Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gift Giving Obligations?

What happens when someone gives you a Christmas present you weren't expecting? Not necessarily a huge present, but a present still? You suddenly feel very weird. There's a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. But what do you do?

That's what happened yesterday. A gift arrived in the mail from some friends whom I've never exchanged gifts with before. In college, I put a stop to all gift exchanges and I told friends honestly I couldn't afford to exchange gifts. Fortunately this has prevented me from going crazy and spending money we didn't have to exchange gifts with people that might not be useful.

But these friends just got married last year and though I've known them since college, I haven't been terribly close to them. So we've never exchanged gifts. Well now I am torn as to what to do?

Should I send a thank you note and graciously accept the gift? Or should I order them something online? Or should I send them something small in the mail?

My DH will say send a note and hope they never send another gift again. Me, I'm torn because I sort of want to just send a cute thank you note and pray they don't send a gift again next year. Another thing, this year I am not feeling up to do Christmas cards.

While financially this is not a big deal, I do feel gift giving out of a sense of "obligation" is a big deal. I don't like to get started card/gift giving because I hate keeping up with it. And the list it seems just grows are you get older, not lessen (well until after a certain age :p)

But seriously, I talked with my mom just back from another tour, and what were the words out of her mouth? "Oh I need to send Christmas cards to all these new people I just meet". My response? Why bother, screw it, they don't want a card from you. They probably just want to rest. She said I'm a terrible scrooge. Which I guess put me in my current conundrum.

According to how I was raised, I'd run out and buy a gift. But my upbringing is strongly wrestling with my adult practicality and I don't want to waste money on gifts for people I don't know that well, nor would I care if they never sent me a gift again.


Jim ~ said...

I think I'm bothered more by entitlement to how much is spent on someone versus someone else. My wife's parents split the amount they would spend on just her to both of us. My parents try to do this even though my wife disagrees and feels something unfair is going on. This year I don't want or need a lot of things, so I don't care if anyone spends money on my behalf. My wife expects a certain amount from her parents and my parents, and I just say grow up. We spend way too much money on Christmas too.

I think gifts are a catch 22 because if you receive one from someone and didn't expect it, how do you counter balance it? Just because someone gives you a gift you should give them one back? Is there a balance that goes on or do people get stuff they want without buying it themselves?

We have a Christmas card list and send out cards to the people on the list each year. Not that we expect anything back but just an acknowledgement that they are important enough to be on our list. Christmas loses a lot of meaning with regards to gifts and money. At this point I can't wait for this time of the year to be over already.

Chief Family Officer said...

I think the question to ask yourself is if the givers are expecting or would really appreciate something from you in return. You don't say what they sent you, but if it was relatively small, I would send back a note saying what a wonderful surprise it was and how much you loved it, and wishing them a very happy holiday season. If it was relatively large, I would call and say how much you appreciate the gesture but you feel awful that you can't reciprocate and you'll be sending it back. If they say to keep it anyway, send them a gracious note.

angie said...

I agree with the CFO; send a note saying how great it is to hear from them, and thank them for the gift. You don't need to reciprocate (although I too would have the gut instinct to run out and shop for them) A gift freely given is often not a way to ask for something back, but just a way to tell you that they were thinking of you and value your friendship.