I have long held the idea that gift giving is inherently inefficient. After all, economists have generally argued that cash is better than in-kind transfers
. Furthermore, not to brag, but I am one hell of a shopper. I can get anything cheaper than almost anyone I know, which means that I am almost always better off getting money, since I can stretch it further than they can. Also, most of the items I lust after are electronics and computer equiptment, which involves the risk of the giver buying the wrong thing.
I find gift buying equally as difficult. First of all, getting my family to tell me what they want for Christmas involves interrogation usually reserved for people who have just set off a time-delayed bomb whose location must be revealed to cops before the city blows up. Then there is the matter of spending. When I was a kid, or even a college student, it was was obvious that I had limited resources. Now I that I can afford to spend a bunch, it becomes a question of how much to spend. What amount says to my parents "Hey, thanks for feeding, clothing, sheltering, and educating me for the first 22 years of my life, not to mention providing emotional support, and not telling me 'I told you so' when I do exactly what you told me not to do and screwed up"?
Then there is the fact that half the people in my family I buy for are female. This makes MadAnthony's life difficult in that they always ask for things like small appliances and towels, which leaves MadAnthony standing around Linens and Things trying to decide between the $40 electric skillet that looks like it would fall apart if you breathed the wrong way and the $100 Cuisnart that is big and heavy enough to use as a weapon, but costs as much as I sold my last car for.
One of the toughest people to buy for is my older brother. He frequently doesn't tell me what he wants until December 23, and has enough disposable income to buy what he wants. I thought things would be easier this year. I peppered him with questions when I was in NJ for Thanksgiving, and got him to say that he wished that there was a device that recorded radio on a hard drive - he's a hardcore radio fan and part-time DJ, and currently tapes stuff on a tape deck with a radio shack timer hooked up to it. I remembered hearing about the Griffin RadioShark
, and when I showed him the description he said it was exactly what he was looking for. So I ordered it from eCost
over Thanksgiving weekend and gave a sigh of releif. Except that it is backorded, with eCost's site saying "no estimated arival time from manufactuer" and Griffin's site saying that there is a three week backlog
. So it looks like the MadBrother (see, Glenn
isn't the only one who can invent workds by taking the first part of his blog name and combine it with the family member's relation) will be getting a picture of a RadioShark for Christmas along with a promise to mail it to him when it actually comes in.
The last problem is what to get for people who you hardly know, but are obligated to give to because they give to you. For me, there is a cousin and an uncle who always give me gifts. Traditionally, the cousin gets a tea-related gift set or candles (I thin it's a candle year) and the uncle gets one of those sausage and cheese gift baskets. And no, I have no idea if he even likes sausage or cheese all that much.
I'm mostly done - a couple more store visits, some deliveries from Amazon and half.com, and some time spent trying to figure out how the hell you get wrapping paper to go around a stuffed moose, and I will be done.