8 Tips for Personal Holiday Fulfillment

Sure-fired Ways to Get the Gifts You Want

8 tips for personal holiday fulfillment

Halloween has come and gone. I’d better get started with my holiday gift list or I’ll be in big trouble. I’m not talking about my holiday gift-giving list. I’m talking about my gift-getting list. Oh, let’s be honest. It’s my “Really, Really Want, Gotta Have, Pretty Please, Will You Get Me This” list.

All year I’m on the hunt for perfect Christmas, Hanukkah, birthday and “just because” gifts for family, friends, and colleagues. I even buy “unbirthday” gifts for attendees at birthday parties, because I love shopping for others. I am such a dedicated gift shopper, that when my children were growing up, we celebrated the “birthdays” of their stuffed animals. Any excuse for cake, ice cream, new book purchases and gift bags!

But come the holidays, my “give unto others” spirit makes a U-turn. I lust for carefully curated payback from loved ones in the form of “just right” gifts for me.

And who better to pick what’s “just right” than me?

If you’re honest, deep in your heart, you’re a tiny bit like me. Admit it. You’ve endured a few too many years of ill-gift-gotten-gain in the form of toaster ovens, fuzzy slippers, and hand-held vacuum cleaners.

So, in the spirit of female solidarity, I offer these eight tips to make your holidays (plus Mother’s Day and birthdays) brighter and your gifts better.

Tip No. 1: Never Say These 14 Words

Never say, “Honey, let’s not spend too much money this year on gifts for each other.”

First of all, why not spend too much money? It’s the holidays. If God didn’t want you to go into debt, why did He, Lord and Taylor, Walmart, and Chase Manhattan Bank invent credit cards and layaway plans?

Second, you know – as sure as the Christmas tree lights won’t work – that you or your significant other will break the rule. Then, when the family sits down for that joyous moment of opening gifts, one of you is going to feel like a chump and the other is going to feel like a cheapskate.

Such monetary mismatched moments can lead to significant marital mayhem. I know this from painful personal experience.

Painful Personal Experience #1

The first year, Handsome Hubby (HH) and I were married, one of us uttered that fearsome phrase, “Honey, let’s not spend too much money this year on gifts for each other.” It made sense. We were newly wedded, had just received boxes and boxes of spectacular wedding gifts, and we didn’t have a lot of money.

Three weeks later – and just two days before Christmas – our credit card bill arrived. In it, a sizeable charge from a jewelry shop. I hadn’t bought anything. So, clearly, HH had. What to do? Confront him and ruin the surprise? Rush out and buy a mega-gift for him?

Confused, I called my 21-years-older big brother.

“First, I’d make sure the purchase is for you,” he intoned in deadly earnest. “Otherwise you’ve got a different and much bigger problem.”


Was my brother really suggesting infidelity? Yikes.

I was paralyzed. It was the longest two days of my life.

The gift was, of course, for me. It was a beautiful amethyst ring. And as to breaking the “not spending money” rule, HH had an excuse I could not challenge.

“Your mother has a ring almost exactly like it,” he proudly declared. “Your father loved buying you two matching jewelry. He’s gone, so I’m taking over and continuing his tradition.”

How could I argue with that? Budget be damned.

And what had I bought HH for that first holiday? A couple of books, a picture frame for one of our wedding photos, tacky boxer shorts with ornaments on them, and some other, largely forgettable, little knick-knacks.

Tip No. 2: Don’t Beat Around the Bush or Christmas Tree

While HH started off strong in the gift – and some other select marital – departments, we’ve reached middle-age. We’re harried, we’re tired, we’ve got the kids to shop for. These days, sometimes HH hits gift home runs, sometimes not so much. So, instead of leaving gift selections to the tastes, time limitations, and humors of my spouse, I intervene. I intervene early and I intervene repeatedly.

For a while, I tried the subtle approach. I dropped a few “Oh, isn’t that cute” and a few “Isn’t that lovely” hints as we ran errands and I saw do-dads and tchotchkes I liked. But HH clearly wasn’t paying attention because those items never materialized under the tree or the menorah.

Painful Personal Experience #2

One year I mentioned I’d like a white terry cloth robe. A seemingly simple request, yes? Three days before Christmas, I checked under the tree. Judging by the size of the packages, I was pretty sure there was no robe.

For weeks I had eyed a robe in the L.L. Bean catalog. Knowing that the store’s 20 percent sale plus free shipping offer was about to end, I confirmed my observation of no terry for me with HH. He got a stricken look on his face, darted into the family office, emerged 70 minutes later and declared, “Oh, there might be.”

Christmas Eve, 6 p.m.: a massive, heavy, battered box arrived.

HH disappeared down the hall. The sounds of wrapping paper being unfurled, scissors cutting paper, and tape being pulled from its roll were heard.

“Damn it. Damn it to Hell,” HH muttered.

“Are you OK?” I queried.

“Yeah, it’s just a paper cut,” came the grumpy reply.

I almost cautioned him not to get blood on the robe, but I didn’t want to ruin the “surprise” and held my tongue … and dinner.

After we ate, the family gathered to open gifts. When my turn came, HH pushed a big box toward me. I tried to lift it. I could not. The box was that heavy.

I bent down to open it and hoisted up an enormous, eye-blinding snow-white, plush terry cloth robe. It was gorgeous. I have a Brooks Brothers cashmere coat that pales in comparison for luxury and style.

Unfortunately, the robe weighed at least 10 pounds. Even HH admitted it was a problem. He had paid a fortune for the robe plus a king’s ransom to get it shipped on time, and while the store accepted returns, it would not cover the hefty shipping cost.

Tip No. 3: Put It in Writing

So, I learned a lesson. Never hint. Never be subtle. Don’t just say what you want. Put it in writing. In an email. With a bcc to yourself. With a reminder on your calendar to re-send the email again two weeks before the holidays. And then again one week later.

Tip No. 4: Be Specific

I cannot stress this point enough. Don’t just jot down that you want Item X. Provide details. Size. Color. Brand. The name of the store where the object of your desire can be acquired. If possible and, nowadays it almost always is, provide the website link as well. LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE.

Tip No. 5: Create the Illusion of Free Will

For my husband, I provide a list of 4-5 options, so he feels that some free will and creativity is involved in his purchases. Let him think he’s in charge. It’s good for his ego.

Tip No. 6: Special Guidance re “The Kids”

For my children, I follow a similar email strategy. Only I offer no choices. It’s much like my parenting style. You know, my way or the highway. In terms of gifts, it’s the same. “This is what I want. Get it or suffer eternal maternal damnation.”

Tip No. 7: Sock it to Me

On the subject of Christmas stockings, I recommend this sure-fired approach to morning joy. Don’t shilly-shally around. Don’t wait for some Secret Santa to fill your stocking. Go out and buy what you want.

I follow a “one for them, one for me” rule. If I buy one after-shave for my son, I get one perfume for me. If I buy my daughter nail polish, I get a second one for me. If my husband, daughter, and son each get a chocolate Santa, I get one. It’s only fair, right?

Tip No. 8: To Wrap or Not to Wrap

For years, I left this seemingly simple task to my husband, but he always forgot until the last minute. Worse yet, HH often forgot where he had put the stocking stuffers. So, to streamline the process and minimize my stress, I wrap the gifts and hand him the bundle at the last minute. He truly appreciates the help and I, of course, appreciate the guilt-free goodies.

Endnote: Unfortunately I have not yet figured out how to export this sure-fired plan for 100% gift-getting satisfaction to my extended network of family and friends, but I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here’s to a great gift-getting holiday season. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. And have a lovely Mother’s Day and a wonderful birthday!

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2 replies
    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Thank you. It truly was a gift that touched my heart and my mother’s as well. We both cried when HH explained his reason for buying it.


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