Holiday gift giving advice.

Ho Ho Ho and Oy Vey!


So many gifts to buy! Marnie, our Singular advice guru, has some tips to keep your gift shopping experience manageable and maybe even fun this year.
Holiday gift shopping advice.
Ioulia Bolchakova / 123RF Photo

My dear Singularians, it’s that magical, fantastical time … again. Before we can scarf down the last of the turkey a la King, turkey casserole, and deconstructed turkey tamale, the countdown begins – to credit card catastrophe. If I sound like a Grinchette, a Hanukkacarper or Kwanzaakeptic, sorry, it comes with the “advice” territory.

Think on it. How often do I get emails from peppy peaceful people who are thrilled that their 150 cousins from Latvia are not only coming to visit but expect to stay in the guestroom? Or how about: “Marnie darling! Just wanted to drop you a note to say how thrilled I am that my neighbor purchased all of my fusilli artwork and I’m taking my BFF to Bermuda for the holidays.”

Nope — the following is more typical:

“Marnie: I have enough relatives and friends to start a commune. How do I gift all these people without going broke?”

“Marnie: I never know what to get people, so I always end up buying everyone the same thing, like a tie. It’s so boring!”

“Marnie: On holidays my girlfriend goes crazy. As soon as she hits the mall, or worse, watches a shopping channel or goes online, it’s carte blanche with her credit cards.”

I’ve written on the topic, but a reminder wouldn’t hurt. For all of you who recognize yourselves (or a loved one), here are some gifting strategies designed to keep the sugar plums and latkes dancing happily and you too.    

Getting It! Your Personal Gift Strategy:

* Gift Principle No. 1: PREPARE! If you head to the stores with nothing but good cheer and credit cards, 12 hours later we may find you, whimpering, wallet-soaked  and wondering why you bought that $150 digital microphone for your nephew who’s on Ritalin.  Make a list, check it twice and resist all temptation to be too nice.

* Gift Principle No. 2: BUDGET! The quickest way to blow your budget is not to have one. Be specific. If there’s more than one of you co-giving, agree in advance. If holiday bells trigger your inner Pavlovian response to “swipe Visa”, add an “impulse” margin and then stick to those limits once you hit the mall.

* Gift Principle No. 3: BE FAIR! If you’re co-gifting, negotiate how you’ll divvy your dole among your side vs. their side to squelch resentments. Do this before any hair pulling in front of the salesperson begins.

* Gift Principal No. 4: PERSONALIZE! Unless you’re shopping for Kim Kardashian, “customizing” your gift choice is far more important (or should be) than triple digit spending. Notice what the giftee likes and treasures. I have a friend, bless her, who gives me freshly ground coffee and Tupperware. I’ve known her for decades. I don’t know how to make coffee. I can’t cook. I’ve mastered the art of re-gifting. Notice!

  1. For the sports fan, offer tix. Ditto for the ballet lover.
  2. For the pal who adores butterflies, get a pin with wings.
  3. Your mom is antique quirky? Go to a re-sale shop and find a treasure.

* Gift Principal No. 5: MEMORIES! The inexpensive priceless gift of memories will work with anyone worth calling a friend.

  1. Old photos together? A piece of beloved poetry? Duplicate, copy and frame. If you’re in a budget squeeze, use Kinkos and pick up frames at an outlet store. I’ve bought terrific ones for a few dollars.
  2. Create a family album from those photo cartons you’ve been meaning to sort and create an album for your niece.
  3. A family video that you create beats costly trinkets any day.
  4. Use your talents. Are you a baker, painter, needle-pointer, a potter? A handmade gift is usually more appreciated than an off-the-assembly-line tchotchke.
  5. Start traditions. I love the idea of Christmas ornaments, special dreidels or any small tokens, which, given each year, will one day become family heirlooms.
  6. Speaking of heirlooms, reset that pearl pin you haven’t worn since your first job interview. That young cousin would love it placed on a chain.

* Gift Principal No. 6: SMALL AND TASTEFUL BEATS LARGE AND TACKY. True, not everyone on your list would ooh and ahh over a framed photo of late Aunt Hattie. They want … stuff. Save your budget by thinking small but elegant. Department stores carry designer trinkets such as pill boxes, frames and key rings, from $10 to $20.

* Gift Principal No. 7: GROUP IT. If your gift list rivals a small emerging nation, you can:

  1. Agree to a grab bag, or pick names or family groups out of a hat so all become a “Secret Santa.” Set the amount to be spent and you’re done.
  2. Buy nuclear: If Costco can sell a jar of margarine the size of a hot tub, you can shop in bulk too with gift certificates, passes to events, restaurants gift cards and just like that, you’ve reduced your gift list dramatically.

* Gift Principal No. 8: PRESENTATION! Expert shoppers agree: “Wrap! Wrap! Wrap!” Packaging is to gifts what location is to real estate. Go big on bows, lollypop decorations, streamers. Children love tearing through reams of paper, often more than they love the gift. (And if the gift bombs, they can always use the streamers like Silly String.)

Well, that about “wraps” it up. Oh … except, right after the holidays is whoopee bargain time! The best holiday shoppers I know prepare all year long. With list in hand, when they find that treasure in June, they buy it online (with caution) or in person, and store it. Then, in December, while half the world is running and stressing, these geniuses are sipping eggnog and downing latkes – in their world where all is calm, bright – and paid for! 

Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2019 Singular Communications, LLC

Marnie Macauley
Advice guru 
Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with  hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications.  She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work.  In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

Leave a Comment on Facebook



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.