Saturday, January 2, 2010

The thought that counts

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions for 2010 is to update this blog more regularly--at least once a week. I also think that it would be good for the blog to have a clearer theme, instead of just picking up on whatever random thoughts fire across my brain synapses. So I've decided to focus on this concept of ecofrugality that I introduced back in May. There is already another blog out there that goes by the name of "The Ecofrugal," but since it was created in May 2009 and still boasts only one post, I doubt I'll be treading on anyone's toes by picking up the idea and running with it.

So, with this new focus in mind, I'd like to say a few words on the subject of holiday gifts.

Looking back at the presents we gave and received this past month, it seems to me that there was no correlation whatsoever between the cost of a gift and how much it pleased the recipient. The most expensive gift we gave was a $50 Home Depot gift card for my sister and brother-in-law, and they did like it--although my sister actually argued that it was "too generous" a present to give in the middle of a recession. On the other hand, my mom seemed equally happy with the Puzzle Lady mystery I got her from the library book sale. (She likes crossword puzzles, and she likes mysteries, so it seemed like a pretty sure-fire choice.) Of all the gifts we gave our nieces and nephews, the best received was the "jungle adventure" tent that we picked up from our local Freecycle group, which didn't cost a cent.

Likewise, the gifts we loved the most weren't necessarily the most expensive ones. For instance, I was quite pleased with a book of crossword puzzles from my sister-in-law that she candidly admitted had been re-gifted. She said she found the puzzles too hard for her and wanted to pass them on to someone who could handle them; how could I not be flattered by that explanation? The biggest present we got was a check from my in-laws to put toward the purchase of a new fridge, and while we were naturally happy with the check, what really delighted me was the packaging:



So what's the moral of this holiday story? Is it really the thought that counts? I hesitate to say yes, because so many people seem to use that phrase as an excuse for not really thinking about the gifts they give. If you don't care for the present they selected more or less at random, they'll say, "Well, it's the thought that counts," as if that phrase meant "I remembered to get you something, and that's all that really matters." So I'd like to suggest instead that what really matters is the amount of thought that goes into a gift. The best gift will be one that you clearly chose with a specific person in mind, one that really shows you were thinking of that particular person's tastes and interests. In other words, the thought that counts is not "I need a Christmas present for Aunt Mary," but "I know this will make Aunt Mary happy." And if you can't find the gift that fits that thought, a token gift--or none at all--is better than an expensive present that could just as easily have been chosen for a complete stranger.
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