crap that takes up space. (Coffee mugs should be filled with coffee, not with Hershey’s Kisses – just get me a bag of candy and call it a day.)

    I have never liked lists, either. I guess it makes sense for kids, but I don’t want to tell you what to get me – it seems outside of the spirit of gift-giving and makes me feel uncomfortable. If you don’t know me well enough to think of something I’d like, then don’t get me anything. Really, I won’t be mad. I promise.

    Besides, I have always preferred handmade gifts, particularly the edible kind. I’m pretty easy to please.

  6. We have nieces and nephews, so we buy for them. I try to buy cool toys and nerd stuff. I don’t put too much effort or thought into others’ gifts though, I just buy what they tell me they want. I would rather just donate Newtonmas to DonorsChoose, but we haven’t been able to convince the whole family of that yet… Luckily, my husband and I stopped exchanging gifts long ago, so that stressor is gone for us. That way, we can just buy stuff we want whenever and not have to worry about returning things we didn’t like or anyone feeling badly about it. At least, that’s how he tells the how-he-wound-up-with-a-Corvette story, anyway.

  7. I’m all about meaningful gifts! not just for xmas and birthdays but throughout the year.

    I read there’s 5 ways people show and accept love most people have a major two. Those 5 are gifts, time, telling, touching, doing.

    I’m a gifter and timer for my showing sense, I prefer time and touching (touching includes everything from handshakes to sex)

    But yeah, I rock at finding meaningful gifts.

    PS If I ever get a COTW my question will be what of the five are your top two for both giving and receiving.

  8. I go with a balance: something that they want or are interested in with what I can afford.
    Jewelry ads always make me think of the Ron White bit:
    “Recently I saw something that comes close to ‘truth in advertizing’. The DeBeers people’s slogan used to be ‘Diamonds Are Forever.’ Then it became ‘Diamonds: Take Her Breath Away.’ Now it’s ‘Diamonds: Render Her Speechless.’ Why don’t they just come out and say it? ‘Diamonds: That’ll Shut Her Up….For A Minute.'”

  9. My husband’s family used to do stocking stuffers for each other and one or two larger gifts. This totaled about $50 to $75/ person (small family). Last Christmas season we spent a week in Ethiopia adopting our son. The poverty was beyond words, and it changed my view of Christmas forever. My husband and I realized that we truly have all we need, and then some. We have decided to make the holiday season a time of family and tradition (the tree, the baking, the Santa photos, the turkey). Our experience in Africa has taken the allure out of the orgy of gifts and consumerism that Christmas had become.

    We contacted the family and suggested a new tradition, small stocking stuffer gifts (about $20 max) and the rest of what would be spent on bigger gifts to be donated to a charity that works in Africa, and we would do the same for them. This includes our 2 year old son. A few small toys (or one bigger one if they pool their money) is more than enough for him. He’s certainly not hurting for toys! I’m hoping that as he gets older he’ll realize the importance of helping the less fortunate, and helping the people in his birth country is important to us. I did a bit of research and presented the in-laws with a list of 4 good, reputable NGOs working in the Horn of Africa. Luckily they were all receptive and support the idea.

    We also help out at home and want to involve him, at an age appropriate level, with local charities too. I don’t think it’s ever too early to teach charity and kindness, especially at Christmas.

  10. The company the Biophysicist works for does an angel tree every year. This year, it’s for seriously ill kids. That kind of shopping I truly enjoy doing, because I believe firmly that small children in dire straits should be given all the shreds of happiness possible. We also do Toys for Tots and give to the Pediatric Aids Foundation. And to the local kitten rescue people. [And I think the BP has signed us up for nursing motherless kittens. I have created a monster cat lover…]

    Otherwise, we mention things to each other and check everyone’s Amazon wish list. The Offspring is always made happy by iTunes gift certificates, the BP always has a slew of books he craves and I’m pretty much the same. This year, tho’ we bought ourselves a new and expensive bed, so gifts will be small, but meaningful. Unless Ikea has a really good sale on Billy bookcases.

  11. I buy food and booze, my wife takes care of everything else. I’ll do some shopping for small things for my wife, but we try and make getting together with family and friends and some great meals the center of the festivities.

  12. To my very religious family, saying “Please just donate to a secular charity in my name” is sort of like saying “Would you mind joining Satan and Hillary Clinton for ménage à trois this evening?” So, naturally, I say it every time they ask what we want for Christmas.

  13. I buy things that people will enjoy. My mom got the 3 disk queen compilation and she loved it. I also sent her Abba because I felt that it was her kind of music.

    My last girlfriend loved Singstar and I hated how my voice sounded, but I bought 2 of them anyway even though I didn’t like the music, then I loaned her my favorite console so that she could enjoy them when I wasn’t there. She broke up with me to go out with someone else.

    My previous girlfriend before that LOVED Rocky Horror Picture Show so I bought her the DVD, and when she pointed out a rainbow colored belt with butterflies on it, and how much she wanted it, I paid for it even though I was jobless and hurting for cash.

    I’m the kind of guy who will get what ever thoughtful gifts that I can afford, and essentially I give until I get hurt. I don’t give until it hurts, I give and give, and rarely get anything in return. I give to make people happy. Something most people can’t quite comprehend.

    For some reason making people happy is the really the thing I love most in life.

  14. I dislike shopping anyway, and haven’t really bought anything on Black Weekend Without End in several years.
    Put me down for “homemade, edible and/or the gift of time spent doing stuff together.”
    The gift of silliness is always welcome in my circle.

  15. Well today I gave a friend a whole bunch of little baggies of spices for his birthday because the only thing he cooks with is dried chili peppers haha. I like to get things that are meaningful, but I also love spoiling people.

  16. I was going to buy Assassins Creed II for my mom, but it won’t be out for PC before Christmas, so now I don’t know what to do. I loathe shopping, so for the last few years I’ve done it as late as possible and bought somewhat thoughtful trinkets.

    My main problem is that my thought processes go like this:
    1. Here’s something interesting/pretty.
    2. Will X like it? Hmm, I’m not 100% sure.
    3. Does X need it? Definitely not, like almost everyone in the western world X has too much stuff already.
    4. Do I have time to look for something else?

    By postponing my shopping as long as possible the answer to 4 becomes “yes” all the time, and I can actually get the experience over with.

    Also I’ve cut down on the number of people I give gifts to.

  17. We do nothing at all. Scrooge is a mushy sentimentalist compared to us.

    My wife made the mistake of trying to get the weekly shopping done last Friday. Since, of course, we don’t bother with giving thanks either, we didn’t realize about the day after thanksgiving shopping.

    That, coupled with the boys acting up, made for a pretty crappy day out shopping.

  18. My husband and I declared a holiday shopping moratorium a few years back. If I cannot make it, they do not get it. And it has the added bonus of culling our list – if someone bitches about getting a handmade scarf or plate of cookies, they get dropped.

  19. I should mention that I’ll occasionally buy something for someone at any time during the year if I see something that makes me think “Ooh! X would really like this!”.

    I may sometimes call such an item an Arbitrarimas present.

    Arbitrarimas is an ancient holiday that I invented some years ago. Arbitrarimas is celebrated every so often at varying intervals. Arbitrarimas traditions include going out for a meal or not as your fancy pleases you and giving presents if you feel like it. It’s my favorite holiday!

  20. I make stuff. Last year people got hand knitted dish cloths and homemade soap. This year I plan to knit up a pile of string-style grocery bags. Oh, and socks. I knit lots of socks. I joined the Sci-Fi Sock Club via Etsy and got some great sock yarn inspired by Babylon 5 and Firefly. So some of the geeks in my life will get extra-nifty socks.

    When I buy gifty-type stuff I shop at a local Fair Trade store for functional items. Or books. I try to shop local

  21. I really love gift giving. I like to give gifts people will really want/use. I’ve gotten pretty good at it I think.
    I’m careful with how much I spend because I have multiple people to buy for but I don’t intentionally look for cheap things. I usually go about $20 per person.
    and since my dad is christian but my mother is jewish, I purchase two presents for my sister. Hannukah and christmas.
    But since my friends are just as nerdy as I, I usually say ‘that is something that is cool’ and buy it for them. Like action figures. Half of my presents this year take the shape of action figures.

  22. I’m an atheist. That means that I’m not a Christian. Christmas is a Christian holiday (see the name if there’s any question there). I think that for me to participate in Christmas or any faux Christmas-like observances would be hypocritical and an insult to myself, to my friends and family, to Christians, and to other non-Christians.

    I try to behave in a moral and “nice” manner 365.24 days out of the year, and succeed or fail whether it is “the holiday season” or not. I contribute to charities and give money to beggars. I give gifts to people as I run across appropriate items, without regard to a specified “national gift day”.

    This really isn’t a very ambiguous question to me. The response “But faux-Christmas is nice/fun/familial” seems nonsensical to me. How many of you observe the nice/fun/familial holidays of Diwali or Eid ul-Fitr or Losar, despite not actually being an adherent of the religions that originated them?

  23. @guest1999:it’s a fair position to take, and you’re certainly entitled to treat it any way you see fit. having said that, regardless of the name, christmas really isn’t all that christian. most our our so-called christmas traditions come from paganism. well, you say, i’m not pagan, either, so why celebrate a pagan holiday? well, quite simply, because it’s part of the culture i am a part of, and it’s fun and harmless, and i enjoy it.

    i may have to dust off the blog post that’s been living in my head since i heard tom flynn talking about this on point of inquiry last year…

  24. @guest1999: actually it is ambiguous, because nowhere in the AI does it state the word Christmas or name any other specific holiday. The question was about what kind of gifts do you give loved ones and friends, and not about claiming anything about Christmas or whatever other religious holiday.

    As far as what I like to do for gifts, i am normally not one to just go off a list. The more creative and thoughtful, the better :)

  25. I tend to celebrate Solstice more than Christmas (in a purely scientific manner because the day really is fascinating), and I tend to give little inexpensive necklaces to friends and such.

    For Christmas, which I am forced to celebrate with my Christian parents and siblings, I tend to buy them little nicknacks as well- or give them giftcards. They tend to give me a random season box set of a show that I like (Mentalist, Fringe, Doctor Who, etc…).

  26. @guest1999: How many of you observe the nice/fun/familial holidays of Diwali or Eid ul-Fitr or Losar, despite not actually being an adherent of the religions that originated them?

    To be fair, none of my relatives celebrate those holidays themselves, but I do have Christian relatives that celebrate Christmas, so there’s a difference.

    As an atheist, I don’t much care to participate in Christian-themed celebrations, and for the most part I don’t. Our celebrations are mainly secular, despite the religious backdrop. And I prefer to keep the greater family peace, anyway. Some people can get away with cutting out the Christmas celebrations and gatherings entirely. We do not feel this would be possible or appropriate in our family, or worth the hurt it would cause.

  27. @carr2d2 – I’m also not any sort of European-tradition Pagan, so I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to observe Yule, Solstice, or whatever either.

    @Tim3P0 – “nowhere in the AI does it state the word Christmas or name any other specific holiday” – Fair enough, though I think that I’m the only poster who referenced Christmas in their answer. I also did mention that “I give gifts to people as I run across appropriate items, without regard to a specified ‘national gift day’ “, so I might be able to squeak past your criticism there. :-)

  28. I like to buy gifts that i KNOW the person will like or that when i see the gift i immediately think of the person… that makes the gift buying procedure pretty long, and i don’t specially like shopping, but giving the gift and seeing the person’s face makes it worth it…

  29. I will buy people small meaningful gifts if I can think of or find them. Although I will also buy bigger gifts if they’re appropriate, or pool together with some other friends to buy a really big meaningful gift.
    If I can’t think of anything particularly “YOU”, you get a bottle of booze. Depending on how much time I had to go to the store, that may be whatever unopened bottle I happen to have lingering in my own liquor cabinet.

    But I also get to have some vengeance for having a b-day so close to X-mas. I usually either give a birthday present, or a X-mas present. That’s what people always did to me (oh, it’s a present for BOTH occasions). If you don’t get a X-mas present this year, it’s probably because I already got you something for your birthday. The exceptions are usually my mom and whoever I happen to be dating at the time. Although I don’t recall ever having been with a girl long enough to include both events …

  30. I’m a gift giver. I love it. I love knowing what would make someone happy and getting or making that thing for them. That said, I make about 1/2 of my gifts every year and when I buy gifts I usually buy on Etsy and spend around $20 or so. Also, husband and I do not buy gifts for each other as we are saving for a patio and that would be counterproductive.

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