The 10 Signs of a Bad Gift

Just eight days until Christmas.

Eight days to get yourself in a panic when you unexpectedly receive a gift from someone and having nothing to give in return but your thanks.

Eight days to think “it’s just not enough” and heat up your credit card with impulse purchases.

Eight days to buy a bad gift.

A gift that doesn’t show you care about or know the receiver well.

A gift that instead of saying, I’m grateful for our friendship and appreciate you, says, I originally bought this for the dog walker, remember when we had a dog a few years back?, but forgot to give it to them and thought I would wrap it up and keep on hand should I be without a gift to reciprocate with.

Here are ten signs you’re about to give a bad gift:

1. It was purchased at a convenience store en route to a party.

2. It was sourced from a present stash: a closet the giver keeps stocked with random things they find on sale or that they bought for themselves, didn’t like and couldn’t return.

3. Accompanying gift receipt from the As Seen on TV store.

4. The gift giver says they really wanted it for themselves and are wistful when the gift is opened.

5. It’s a regift and the giver is as surprised by what’s under the wrapping paper as the receiver is.

6. The item has this slogan on it: “my _____ went to ______ and all I got was this lousy ______ .”

7. The gift is Poo-Pourri.

8. Two words: Christmas Cake

9. The gifts are given out en masse to open at the same time because “everyone’s getting the same thing this year.” Meaning the five year-old nephew and the 65 year-old grandmother are both getting their very own Elf on a Shelf.

10. It was purchased pre-wrapped.

You have eight days to avoid all of this.

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: I will not let myself give useless and meaningless last minute gifts this year.

I will not buy someone something just because they bought me something.

I will not keep a pre-wrapped box of chocolates on hand just in case someone ambushes me with a gift even though we had agreed that we weren’t buying each other anything this year.

I will be gracious and thankful in receiving a gift and tell the person how much I appreciate them and that will be enough.

Anyone been tempted to buy last minute “just in case” gifts yet? Or received a gift when you had nothing to give in return except a hug?

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  • This is very timely, I’ve just dropped off my daughter at nursery and she’s just been given an unexpected gift by another child. I wondered whether to get her a gift, but hadn’t really planned to and think the parents in question are just particularly generous, so I probably won’t. But then I’ll probably feel guilty!

    • Our son got a gift this weekend that we didn’t/don’t have a reciprocal gift for. I’ll make sure we send thanks again when has opened it. They know we are not big on exchanging gifts so not feeling guilty.
      Resist the guilt, Rebecca!

  • I have to say, I disagree with #3 – a few years ago my husband bought me a Snuggie (the blanket with sleeves) and I love it and use it everyday! It all depends on the person and the gift.

    • You know what, I love the Snuggie too. I received one a few years back and it was ideal for reading on the couch when it was cold.
      But I’ve heard complaints from so many people about getting them. Many, many people. I think you need to know a person well to give them a Snuggie and have it be appreciated.

  • When I was in college, my mom sent me a holiday package; among the many gifts was the ugliest sweater I have ever seen in my life! I cried for about half an hour, not because I was ungrateful, but I was hurt that my own mother thought I would like such an ugly sweater, and not know what my taste/style was. After I calmed down, I called her to let her know I received the box; she then told me that the sweater was a double regift. Her friend had received it as a gift, didn’t like it and gave it to her, and she passed it on to me. She said, “If you don’t like it, maybe one of your friends will.” I decided it would stop right there, that ugly sweater was obviously unwanted, and I burned it!!!

  • I’m sorry you think a Christmas cake is a bad gift! 😮
    Until last year, my granny (96) baked all the “special” cakes in the family – weddings, birthdays and Christmas – and iced them as her special gift to the recipient. Having begun this aged 12, it had become something of a tradition. She is choosy about the ingredients and the way the cake rises and then does beautiful icing in a traditional style (i.e. nothing roll-out about her icing, it’s the real thing!). These are very valued gifts in the family and my mom, who is now living with her mom to support her, has this year had the task of meeting Granny’s high standards. For two elderly ladies who don’t get out to shop (no car), their gifts of homemade Christmas cakes are all they can offer – and in addition, they have both been frugal all their lives and don’t believe in clutter. I would have thought a Christmas cake was a perfect gift and certainly not a bad gift.
    Maybe a shop-bought cheapie is not the real deal, but I will miss the cakes when the ladies are gone!

    • Yeah I think that the Christmas cake one doesnt fit on this list. I mean lots of people like Christmas cake and homemade is always nice. I can understand not liking it personally, I didnt like it til recently, when I tried someones for dessert and it was amazing. But thats all preference, same with bath sets… I personally hate bath sets but know a friend who takes baths everyday and loves those sets cause she uses them up quickly.

      I get fairly offended on an annual basis when my mother-in-law buys me hiddeous presents, leopard print tank tops (sorry I dont go to clubs), or dollar store bath sets (something less chemically please), or the worst plastic junk toys that break in a day for the kids. This year she bought my almost six year old a dora guitar that does not have strings but buttons that just play sounds… The box says right on it, ages 3-5… but come on, I cant see any five year old playing that, at least not mine (not to mention we try to be brand name free), my daughter wants a real guitar… Its so frusterating…. Dont buy gifts if your only going to buy us junk! Then she proceeds to comment on how cluttered our house is, and brings over new (junky) toys and clothes EVERY TIME she visits.. (2-4 times a month).

      • I saw someone else try this – any gifts the grandparents buy stay at their place, not yours, so the kids can play with them when they visit. It might help move the clutter from your house to hers!

  • I think Poo-Pourri sounds awesome!

    We bought a gift for a couple who had done us several big favors last year, and the next day, they brought us a big basket full of things that I’m allergic to! I wish I had noted on the card that this was not some ploy for reciprocity, but that’s hard to put into words.

    For friends and family, I buy gifts when I find something that makes me think of them. That means it could be April. I don’t wait for Christmas or birthdays. I’ve taught them to know I’m not looking for something in exchange for the gift–it’s just an out of the blue thing. The only people getting dedicated Christmas gifts this year are a couple of charities, the kids, the preschool teachers, and the newspaper delivery guy!

      • In the US, we call it fruitcake. It is baked in a loaf pan (small rectangle), never iced (frosted) and it is often ridiculed as inedible. I think some people overdo it with the nuts and fruit (often using prepackaged candied fruit peel in all its technicolor high fructose corn syrup glory) and there isn’t much cake to it. But I like a homemade Christmas cake with plenty of alcohol-soaked fruit but not so much you can’t taste the buttery sweet cake. This year I’m going to make a whiskey dundee cake. Making it round instead of in a rectangle seems to help overcome the prejudice against it. LOL Also I might try icing it. though that seems a bit sweet for me. The kids will like it frosted I’m sure!

      • My family is Jamaican and they make homemade Christmas cake, and (most) everyone in the family loves it. I personlly am not a fan, but basically the fruit is soaked in alcohol and blended so you just get the flavour instead of the giant red and green chunks (gross)! The cake is extremely moist, more-so than even a brownie or a piece of fudge, and is really dense. It pretty much just tastes like rum, or brandy, or whatever it’s made with, and is so dark in colour that it’s almost black (in our family we call it “black cake” and it’s tradition to give it out in little boxes at our weddings). Suffice it to say that it’s NOTHING like that dried-out, gross, store-bought crap I assume you’re referring to here :)

  • Living in Japan where (like the link to wiki says) Christmas cake is sponge cake with cream, I would LOVE to get some *real* Christams cake as a present! My kids love getting bath sets as it makes bath time more fun.

    Worst last minute gift received – a chunky china Christmas-theme train engine ornament – while the thought is appreciated, a hug and a “Merry Christmas” from the person who gave it to me would have been enough for me ^_^

  • So last night for early family get-together for Christmas, Uncle X gives hubby a ticket to see hubby’s favorite band in January (my suggestion as hubby forgot to send a wish list). Uncle X’s wife, Aunt X, decides to GIVE me the 2nd ticket to my husband’s favorite band as my BIRTHDAY present – 4 months early, hoping that it would “forgive” her for being late on my bday the last several years. HUH?????????

  • About having something on hand, just-in-case… Guilty. But I stand by it.

    Every year I make a batch of cranberry sauce and can it. It’s cheap and relatively easy. The jars get passed out to the teachers, bus drivers, etc. I always make extra jars so I have something to give just in case. It’s simple, homemade and appreciated. I think we can give spontaneously and keep it simple – not all presents have to be totally thought out! Some presents scream “consumerism” but small, homemade gifts can be a gesture of goodwill.

    Oh, and I love Christmas cake too. Mine has been marinating in brandy for the past six weeks. Kids stir in their wishes each year. Can’t imagine Christmas without it.

  • I’ve already received a very generous gift for my children from someone I did not buy a gift for in return. I’ve felt the guilt. I’ve felt the panic to hurry and buy something to send to them in return. But you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to take a picture of the kids with their gift(s) when they open them and I’m going to make a photo “thank you” card to send to them instead. It’s sincere and will be more genuine and personal than any gift I could hurriedly buy!

  • I think I actually purchase better gifts when under pressure. A few years ago, I hit the shops on Christmas Eve to my gifts for my family. They were best gifts ever bought and most at half-price too as the stores had started pricing up for their Boxing Day sales. Does take a bit of bravery to leave it until last minute though and you run the risk of finding nothing at all.

  • I have to disagree with #2 (the present stash). If a present stash is comprised of quality gifts that will appeal to a variety of people, I see nothing wrong with having one and utilizing it. For example, I often give Yankee candles as teacher gifts. And yes, I stock up when they go on sale. If someone gave me a Yankee Candle from their present stash, I would not be offended at all. I would be grateful.

  • I remember one year my mom gave all her kids this philosophical book that was full of BS, IMO. I couldn’t even get through the first chapter. Actually, I think I only could get through the first three or four pages.

    I know I sound like scrooge, but Christmas gift-giving is really for the kids. Adults know what they want, and generally have the money to buy it, so they can give themselves Christmas gifts at any time of the year. No guessing, no cheating, no disappointing others.

    If you want to give someone something to say “thank you” or “I love you,” that’s great, but it needs to be well-thought out and not hap-hazardly chosen.

    • Adults know what they want, and generally have the money to buy it, so they can give themselves Christmas gifts at any time of the year.

      Yes! I think this is the root of why gift giving has become so difficult. It’s so easy to get both the non-essentials and essentials for ourselves.

    • That’s how I feel about gifts, too. I’m really not a fan of exchanging gifts with other adults for the reasons you mentioned, and have limited it as much as possible. (For example, my best friend and I stopped exchanging Christmas and birthday gifts a long time ago; instead, we go out for birthday dinners and a Christmas dinner together. We would rather spend time together than exchange gifts.) But some of it is unavoidable. The exception is that I do like to give gifts to teachers and other service providers who are highly valued. But what I like about that is that it really is a gift, rather than an exchange.

  • I’m actually giving everyone the same gift this year – homemade goodies from the kitchen.
    There’s no sense in making 9 individual jams or cookies. Or, at least, no time for that.

  • I have a small collection of “hostess gift” gifts that we take with us when we are invited to parties. I strive to get simple, locally made items such as hand-stamped cloth napkins (bundle of 4 at a craft fair was $3), home made jams or cordials or honey ($4 small jar), home made soaps ($4 for 3 small bars). You get the idea.

    Then, when I’m heading out, I pick a bit of our lavender, tie it with a little twine and thank you note around one of the gifts. They always are appreciated. It’s simple and appreciated, and sometimes I dip into that stash myself — if we need something like another bar of soap!

    • See, that sounds beautiful and thoughtful.
      Of course, this post is very tongue in cheek. I know a lot of people that use some of these shopping techniques and give great gifts.

  • Funny post! I enjoyed it!

    I hate shopping for Christmas, I really do. This is the first year I will be exchanging gifts with my HUSBAND in the five years we have been together. My mom and sister-in-law both have birthdays the week of Christmas, so I always have to do double-duty. I talked my family into doing a gift-free Christmas celebration a few years back, and everyone agreed. But when I arrived to the party sans presents, my husband and I were the only people who had not purchased gifts! I felt awful! My family definitely goes overboard in the gift department, and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s a burden to haul all the gifts home and store them in our one-bedroom apartment.

    I’m a teacher, so I also receive a lot of gifts from students and their families (I have over 200 students). I am amazed at how thoughtful so many of these families are. I received coffee shop gift cards, chocolate, costume jewelry, pashmina scarves, and other cute and useful gifts. The only issue I have had is in the number of baked goods I receive–while they are all delicious, I just can’t eat them all, but I decided to freeze most of it and serve it when our Bible study group visits each week. It will be so convenient to serve homemade banana bread after a 12-hour day at work without having to do a thing!

    I just love the ideas other posters have had for Christmas gifts. Homemade cranberry sauce? Sign me up!

  • I have an “aunt”, actually a daughter of my mother’s best friend, that gives the WORST gifts. One year she gave my mom a bottle of crusty half empty Taboo perfume that still had a garage sale sticker on it. My mom left it at her house. We have begged to not exchange gifts, as its obviously a burden, this year was finally a go. Everyone agreed the gifts purchased would be for the children ONLY. Low and behold my nephew received a pack of dried up play dough from the dollar tree. I wouldn’t be so bothered by this, if she did this to everyone. However, it’s only to my family that he does this. We’ve kindly told her it isn’t necessary to purchase gifts for our family, yet, she still does. Almost, like she’s going out of her way to be nasty or hateful. This may sound ridiculous and immature, but I’ve decided the only way to make her realize that this is hurtful, is to give her gifts like this. She would be furious if someone have her granddaughter dried up play dough so WHY?! does she think its acceptable to give to someone else’s kid?

  • I feel that people who give these really crappy gifts are passive-aggressive, and should be held to task for it. Either give them back the same gift, or something equally as vile or call them out on it. I get really upset when I get a gift like this myself as I view it as a slap in the face. We bought my daughters’ fiance’s sisters kid designer jeans and shirt for their birthday present (she provided the sizes to us) and she gave my older daughter two pair of socks stamped imperfect and date on label was 2000 for Christmas! Why would you invite someone to a birthday party, provide the sizes when asked and then give such a lousy gift in return? I feel it is a form of hostility towards my daughter, as she is dating her brother. She is used to getting all the attention (and extra money) from her family and now I feel she is threatened. Maybe this person does not like or is jealous of your relationship with her mother. You’ve got to be really dumb not to realize that these gifts hurt someone’s feelings!

    Years back, my husband and I always bought his sister kids great gifts or gave them 50 bucks at Christmas.
    When we had a kid, she gave us one tee-shirt from the dollar store, that’s it. My husband was standing there and gave it back to her and said “take it back, I don’t want it, you gave THIS to my daugher”? She got all mad but no more crappy gifts, and we didn’t give her any for her kids anymore for holidays. When her son got married, they registered at Neiman Marcus! I went to the shower, gave a $20 gift not off the registry, she was nasty as ever. They fought again and she honestly felt we should have gotten her son an expensive gift!

    People like this are narcissistic, can take and take but not give. They want to extract what they can out of folks and move on. In the end, you won’t end up friends, so get it over with and do one of the above and at least have the satisfaction of it. And no, the ones’ I am referring to can buy gifts, they cry and complain but they are just mean spirited, vile and cheap. Plus, they get your kids upset too! Give them a taste of their own medicine I say!

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