Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Even though it's a new year, I'm still not over the letdown of the holidays. This time of year is always a bummer for me, but it is getting worse. All that preparation, decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, entertaining and then - poof - it is over in what seems like just a couple of hours. Here's my question: Is there a way to avoid the trend of family and friends just swapping internet links to the gifts they want for Christmas? It seems so cold and impersonal and just so wrong. This year I bought two shirts, two pairs of shoes, a coat, some sort of expensive tool (I don't even know what it does) and two books - all after the would-be recipients emailed me links for the stuff they wanted. Bah, humbug. Is there a way to bring back the joy of giving?
- Penny P.
Dear Penny: I'm afraid not. More and more, people expect to receive what's on their list and to be disappointed if you freelance and give something unexpected and unrequested. (The same goes for wedding, birthday and baby gifts.) Thanks to the internet, many giftees have extremely specific gift requirements. Even when I think I've found the perfect thing, they look less than thrilled if it's not what they "asked" for. But, the idea of giving a gift is - bottom line - to make the recipient happy. So, the easy thing to do is go along with the wish list - exactly as specified. Here are the options:
Give them what they requested even though it's no fun for you.
Tell them you are making a donation in their name to the charity of their choice.
Give them a gift card for a site they use often: Amazon, iTunes, Nike, whatever.
Suggest in a nice way that it might be time to end the gift exchange. Perhaps set an age limit so that the kids still get gifts.
Readers: How do you handle Penny's dilemma?
And another gift-giving rant/question ...
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: There are some people on my gift-giving list whose birthdays fall close to Christmas and Hanukkah. I, too, am one of the unfortunate people who were born in late December. My fellow sufferers and I either get kind of cheated in the gift-giving frenzy, receiving a combo present that's for both the birthday and Christmas. Or, receive a pile of presents in one brief period of the year and then it's an 11-month dry spell. Do you think it would be OK to decide to designate a different date to celebrate these birthdays?