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Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 | 2 comments

How to Avoid Giving Bad Gifts for Holidays

How to Avoid Giving Bad Gifts for Holidays


“In suggesting gifts: Money is appropriate, and one size fits all.”

William Randolph Hearst.

The gift-giving season is almost here, and we will soon be making choices that will either make our recipients happy or simply polite by accepting the gifts that otherwise could be more thoughtfully chosen. Gifts should make both sides happy: we should feel that we give something that the person really needs or would appreciate; the recipient should feel at least comfortable on receiving a gift.

Giving gifts is not a science with set rules and strict regulations. An appropriate gift, even the smallest one, can make one feel content despite its cost or size. However, all of us at least once received a bad gift. We most likely accepted it with gratitude but could never really use it. So, it added to the pile of clutter or we desperately tried to re-gift it hoping that someone would appreciate it more than we did.


How to avoid giving bad gifts? I would pay attention to several points before choosing a gift.

1. Can the recipient start using the gift right now or in the near future? This takes me back to my childhood when my parents gave me clothes a size or two bigger so that I would wear them when I grow up. The problem was that I wanted to wear my gifts immediately…

2. Have their hobbies changed since you last spoken to them? It happens. We start doing something and we stop doing something. It does not hurt to ask.

3. Have their tastes changed? I used to love shopping for a particular brand. Then I switched to a few others. However, one of my friends still thought I was into it. When I received a gift card from this brand, I basically just wasted it for a bunch of stuff just to get rid of the card. Giving clothes is not particularly recommended unless you know the recipient would absolutely love it.

4. Will it be appropriate to give a specific gift card or money? While I don’t think the gift card is a very creative gift, it gives more freedom than a particular item from the store/brand. It may sound even less creative, but you cannot imagine how many people would just appreciate money as a gift these days. Everyone has their own financial situation, and money can be the only thing they would really wish right now. There is nothing wrong in giving money, and you may be surprised how grateful the person can be on receiving money.


What are the examples of bad gifts?

1. Clothes, makeup or perfumes. It regards to people whom you do not know well. The recipient may be allergic to perfumes or simply not like the scent. Or they may be into all organic and natural, suddenly receiving a jar of cream full of parabens and other harmful ingredients… The fact that you love some famous luxury brand and consider it the best does not automatically make the recipient like it. Accessories (purses, fashion jewelry or scarves) may be a better option but again, you should have better knowledge of one’s likes and dislikes in this matter.

2. Re-gifted items. The bad thing about them is that the recipient may guess by their nature they were initially intended for you. Also, if it is a narrow circle of friends, the initial owner may recognize their gift.

3. Items that are contradictory to their current lifestyle. They are the worst if you ask me. Some time ago someone tried to gift me two bottles of liquor. I do not drink, and I was upset since I realized the person spent money for that! I had to refuse. Double check before giving cigarettes or liquor – maybe it is not appealing for the recipient anymore? Of course, if you are coming to the party, and you know people will be drinking there – it is a different story. I am talking about personal gifts.

4. Something that you cannot find use of. It can be a picture frame, a candle holder or some home accessory. If it is not vintage, handmade or rare, it would only clutter someone else’s home.

5. Items that could point at someone’s flaws. It is okay to give an anti-wrinkle cream to a close friend. However, bringing her a weight loss powder could look offensive, especially if given in public. Same goes for gifts for skinny people. If you give a box of chocolate to a skinny person, you should not add anything like ‘you can eat a lot of it – a few extra pounds would not do bad to you’. It is none of your business if the person should lose weight or put on weight. Just say ‘Enjoy’ without mentioning something that they may have already heard so many times. Avoid giving gifts that could belittle other people.

6. A gift that is similar to what the recipient would expect but not exactly. It is a tricky category. Sometimes we want a specific brand, size or an item pertaining a specific characteristic. I remember I needed a specific home appliance, and discussed all the details with someone volunteered to gift it to me. When time came, I ended up receiving a different model with different characteristics. The original one was sold out. While I understand they were out of stock for indefinite time, I would rather wait or get something else.

7. An item that could be of low priority at the moment. All women love diamonds. However, some of us have been wishing for certain items that are less pricey than diamonds but more appropriate at the moment. For instance, in most cases a pregnant woman would rather receive a baby related gift than another pair of diamond earrings.

8. An item once mentioned by the recipient in the past. This one can be a spot-on or a disaster. We heard from our friends how badly they wanted that red purse or that little gadget. When was the last time we heard them drooling over it? You would rather ask if they are still interested. Maybe they already purchased the red purse, or the fashion changed and they have a blue one on their minds.

9. Any religious gifts. While a Buddha statue from TJMaxx or Marshalls may seem innocent to you, you never know what it can mean to other people. One of my friends started practicing a different religion, and I almost got into trouble while trying to give her a Buddha statue. Generalizing, not all Indians would expect a Buddha head. There are other statues of Deities that they would rather have: Ganesha Statue (Remover of Obstacles), Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) or Saraswati (Goddess of Wisdom).

10. Objects that require certain commitment. It can be pets, flowers in pots, etc. Again, if you know that the recipient has a green thumb, go ahead. If it is an animal lover and would obviously not mind having another pet – no problem. In other cases, flowers do not survive and pets sometimes end up in shelters. Rather give a bouquet of flowers if it is appropriate.

On a positive note, there are plenty good gifts: the ads and commercials are attacking us exponentially as holidays approach. From my experience, every one was happy to receive a massage gift card or just money instead of a gift card. For tea lovers there are beautiful tea sets or flavorful exotic teas. For a music lover it can be a ticket to a concert. For a sports person it can be a ticket to a sports event. Thanks to deals websites, there are some great deals that would not break your bank and may meet someone’s expectations.

Here are some example ideas of some good gifts I discovered:

For the bling:

$200 to spend on Blue Nile Jewelry – free shipping!

To pamper him:

$25 for $50 to spend on menswear and accessories

For your gadget:

iPhone battery case charger $11 to $16

For care of your hair:

Ceramic hair straightener for $39 only!

For your beautiful face:

7-piece makeup brush set for $10 – great gift!

For rest and relaxation:

60-minute Swedish massage at Executive Physiques Spa and Fitness for $29

For the classic music lover:

Andrea Bocelli at Tampa Bay Times Forum – discounted tickets here

For the contact sports fan:

$15 for Two Tickets for Fight Night

If you fell victim of a bad gift, do not worry – thanks to ebay you can almost always sell it while it is new.

Please share your experiences below. What was the worst gift you received? What did you do with it?

Have happy holidays and a happy shopping!

Share and Enjoy

Author: Elena White


  1. “Given bad gift? Just sell it on ebay!” Just love this line! and this one too – “We most likely accepted it with gratitude but could never really use it.” I have 6 or even more pairs of shoes at home from my mom.

  2. Amazing, magnificent blog site file format! How much time have you been blogging and site-building intended for? you have made blog look easy. The full start looking of the website is amazing, since nicely as the information!

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