The 10 Commandments of Gift Giving


Hi ho, hi ho, Christmas is a go! Gear up and get your sparkle on: ’tis the season for sugar cookie consumption overload. Stock up on wrapping paper too, because it’s also gift giving time.

Black Friday isn’t just creeping around the corner. It’s barreling towards us. Every store is knocking us over with Christmas decor galore, and it’s only mid-November (Hamilton Place Mall was apparently decked out before Halloween — a friend even suggested you could take your children trick or treating dressed as Christmas carolers).

It’s no surprise that we love to shop. It probably should be considered a national pastime in this country.

This year, my son suddenly declared out of the blue that he wants to go ‘shopping for Christmas.’ Clearly I already shop too much. While I haven’t always celebrated Christmas with gusto, or even at all, I do love the magical moment when my child opens a few gifts over the holidays. 
We don’t buy a ton of stuff for him, because frankly, he gets enough throughout the year. I don’t want him to start expecting 8,000 gifts on Christmas. That’s not what it’s about in our family.

But even with our small family, gifts and toys creep in and before I know it, we’re drowning in a sea of toys that I’m tossing in a closet ready to sell at the next consignment sale. Jama makes great points here about not buying so many things. You’ve probably already read it — it’s this blog’s most popular post ever, mainly because it hits a nerve. People want to buy STUFF.

Who am I to rob you of the joy of giving? I can’t stop you. It’s your money. So if you are going to buy stuff for your kids, friends, and grandchildren (not only over the holidays, but any time of the year) at least consider the 10 commandments of purchasing before you go on your shopping spree:

1. Thou shalt provide all batteries (the correct ones!) plus replacements.

Because there is nothing worse than a kid’s defeated face with a dead remote control car in hand. Sure, Grandpa can race to the corner store (which may or may not be open on Christmas Day) to get those dang rectangular batteries nobody keeps a stockpile of at their house. But Grandpa doesn’t have to deal with the whiny kid in the meantime. We do. Plus we all know batteries die before New Year’s. (Bonus points if you buy us rechargeable ones with a new charger.)

2. Thou shalt reconsider toys that make noise.

I loathe toys that make noise. (Don’t hate me…I’m an introvert and I enjoy silence.) However, Grandma loves to buy my child the ones that do make noise. Grandma is also hard of hearing. Think about whether the parents want to hear that bulldozer roar, and if you do feel the need to buy a noisy toy, be sure it has some sort of off switch.

3. Thou shalt provide age appropriate toys.

Do not buy the three-year-old a Lego set meant for ages seven and above (I’m talking to you, Sailor…) unless you want them to break the helicopter within an hour. Oh and good luck fishing those tiny pieces out of the vent. If you’re lucky, that’s the only place your toddler will think to stick them.

4. Thou shalt check with the parents to see what kind of clothes the child actually needs and for what season.

That cute t-shirt might fit now, but is it going to fit six months from now when the weather heats up? Probably not, unless you actually meant to buy a crop top.

5. Thou shalt not give a gift until you ask the parent’s permission.

Several times now, well-meaning friends and family have busted out a new toy behind my back. They are delighted to see the Peanut’s face, but it crushes my soul because I just gave him a new toy for attempting to poop on the potty. But how could they know? They weren’t in that bathroom hunkered over a small person on an even smaller potty. I was. Of course you can give the gift. All I ask is to double check first and then space out the joy.

6. Thou shalt give a membership that expires.

I’m not talking about a lifetime membership to the Tennessee Aquarium (yes, please!) I’m talking about other gifts. I have a friend who continued to sponsor a child out of guilt because someone ‘gifted’ the first month in her name, while she was high school. For all I know, she’s still sponsoring the kid 20 years on.

7. Thou shalt check with the parents before giving any gift that breathes.

Pets are for life. Bobby might want a cat, but hey, maybe you forgot that his dad his deathly allergic. Or that his mom doesn’t want to deal with cat litter. Trust me, Bobby’s mom will be the one to deal with the cat litter, so check first.

8. Thou shalt actually wrap the gift.

Half the fun of being on the receiving end of a gift as a kid is actually ripping it open. I don’t know when the trend of giving presents in a gift bag started, but I fear it is here to stay. Sure they’re reusable and recyclable, but no amount of tissue paper ever hides the gift, and there’s no ripping involved. Buck the trend and wrap the gift. If you’re concerned about the environment or if you’re cheap, buy a Sunday paper and wrap your gifts in newsprint.

9. Thou shalt buy the parents a nice gift.

It is great to see our kids gets so many gifts, but do you know what we want besides world peace and a good night’s sleep? A babysitter. Coffee. Maybe even a pedicure. Sure we’re all about seeing the magic of Christmas in our children’s eyes. But you know what’s even more magical? A shared bottle of wine between Mommy and Daddy to drown out that dump truck that makes noise (see #2).

10. Thou shalt remember that it’s not a competition.

Please don’t compete among other family and friends to be the coolest auntie or meemaw who brings the most extravagant gifts. Even if you don’t bring a present, just be present. Chances are, that’s the part of the holidays the kids will all remember the most.

Happy shopping and best of luck for Black Friday sales!


    • Thanks! I noticed tonight that the countertop had a pile of batteries and an open bottle of wine on it. We are winning 😉

  1. Many great ideas! Thank you. I do struggle with the wrapping paper/gift bag dilemma. It just seems so wasteful, even with recyclable wrap. Re-useable wrap is rather expensive. Are there any other ideas?

    • I like to wrap stuff in actual gift items — like giving a reusable cloth bag or a small blanket or tea towel. Then the recipient gets a gift even from the wrapping! Brown bags from the grocery store also work (get the kids to decorate them using potato stamps!)

Comments are closed.