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{20/03/2012}   The challenges of buying presents

Why is it so hard to buy some people presents and relatively easy for others? As I am increasingly aware of stuff and things I feel I can’t give away/sell because X gave it to me Y years ago, I am becoming more conscious that I have bought some people some real dilemma presents before, ie ones that were bought that deep down I knew would be a bit of a burden. So what and how do you choose presents for friends and family?

Is it ok to give someone a “useful” present? I once received a First Aid box. I had never had a First Aid kit and I am glad I now have one. Maybe some people, maybe most people, wouldn’t be that thrilled to receive one though. I have also given and received kitchen things, gardening stuff (during my allotment years) and I have recently given a few difficult-to-buy-for men a torch or lantern. One wind-up lantern receiver appeared thrilled and it turned out to be something he says he uses most nights.

Books and vouchers do seem like a bit of an easy option, though the odds are they will be used, the former particularly if you know the person well enough to know their interests.

I have a good friend who lives in Japan. Most birthdays and Christmases we ask each other what we’d like. A few years ago I asked for decorative practical things. She sent me a beautiful linen apron, some colourful cloths and fish shaped washing-up sponges. I loved them.

People I know who have a lot of stuff or who I don’t associate with trinkets, I like to get them perishable things or experiences. A “hamper” of treat foods or a cheese box, etc, for example. Also manicure vouchers.

For the past few years I have bought things as and when I see them if they make me think of someone. For example, I’d been in an antique shop with a friend when she saw an expensive old table cloth. At a craft fair in Bucharest last year, I got her a beautifully embroidered linen table cloth. It pays to remember things people like when you’re out and about!

I got difficult-to-buy-for men scarves one year for Christmas and the Christmas after the heavy snow two Christmases ago, quite a few people got Yak Tracks, just the best things for walking safely on snow.

Clothes are difficult because of sizes, but belts, gloves, hats, scarves can be decent presents. Or anything that claims to be one size fits all, a poncho, say!

Smellies. For some people, a goodie box of Lush stuff would be a treat, for others, they prefer their regular products. I am aware that people have all kinds of allergies and dislikes on the smellies front so now, if buying for someone I didn’t know that well, maybe a nice sls/paraben-free shower gel or bath salts.

It’s a minefield. But it’s so, so nice when you give someone something unexpected and it’s apparent they love it and use it. It’s just hard to find or think of a perfect present. If you are reading this and hoping for gift inspiration, here is a quick list of things that come to mind that have been successfully received or given from/to people for whom there isn’t an obvious present: pens, camera case, picnic set, wash bag, magazine subscription, membership to a museum/organisation, charity gift aid (I have sponsored a polar bear and a Sri Lankan tea picker, both things I love – the tea rather than the picker though!), a memory lane photo calendar, photo frames, a draught excluder, a mini clock keyring and a mini torch keyring, a snazzy door mat, an atlas and a dictionary.

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