My Possibly Illegal Holiday Gift Giving Guide

It’s holiday gift-guide time of the year again! Oprah has released her holiday gift guide. Gwyneth has released hers. Every other media outlet in the country is sure to be close behind.  I am not going to lie, I love looking at gift guides, but more from an anthropological view than as an actual guide. Each year they seem to be more and more specific: “Here’s the perfect hostess gift for your recently divorced friend over 40″;”What to buy for your 13-year-old that hates everything but Fortnight”;”Do you have everything you could ever possibly want? How about this?”. I’m not here to lecture about waste and consumerism and culture. I’m just here to say, after talking to most people I know, what people want is less stuff, and less stress. So, here is my holiday gift giving guide that will make people feel good, help them be less stressed, and help you be less stressed.

Via Creative Commons

Here’s the #1 trick to happy, stress-free gift giving: find something the recipient loves and get them the same thing every year – more specifically a subscription or annual contribution in their name. To do this, you need to be strong. The first year is easy. Your friends and family love their gift! What a great idea! Subsequent years become harder as you are bombarded with pressure to be original and different each holiday season. Your friends and family, if they are anything like mine, don’t care if you are original and unique year after year. They want you to be thoughtful and practical.  Exhibit A: My Dad. My dad has been an avid hunter and fisherman his entire life. In Maine, you need to renew your hunting and fishing license each year. And, it ends up being one of those things  like registering your car – it needs to be done but easily slips your mind. What greater gift to my dad than to renew his hunting/fishing license for him each year? He LOVED this idea. It was a gift that he used often, and he never had to remember to do it himself. (This is the possibly slightly illegal part of the gift giving guide, I’m not entirely sure it’s legal to get someone’s hunting and fishing license for them. In Maine, you need a hunting license number for renewal, so I had my mom search through dad’s wallet and write it down for me. Is this legal? I hope so. I guess if your dad is someone who will press charges for using his hunting license number skip this gift.). However, my plan was foiled when my dad turned 65, because Maine gives out lifetime licenses to people over 65. Now I make a donation to SETI for my dad because he freakin’ loves aliens.

Anyhow, enough with the writing and on to the list, because that’s what you came here for, right? A list. 

  1. Subscription to the person’s local newspaper (or local newspaper where they grew up, or how about both? Newspapers need support.) Newspaper print and digital subscriptions are a shockingly good deal, and something your recipient will enjoy all year round. 
  2. Donation to a local non-profit that they utilize/enjoy. Donations I make to local organizations in family names include: local land trusts, the community theater, the library, ocean research, and the animal shelter. I have found that for the holidays, local non-profits are a huge hit because the recipients of the gift can actual go and see the results of their gift. Also, most non-profits send out regular newsletters with events and updates. I suggest keeping donations as local as possible, and most large organizations have local chapters. For example, instead of donating to the ACLU, I will make a donation to the Maine chapter of the ACLU. I find that the more local the donation, the more personal the gift. 
  3. Audible, Spotify, MasterClass, Book of The Month, etc etc. There are a million subscription services available. I, in particular, recommend Audible as a gift just because it’s so versatile, and there is something for everyone. (I have linked to Audible here, and I might get some sort of credit if you end up buying them, but I’m not sure and I’m not sure if I did it right, but I don’t want to get sued or whatever so I’m just letting you know.) 
  4. Hunting, fishing, YMCA, gym memberships, yoga punch cards – these are all fantastic gifts. Remember, give the gift the person wants and will use, not the gift you want or would want them to use. For example, I would love for my mom to start doing yoga. My mom has no interest whatsoever in yoga. What would be a better fit for her would be renewing her Maine resident fishing license. 

This is a pretty loose list, but I think you get the idea. Find something that your gift recipient will enjoy all year round, and then get them the same thing every year. The only thing you have to worry about after year one, is remembering what you bought for them, and signing them up again. You found something your loved one will enjoy all year round, you helped them enjoy it and you gave them a break in having to renew subscriptions or remember donations. You also saved yourself the time and stress of trying to outdo yourself last year. You don’t need to, and unless someone tells you that they don’t use/like whatever it is you signed them up for (which is OK, don’t freak out, just stop the subscription and ask them what they would like instead) you are set for gift giving ideas for life. Finally, I think all of these gifts have the added bonus of a spreading a little extra goodness into the world, (Yes, even the subscriptions for books and gym memberships, they improve mental and physical health). You’re welcome.

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