Readers had an interesting discussion months ago about the two main kinds of gift-giving styles (asker vs. guesser) — and commenters have also been talking about long-term partner gifts as well as family gifts. Let’s discuss…
What’s Your Gift-Giving Style, Asker or Guesser?
Readers were discussing (here and here) a MetaFilter thread about the two kinds of people around gifts: people who prefer to ASK what you want, versus the people who prefer to GUESS what you want. One commenter noted that it was even a difference in the etiquette around gift-giving in her family — her husband’s family considered it rude to ask what people want (or to ask for what YOU want).
For my own $.02, my family is definitely ASKERS, while my husband’s family is mostly guessers. My mother will give my kids toy catalogs to look through and pick out things, while their other grandma (my MIL) will just guess what things they’re going to love. (We’ve had hits with both methods, but we still have way too many toys… enough that I don’t tend to get a lot for my kids for the holidays.)
What’s Your Family Approach to Gift-Giving?
Another big question that’s been circulating among the commenters lately: What is your family approach to gift-giving? If you’re partnered, what do you get your partner for the holidays? (Has it changed as the years have gone on?) How has gift-giving changed from childhood to adulthood with your parents and siblings?
My husband and I (married since 2009) have, like many long-married couples, generally stopped giving each other gifts. We’re privileged enough to generally be able to buy what we want when we want it, unless it’s a really big ticket item. So we tend to set money aside for bigger projects (vacation, big house-related fun expense), although I sometimes come up with a list of 5–10 things I wouldn’t mind getting from jewelry stores or Poshmark and then he can pick something.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say that my parents still get my brother and me a lot of gifts — and it just doesn’t make sense since all four of us just buy whatever we want when we see it. (My parents in particular are impossible to buy for!) For several years now I’ve decided in my head that we should just do a Secret Santa gift exchange (where we all pull names out of a hat and just get ONE gift), but I never seem to remember until early December, when my mother is already well into her gift-buying process. (NEXT YEAR, I swear.) Another version of this: doing a jokey white elephant gift exchange.
Bonus Question: How Are You Keeping Track of All the Gifts You’re Buying?
I’ve seen a lot on social media lately about people making fun of themselves for not being able to keep track of what the heck they bought on Black Friday — um, YES, me!
Some of the stuff I’ve moved into a special email folder to help keep track of everything. But I’m starting to wonder if I need a chart to fill out every year to keep general track of what I’m getting for whom, where I am in my progress, and more.
When I was a kid I suspect my mom kept detailed lists, because she wanted my gifts and my brother’s gifts to be an equal amount (and stay within a budget). She even went so far as to number each gift so she could consult a list to stop me from opening a particular gift before another — ideally, she wanted me to open the Cabbage Patch Kid before I got the accessories for the Cabbage Patch Kid, for example.
I am nowhere NEAR that organized — in part because the grandmas’ gifts are so many, but also just because I’m, um, not that organized.
I’ve literally just started a template in Word to keep track of things that currently just has 12 different iterations of this (one for everyone I’m getting gifts for):
[OLDER SON'S NAME] Present ideas: 2021: Stocking ideas: 2021:
And I’ll go through and fill out stocking ideas and present ideas and then what I’m getting. I’m cursed with wanting to make it prettier (I think this would be a great app! Oooh or maybe a form in Google Forms) but I haven’t had a chance to get beyond those basic ideas.
Readers, over to you — are you an asker or a guesser when it comes to gifts? How do you and your partner deal with gifts between each other? How has family gift giving changed from childhood to adulthood?
Stock photo (woman holding out a wrapped gift) via Stencil.
My kid’s bday is right before Christmas, so there are A LOT of gifts to track. I do have a numbered list that correlates a number to a gift. It allows me to evenly spread the gifts between the two occasions. Plus, I can track gifts from other relatives. I also mark off whether the gift has been cleaned/prepped and then wrapped. With a toddler, it’s just easier to have the gift ready-to-play right away.
We have many October/November/December birthdays in our family, which complicates gift purchasing a bit. I have a Google spreadsheet where I keep track of the recipient, what I purchased, how much I spent, any tracking numbers, whether it’s been received, and whether it’s been wrapped. It sounds like a lot, but there is no way I’d be able to keep track of the details otherwise (or even remember what I’ve already purchased). It has saved me on multiple occasions!
My family has a pretty organic combination of asking/guessing, and also a tendency to guess at something, but ask someone closer to the giftee (significant other or parent) if the guess is on target. I love giving gifts, and have a rep as being good at it.
My tracking method is just a notes app list on my phone. I realized that I needed to include more details a couple years ago when I gave my sister the exact same sweater two years in a row! (Thank goodness for gift receipts!) I bullet each person’s name, grouped in families, and note ideas, then check them off and edit when the gifts are purchased. Keeps me on point who still needs something, and stays on my phone to compare year to year.
I use the Notes app on my phone to keep track of what I’ve gotten and for whom. I don’t buy for a ton of people, though.
My strong preference is as a guesser, and I have a strong preference for people to give me what they think I’d like. I always appreciate the thought, and it’s sweet to see what made people think of me.
My boyfriend’s family are askers, and I finally gave in and realized that the best gift I could give them was helping them know they’d gotten me something I’d love and use. So I send a couple of links and a few broad categories to them now.
I grew up with a combination of asking/guessing, and that is also how my husband and I operate with each other and our kids. As far as keeping track, I keep a note on my phone where I can add ideas for myself and others as I think of them throughout the year because otherwise I’ll never remember. Once we hit shopping season, I refer to that and any lists/ideas I’ve received from people, and make a list of what we’re actually going to buy, noting when items are ordered and crossing them off when they arrive.
What was my username
It’s bizarre reading exactly what I was going to write – keeping a list of ideas is key for birthdays and holidays ?
We don’t give gifts to friends/family. Most of our family, and friends, have already bought most things they want/need. Instead, we thank (with cash and a card) any service employees who have done great work (especially during the pandemic). We donate cash to food banks, and organizations that help people who are struggling. 2021 was our first year to donate to onesimplewish.org. Foster children have “wish lists” and you can grant a wish. We select children with the simplest needs and it feels good to help someone, who may not be able to help themselves.
We only exchange gifts with my sister and her family, and there’s not a lot of us (8 total, 3 of which are the “kids” – teenagers/young adults). She and I start talking about this in October, we solicit links as relevant, whoever it’s most convenient for buys the gifts (so she works and I’m retired so often I’ll buy the gifts and have them sent to her to wrap), we have an Excel spreadsheet that just “crosses” each giver by each recipient and we note it down and venmo one another money if we owe one another, and the goal is done and wrapped by Thanksgiving. I think it is the stupidest thing ever to wander around a crowded mall on December 22 as though you just realized that Christmas was happening December 25. Disclaimer: I do take care of the legwork of buying gifts from my young-adult kids to their aunt/uncle/cousin/grandmother, just because I have the time and they don’t.
When it comes to buying gifts, I definitely “guess” but it’s an educated guess. I love buying gifts for people and pay attention all year-long for items they wish for. I start shopping for Christmas in August. Just buying an item off of someone’s list is NOT my idea of gift-giving. I’m not an Amazon fulfillment centre! LOL
I absolutely keep a list of what I’ve bought for whom.
I come from a family of askers after a few disastrous guess gifts when we were kids. (I was in tears after a much hyped “you’ll love it”-gift is something that even years later I truly don’t like and it wasn’t returnable.) Small guesses are fine or things that you KNOW are wanted, like a planned trip, that wouldn’t be on a gift list. I do not want any more random kitchen gadgets because I am the family “chef” or shelf dust collectors or fun socks. My preferred gift is time with loved ones.