Fast forward to now. Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines don’t quite mean to me what they used to, and for me at least, I’ve seriously got enough clothes. I’m still genuinely appreciative and always happy with any gift I receive for any occasion (well, most of the time…), but somehow, receiving presents usually isn’t quite the same as it was when I was a kid. Occasionally though, a moment like those times from childhood Christmases and birthdays of yesteryear repeats, and a glorious gift breaks through. Based on some recent conversations I’ve had with a few friends and co-workers, I’ve concluded that glorious, break-through gifts don’t have to be expensive, and quite frequently, are less expensive than standard gifts. What if on the next occasion you gave…
- For a Wife’s Birthday: An IOU - Cook her dinner, fix her breakfast in bed, or take her to a chick-flick and promise not to complain. The list of possibilities is endless, and she can look forward to cashing in when she wants to.
- For a Wife’s Anniversary: A couple’s massage - I wouldn’t have been caught dead getting one of these until a few years ago, but look for a coupon, go for a basic treatment offer, and enjoy the rain forest and ocean waves sounds. It's still a gift for her, but it's not too bad for you either!
- For a Wife’s Christmas: Flowers for a year - I’m not talking about three dozen roses every day, but what about a $9.99 bouquet every month?
- For a Husband’s Birthday: Cheap tickets to a sporting event - There’s no shame in being in the upper deck and watching your favorite team steamroll a “cream puff” opponent.
- For a Husband’s Anniversary: Make his favorite inexpensive meal, favorite dessert, and serve it with his beverage of choice - With many of the guys I know, there is a little something to be said for the notion that one of the ways to a man’s heart is through his stomach!
- For a Husband’s Christmas: A few lottery tickets, a pocket knife, or a quality watch that happened to be on a sale are all good choices - Guys like excitement, gadgets, and gifts they are comfortable telling their buds about. Most men, me included, are fairly simple creatures; we don’t want that tight-fitting, maroon turtleneck that some of you females out there think looks chic!
- For Mother’s Day: Cook her brunch perhaps, but mainly, just spend most of the day with her - Most moms will treasure your time more than another gift!
- For a Mom’s Birthday: Take her out to dinner somewhere reasonable that she has never been - It gives her something to look forward to and tell her friends about, and it gives her a night off if she’s the main chef of the household. The restaurant doesn’t have to come with a wine list or require a reservation, but the lasting memory of quality time together doing something new, exciting, and different will outlast any flowery knick knack.
- For a Mom’s Christmas: Get her something she wants, but won’t get herself - Maybe it’s that new book she keeps mentioning on the phone, that movie she didn’t get to go see, or that stylish bracelet she always looks at that just happens to be on sale.
- For Father’s Day: In line with Mother’s Day, grill out - Most guys love being outside and breathing in the faint aroma of charbroiled beef. Dads can beam with pride as they get to make their famous burgers again for their family, or if they prefer, they can watch their children make the burgers just like they taught them!
- For a Dad’s Birthday: An expanded sports package for the television, an outdoorsmen magazine subscription, or even an XM Radio subscription are all possibilities if you can get a good deal, and if you keep your eye out far enough in advance, you probably can! As they say, “Boy’s don’t grow up; their toys just become bigger!”
- For a Dad’s Christmas: A box set of an old, favorite television show or movie series with a nice pair of slippers - It’s kind of a cool combo and can be purchased for a reasonable price, and your old man will be appreciative every time he slides into his chair for a little nod...I mean television, while he "rests his eyes."
- For a Grandmother’s Birthday: Family pictures - Whether it’s pictures of you and her, pictures of you and your parents, or pictures of you, proud grandmas love having new photos to show off. Get one of those nifty family tree things where you can slide in pictures, get a fridge magnet picture frame for one really good photo, or take the time to make her a small, old-fashioned album. It won’t cost a lot, and she’ll love it!
- For a Grandmother’s Christmas: Cookies in a jar - I’ve come across these several times and have enjoyed seeing them and eating their contents. Basically, you take all of the ingredients needed to make a certain type of cookie and pour them artistically into a big glass jar. If you and your grandmother ever baked something sweet together over the years, what a sentimental, useful, and frugal way to give a gift that will almost certainly generate a smile and a laugh!
- For a Grandfather’s Birthday: Afternoon Fishing - Your granddad probably likes to fish, garden, walk, or hunt. Depending on the weather and his health, see what you can do to give him one of these experiences. The two of you will enjoy it, and it probably won’t cost you much more than some time and insect repellent.
- For a Grandfather’s Christmas: Several of the people I talked to mentioned this as good clothing territory, so why not see if you can’t find your granddad a nice, crisp, new dress shirt, a tie that doesn’t remember the 70s, or maybe even a sporty-looking baseball cap that’s at a reasonable price? Who says grandparents can’t dress super swank?
- For a Girl’s Birthday/Christmas: This is the category I have the least personal experience with, so according to the people surveyed and based on some Internet research, I’d recommend art supplies, board games, and stuffed animals. Be careful not to get drawn into pricy clothes that will be outgrown and expensive jewelry meant for a slightly older princess.
- For a Boy’s Birthday/Christmas: Baseball equipment or a football - One of my all-time favorite activities growing up was playing toss with my dad, and I’d still be up for a game right now, come to think of it! When I think of a football that will generate good times for years, it sounds more like an investment than an expense.
In my book, there are two kinds of gifts: good gifts and nice intentions. Gifts also have two costs: expensive and practical. If it’s a big anniversary, a birthday that ends in “0,” or you truly have one of those rare, “perfect” gift ideas, I say go for it as long as it won’t inhibit next month’s mortgage payment. If it’s just another overpriced item that has her favorite label on it, a golf club that will still, somehow hit all golf balls to the right, or a pair of argyle socks, I say you can do better. Some of the above gifts have actually worked well for me and people I know whether we were the givers or the recipients. The next time you are struggling to cook up a good gift idea for a friend or family member, I hope you’ll think of this list. At best, they will be glorious, break-through gifts; at worst, they will be prudent presents.