If you’ve got family and friends asking what you want this Christmas and you’re struggling for ideas I’m here to help.
This isn’t one of those gift list guides that crop up everywhere from glossies to blogs. They’re often just lists of overpriced items the writer has been sent for free. Rarely of much use!
No, this is a very simple trick to not just give you a little bit of inspiration, but also help you spend less money on yourself throughout next year.
My struggle for gift ideas
I know lots of people never really know what to say when asked what they want for Christmas – myself included.
It’s not that I don’t ever need anything, it’s just that I always buy what I want or need when I need it. Or for expensive things I tend to save up until I’ve enough cash, and then get it. So come December, my Christmas List is usually non-existent.
It really frustrates my family and I sometimes end up being given gifts which, being really honest, can be hit and miss. I’ve got to take most of the blame here. If I could just name what I want, it could avoid all this waste. But year after year I’ve struggled for ideas.
But a few years ago my friend Michelle said something which was a revelation. As soon as she mentioned it, I couldn’t believe just how obvious it was. I suddenly realised I hadn’t ever properly thought about what I really needed.
If someone asks what I would like, I’ve always thought about what I need at this moment in time. And that’s why I’ve struggled.
But the answer is to think beyond “right now”. Think about everything you frequently pay for throughout the year.
What you should be asking for
Of course, if there is something else you’ve had your eye on but not been able to afford, or haven’t got around to buying yet, then that’s the perfect thing to ask for. But if not…?
Consider every regular cost you have. These are the things you actually need. These are where money spent on a present for you is going to actually be well spent. And they can still be nice things.
But there is a limit – I wouldn’t ask for money towards your other bills like energy or broadband. If you’re really struggling to make ends meet then there are different conversations that need to be had – perhaps a present amnesty so you don’t have to spend cash you don’t have.
Anyway, here are a few things you could be asking for.
The things you always buy
Ok, yes you might already get socks from your mum at Christmas, but what else do you need to resupply on? These are the things you will need, even if not at this moment.
Cosmetics and toiletries are top options here. You will get through a number of these through the year and they can often be expensive. So asking for one or two of them is a good bet.
Booze is another good one, as with most there isn’t a best before date you need to keep an eye on. This means there’s no problem getting them at Christmas for much later in the year.
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Your subscriptions and memberships
There will also be many more expenses which aren’t things you buy in a shop.
Subscriptions for a start. If you pay for Netflix or Spotify every month, then why not ask someone to pay for it for a few months? Could someone buy you Amazon Prime for a year?
And if you’d be happy for someone to buy you Netflix, even the TV Licence could be a gift. It might seem weird, but think about it. You get all the tv and radio channels, as well as the website. That’s not really any different than asking for a DVD or CD.
Do you have any memberships, perhaps to the National Trust or Picturehouse Cinemas? Again, perfect gifts. Even if the renewal date isn’t for a few months, you can still ask for money towards it.
If you go to any classes, clubs or activities, see if someone will buy a batch of them for you. Services are another area you could ask for as gifts. Think haircuts or massages.
Activities and events
One of my go-to ideas for gifts is money towards a gig, or cash towards a special meal out. If you can name the actual concert or restaurant that’ll help the gift giver feel like the money won’t fritter away.
You could even crowdsource among different family members. I did this for my 40th, and this helped fund a trip to double Michelin star restaurant L’Enclume.
Services that free up your time
You could push this idea further still. If you pay for a cleaner or gardener, ask for a contribution towards these costs. That might feel like it’s taking this idea too far.
But the main reason people pay for these is to free up time to spend with their family. So it’s really a gift of time that is being given. I think that’s actually a top present.
Money vs gift cards
You probably could cover some of these expenses with gift cards – but I’d argue you’d be better off asking for money and making it clear how it will be spent.
With gift cards there’s always the risk that you’ll forget you’ve got them or lose them. Or, as we see year after year, if a shop goes under there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to use any cards you’ve still not spent.
Dealing with people who don’t like these ideas
These aren’t perfect solutions. For one thing, you can’t really wrap most of these, except cosmetics or booze. And this could be an issue for some gift-givers.
There’s often a reluctance to hand over money as a present. And even if someone is willing to do that, how often have you had people buy you little extras just so there’s something to unwrap?
It always annoys me when someone says “It’s the thought that counts”. No. I completely disagree. That’s only true if a gift is truly well-intentioned but falls short. Yet even then I’d argue it would be better to not buy something than buy a gift someone doesn’t want.
And I hate waste. Yes there’s the environmental impact of unwanted gifts, which shouldn’t be forgotten, but I really, really hate wasted money – whether that’s my money or someone else’s. And I hate it even more if it can be avoided.
So if you’re happy to receive the above suggestions as gifts then stick to your guns. Explain how they’ll help you throughout the year. Share why the service, subscription or club are important to you. Tell them why you don’t need little extras you won’t use. Hopefully they’ll happily accept your gift request.
If not, it’s the gift giver who needs to think about why they are buying you something in the first place. If they then decide to just buy you something else there’s little you can do.
Yes, sometimes a surprise gift can be spot on, and that’s fantastic. But let’s face it, it’s usually hit and miss.
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If you really don’t want or need anything
If you don’t feel these ideas work for you, then a final suggestion is one where the thought really does count. You could instead ask for a donation to a charity of your choice. I think you’ll agree it’s a far better option than getting a gift that ends up in the bin.
Finally, if you’re still to buy gifts, make sure you ask people what they want. If they’re struggling for ideas, maybe share this article with them – it could be the inspiration they need.