Saturday, November 14, 2009


When shopping for someone's holiday gift, it's understandably tempting to get them something related to their favorite hobby (or the current movie or book series they are obsessed with. Think Teenagers and Twilight, for example, and avoid giving the Twilight-crazed teenager in your life any more Twilight stuff).

This especially happens when you are doing last-minute shopping and haven't planned ahead. You're then more likely to panic and stick with something you think is safe.

Try to be especially thoughtful when you're determined you want to plan a hobby-related gift for someone. Put a lot of time into researching it if you can.

For example, you might have a teenage boy you need to get a gift for. Probably that boy likes video games, but there's a slim chance you can actually find a game he likes and doesn't already own. Instead of wildly guessing, you'd have to call his parents and ask about a specific title (Be sure they will allow him to own that game, too).

I have an elderly relative who sends me cat everything - cat napkins, cat placemats, kitchen towels with cats all over them, kitten calendars, cat patterned gloves, cat Kleenex holders, etc. - just because I happen to own two cats. Now I wonder if my grandmother who has chicken-themed items all over her house really likes chickens, or if we've all just gotten into the habit of getting her chicken things and she's stuck with them.

My father likes tennis, so in the past I've panicked and gotten him tennis-related items. But I can't afford the kind of specialized tennis rackets he uses, and wouldn't know exactly which kind to get him anyways. Plus, this wouldn't be a great gift because he already has lots of tennis rackets. A can of tennis balls doesn't make a very nice or interesting gift, and does he really need a calendar of famous tennis stars? Not really, unless it's an Anna Kournikova calendar - my stepmother might have something to say about that! Chocolate companies make tennis-themed chocolates, but my father would probably be happier with a more flavorful box of See's or Godiva chocolates instead.

I really am going to try this year to put a lot of thought into his present and not get him anything tennis (or car) related.

My aunt collects cookbooks, so my natural impulse is to run out and buy her a cookbook. But since her collection is nearing 2,500 books (I'm not exaggerating!) there's very little chance I would be able to find her a cookbook that she doesn't have already and that she would find interesting. Cookbook collectors don't collect just any old cookbook, either - they might collect only vintage ones, only ethnic ones, only dessert cookbooks, only Spanish dessert cookbooks, only vegetarian cookbooks, or other subcategories. Also, just because she collects cookbooks doesn't mean she actually likes to cook, so I can't necessarily run out and get her kitchen stuff or gourmet baking goods just because they're related to the cookbook theme.

When in doubt, talk to the person's spouse, partner, or a very close friend about something they might need or want.

You can always ask the person yourself too for a gift hint - but I feel like that sort of takes the fun out of their gift. We should be enjoying the gift buying process, or not participate in it at all.

What can you think of that might complement a person's hobby or bring enjoyment to their life - and can you avoid just handing them a gift certificate?

Related Links:

Writer Orson Scott Card wrote recently on gift certificates and hobby gifts. Scroll down to read.

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