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Don’t do it: what not to buy this holiday season

| Monday, December 1, 2014

Don't Do It WEBMary McGraw
While we in Scene and at every other publication in the country are busy gathering together a “favorite things” list or handy shopping guides for the holiday season, I’ve decided to go another route. Rather than tell you all the things you need to buy, I’m here to tell you the things to avoid amidst the chaos that is holiday shopping. If you have already committed to some of these gifts on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and whatever fake, crass, consumerist shopping day this Tuesday has become, I apologize for this bad news. To those who take a little longer to get their shopping done: You’ve been warned.

1) That personalized knit scarf/necklace/pottery you found on Etsy – I love Etsy. It’s the craft fair of the Internet, and you can get some incredible handmade or vintage jewelry, clothing and décor on the site. In fact, I encourage you to support independent business owners and artisans and do as much Etsy holiday shopping as possible.

However, before you pull the trigger on a customizable engraved cutting board or a knit sweater boasting a portrait of your family dog, take a look at your calendar and remind yourself it’s already December. Ordering handcrafted personalized gifts from an artist on the other side of the country is great, but it also means your Christmas present isn’t coming until well into 2015. Instead, opt for something a little less time-consuming for now — I’m sure your mom will love getting those coasters hand-painted with your family crest just as much on her birthday.

2) A journal – We all know it’s a re-gift from your aunt. “Funky” journals are always a re-gift from someone’s aunt. The socks of the friend-gift world, diaries with inspirational quotations on them will probably be filled with passages about how unoriginal your gift is. Harsh but true.

3) Lessons – Whether they’re cooking classes, Mandarin lessons or a gift certificate to that pottery place in your hometown, the gift of lessons is always well-intentioned. You see that a friend or relative has taken an interest in something new, and you want to encourage their potential, spice up their life or empower them with a new, quirky skill.

This is all perfectly nice and thoughtful, but it always ends up the same way: Your friend hangs the gift certificate to swing dance lessons or acupuncture class on their refrigerator unused, and it begins to slowly eat away at their conscience. Either because they don’t have the time or the interest in whatever hobby you’ve signed them up for, the present ends up being less of a gift and more of an obligation. Soon, every run-in with the recipient becomes wrought with excuses for why they haven’t cashed in on their free lessons yet. Anxiety ensues. Money is lost. It’s a lose-lose.

4) The new U2 album – Your dad already has it this year. Thanks a lot, Bono.

5) An enormous gag gift – I may be coming off as a bit of a Scrooge here, but I insist there are few presents worse than a poorly thought-out gag gift. Sure, if well executed, joke gifts can make for a funny story and garner a chuckle out of your good-humored friend, but they can also be a commemorative token of how bad you are at holidays. If it’s agreed upon that light-hearted gifts are the nature of the exchange, go all out. If not, you always run the risk of being the person who gave a ShamWow to the friend who thoughtfully made you a gift basket of your favorite things.

More importantly, whether you’re going white-elephant-style with your friends or springing an absurd, useless present on someone unannounced, make sure your ironic gift is not big in size. The joke almost immediately goes south when the gag gift is so large, its recipient faces the Sophie’s Choice of either finding a place to store it or feeling weirdly guilty about throwing it away. Adding insult to injury, a large gag gift not only says, “I gave this very little thought!” but also, “Have fun dealing with this every time you move!”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Allie Tollaksen

Scene Editor. Senior studying Psychology and dabbling in everything else.

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