Thursday, 17 November 2011

Scott Keenan's Guide to Gift Giving

I’m going to start this post by admitting that as an incredibly selfish person, I don’t have this mastered at all. As the Christmas season approaches I thought I would share some tips and tricks that I have picked up in hopes that I can get some help from the tens of people who read this blog. I always try to pick a gift that has some thought put into it, because those gifts are generally less expensive. This is difficult as I’m not really a very thoughtful person. Also, you don’t want to get something too thoughtful, because some sentimental people tend to cry…I don’t deal well with that.

Don’t waste your time thinking about what the child wants. They’d be happy with a couple boxes to build a fort out of. Until a child is 5 or 6 the gift is really for the parents. You might think this gives you a free ride on gift-giving for a few years. Have you even been to a baby shower? When it’s time to open the gifts, the women stop eating and form a “shame-train.” First the gift is opened in front of everyone, and the expecting mother hands it around for everyone to “get a closer look at” or “judge.” At a baby shower it’s easy to fly under the radar with a gift card or a combination jumpers/baby-blanket package, but at Christmas, you have to step up your game.


Books – Don’t buy ones the kids will read by themselves. The parents will tire of them quickly. Buy something that a 6 year old would read, so the parents can read it to them. It’ll definitely get read (provided the parents do that kind of stuff) and at the very least it will be more entertaining for the adults.

Brand-name baby clothes – Nothing says “I have a gay uncle” like a vintage tee and jeans with a lot of distressing.

New age toys for children - They are incredibly over-priced, but have a pretentious explanation to accompany them about how they’re made from all-natural products, or painted with colors that engage the baby and make it smarter so it can grow up to be a genius with ADHD.

Once the children hit a certain age, apparently you have to start thinking about what they like? When they were 3 or 4 you could go into a toy store and tell them you need a gift for a three year old boy and the clerk was all kinds of helpful. When you say seven year old girl they start asking you questions. “What is she into?” After a few minutes of awkward staring you realize this was not a rhetorical question the clerk was asking while he thought about it. “You work at the toy store…you tell me.” Then he gives me attitude like I’m that guy who left his kid in the car with the windows up. Kids this age are weird. All of the toys in their category kind of look stupid and cheap, or they’re out of my price range. Apparently they’ll like a piece of cardboard that has their favorite cartoon character’s face on it…but who knows who that is? A few weeks before Christmas is too late to admit that you don’t.


Classic toys for children – Even if the kid never touches it, the toy will have some camp value that will engage the adults a little bit. Kites, Dominos, etc.


The Elderly
They already have everything. Chances are they also have a storage shed full of the crap you bought them last year. Unless you are absolutely sure they need or want something specific or you can afford to send them on a trip, buy something disposable.

Suggestions: Cards, pictures, lottery tickets etc.

My dad never knows what he wants so every year he gets a combination of leather mittens and/or some kind of flashlight. I pretend it’s thoughtful. He pretends he likes it. We both win. Mothers are obligated to enjoy any piece of garbage you give them. I’ve been looking through her cupboards and replacing low quality cooking tools with higher-end, Paderno-style goods for the past few years. My favorite part is the stuff she doesn’t end up using is given to someone after a few months….last year that someone was me :D Now I’m in the process of finding other things that look like perfectly legitimate presents that could eventually find their way to my house.

My friends that I buy gifts for get incredibly thoughtful gifts. Of course by thoughtful, I mean cheap. Nothing says “thanks for hanging out with me this year” like a crappy Christmas tree ornament with an elaborate story attached to it. They also happen to be my favorite gifts to receive from friends.

If you have friends who thought “Hey, you know what would be a really good idea? Let’s also force our friends to get wedding presents for our New Year’s Eve wedding on top of all of their holiday purchases.” I have some wedding gift ideas below.

… Nope

My rule used to be that because I don’t plan on ever having a wedding where I force people to bring presents, I don’t buy them for other people. I make an exception to this rule when there’s an open bar, because I know I can make my money back. Buy strictly gift cards or something from the registry. If you are thinking of ignoring the registry so you can get them something personal….don’t. You’re the reason people end up with four toasters. You could do something slightly sentimental to COMPLETELY make up for the lack of mentioning them in a blog post ... Congrats Jess and Jimmy.

Ok people, this is the extent of my knowledge. There is just over a month to Christmas and I clearly have no idea what I’m doing. Post comments below or find me on Twitter or Facebook and send me your suggestions. 


  1. Hey! When do we start exchanging useless gifts? Lol.

  2. I really enjoyed my tree ornament with a elaborate story attached to it. I am, though, expecting those post-it notes this year.

    One suggestion I have is to go through old photo albums and give your parents a bunch of pictures they already own but displayed in a nice frame. This would be one of those thoughtful/emotional (cheap) gift ideas.

  3. Post-it notes complete.

    And that is the best Christmas gift idea EVER! I think that's what everyone should get this year.