We’ve all done it. We see some silly or ridiculous item that we want to splurge on for a Christmas gift.

Or perhaps it’s a novelty. (How about a Stars Wars themed game of Risk, perhaps?)

Or even a seemingly practical gift which you know in the back of your mind has very little chance to see major usage. (A carom board comes to mind.)

Trinkets. Impulsive buys. Over the top silliness just to show our love! Yeah!

But come on, we all know that deep down they are a complete waste of money. Take a lot around your house – or better yet, your kid’s bedroom – and identify those must-have, really cool, or just interesting but yet completely unnecessary gifts and determine how much they are actually used.

If my house is any indication, most of them were a waste of money.

Let me come back to that Star Wars themed Risk game. I bought that for my son several years ago thinking it would be something cool and unique to play. I think we played it once, and he and his friends played it another time. Pretty pathetic. And that thing was expensive! Companies are great at created unique items like this that suck you in for the purchase just because of the novelty behind it. Think of all the games which have a local or narrow focus – Team Sports versions, state versions, Disney versions, Lord of the Rings Version, etc…  But admit it, most of those games and novelties are rarely used.

This post is hard for me and probably meant for me because I love giving gifts, and especially around the holidays I’ll just buy extra stuff just because I can and get away with it. They are always fun to open on Christmas morning after all.

But after I’ve taken an inventory of the lost money I’ve wasted over the years, I think it would be wiser to give practical gifts.

My mother started this years ago giving out either money or gift cards to places where people shop anyways. Nothing ever goes to waste there.

Remember the socks you got as a kid? Those were actually the best gifts ever. Extremely practical, and I guarantee  they were well-used right up until the time when a toe poked a hole in them.

This year, my family decided to not get any more gadgets and junk that we won’t use after the first week. We are putting all of our Christmas money towards a summer trip to Europe.  Yes, that too is unnecessary, but the memories and family time will actually be priceless.

Gifts are great. I love receiving and giving them, but I’ve made up my mind to be strategic with gifts. I ask myself:

  • Is it likely that this person will be using this gift until it wears out?
  • Is it likely that others will use it once he or she is sick of it?

If I answer ‘yes’ to either one of those questions, then it’s definitely a great gift. Now, there are some gifts that you don’t use – paintings, art work, knickknacks, for instance. Here’s a great way to know if any item in this category will be a great gift:

  • When we move from this place, will we likely take that gift with us?

It is fun to be impulsive and just buy something “for the heck of it” but I argue that with a little more thought, you can probably come up with something that the person will actually use and like just as much.

Here’s my only problem. If I end up going to the mall this week, I’ll probably violate all of my own rules. Oh well, it is Christmas.


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