Be open about what you want for presents

I’m not going to beat around the bush: buying gifts sucks — a lot. Sure, it’s a romanticized concept: going to the local store to purchase something your loved one will open up and smile at with glee. However, this is not the case, especially when you are unaware of what to get them or how much to pay.

In my family, it is considered pretty rude to go up to ask someone, “Hey what do you want?”, and honestly I don’t know why. I have no idea what my family members are truly interested in, what occurs in their daily life, and what they actually need. I will get together with family max four times a year for holidays, which is not enough to truly know someone well enough to purchase them an apt gift. Instead, what occurs is gifts that are of little interest to each party are exchanged and opened with forced smiles and ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’.

When I was 15, my aunt bought me a fluffy bright pink Hello Kitty luggage. While the thought was nice, especially as she remembered from that one time when I was six and told her that I loved Hello Kitty, I was no longer six. The luggage swiftly went in the donation pile. It shouldn’t be offensive to admit that I do not know people well enough — I barely know what my best friends for eight years will want.

Furthermore, another issue that always arises during holiday season is the question of how much to spend on gifts. I’m not made of money. How much should I spend on teachers?  Friends? Family? No one taught me this in school, and I feel like I either overpay or underpay for presents. I had a conversation with my friend the other day about how much each of us will spend on birthday presents for our friends. He would usually pay $20 and I would pay $30-35. Was I spending too much? What was supposed to be the right amount? If we were closer friends, should I spend more? It was never discussed because it’s not considered a socially acceptable topic.

However, overspending, especially on the wrong gift, is a problem. I remember even reading an SAT passage discussing this issue of wasteful spending. Americans will spend millions of dollars on overpriced gifts that the receiver didn’t even want and will either return or not use. In 2014, $750 million was wasted on unused gift cards alone, according to Marketwatch. This is not even considering actual gifts: at least with gift cards you can buy what you want with the credit. Even if you attach the receipt to the gift, it is still a hassle for the receiver to go back to the store to return, for often only store credit.

Let’s stop this overspending and unwanted gift cycle and instead be open to one another about what exactly we want. The smiles when presents are opened should be real, not forced.

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