The Two Types of Gifts

Know which type of gift is most likely to please this Christmas.

The Christmas season is expensive. If you’re strapped for cash, you might be shopping til the last moment just to make sure you don’t overspend. If you want to buy excellent gifts for anyone without breaking the bank, I have some tips for you. I want you to consider that there are only two types of gifts—exciting, and useful.

Exciting gifts are the ones that make a person jump up and down with joy. They are cool gadgets, accessories, or trinkets that the recipient may have never seen or heard of before. They make an impression on Christmas Day, but often have no practical use throughout the year. This is your first option.

Useful gifts are exactly what they sound like. They don’t cause excitement except as a result of all the things the recipient can do with them. It could be a gift card to Men’s Wearhouse for a December graduate or a tool set for your father. This type of gift will be used almost on a regular basis throughout the year by the recipient and is your second option.

To decide which type to buy, first consider the person’s personality. What kind of gift will he or she like better? If you’re thinking about the dutiful father that never buys himself anything nice, then branded clothing or a gift card to a clothing store will do. This could be $20-50 at the most—enough to buy one item. If you’re talking about the person who buys lots of stuff for himself but forgets to buy what he needs, then it could be as simple as an extra bedding set.

The most important thing to consider is what has been missing in the person’s life over the past twelve months. If the person has been too busy to buy useful things, buy one of those. If the person has been too busy to buy excitement, a gift card to the movies or a performance like Shen Yun or Cirque Du Soleil might do the trick. Either way, the best gift is often the one that the person did not expect you to get and is almost always something he or she doesn’t have.

In theory, you can categorize your family members according to their personality and always buy something useful or something exciting. From there you can look for deals throughout the year on the sorts of things you will give for Christmas. Of course, some gifts are both exciting and useful, but you have to ask yourself which one it is first or more. This system works only if you can choose one over the other.

Is this the best way to shop? I’m sure you’ll tell me. But the key is to have a system. A system will save you time and mental stress. When you’re not stressed, you will be better able to budget for the gifting season and make sure you don’t overspend. It is the thought that counts after all.


Get more Christmas gift ideas on The Good Life.

Image credit: paalia/Flickr

About Albert Okagbue

Albert has devoted his life to understanding money and wealth, especially how they mix with culture. He writes and is the author of Stop Budgeting Start Living: How to Sync Your Money and Your Life. He is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and has a Tax & Financial Planning practice in Houston.

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