Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, November 27, 2016

If I Were A Rich Man: Christmas Presents (Doubles As A Personally Cathartic Gift Giving Guide)


It's time for another one of these.

For the most part I've been kind of ambivalent about Christmas. I thought it was a hokey holiday as a kid but liked that I got presents and some time off school. And then I became an adult. The person who is suppose to be giving out the presents.

In the 6 years since I graduated college I've only been able to do Christmas the way I wanted exactly once. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't built up a certain amount of resentment to the holiday as a result.

That one year I had to damn near kill myself to get the money to get those gifts but I did it and I am not in a hurry to do it again. Or at least go that far. Especially as with everything else there are A LOT of places the money could better go.

Not only that but I have a huge extended family. If I were to really do Christmas the way I wanted I'm looking a probably a couple thousand dollars and that's if I don't also decide to host some sort of party or dinner which I can't anyway because I don't have a space to do it.

Let's just hope I all of a sudden become more interesting in middle-age.

But fine. Fine a man can dream so here is how I would do Christmas if I had unlimited funds.

Da List and Da Budget

So around September I would assemble a list of all of my numerous relations. I currently have a spreadsheet where I have fields for

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Nick Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Parents
  • Are They Paternally Related to Me or Maternally Related
  • Am I Getting Them A Gift
  • Gift Ideas
  • Have I Got Them A Gift
If I were going all out I would also like to mail out gifts to my more distant relations and set things up for some sort of party so addresses and the like would be in order.

But for now let's talk about presents. Like I said my extended family is huge so even in the best of times I probably wouldn't be able to get something for everybody. I would have to prioritize. The general rule is only people ages 2-13 get something. 

In general for kids less than two giving a gift is mostly a token gesture to the parents more so than a gift for the kids themselves as the kids that young are unlikely to remember jack all. Moreover, kids that young think very differently and I have no memory of that time in my life so it is hard as hell to get a good gift for kids that age. 

And after 13 let's be honest everybody would just prefer money. 

Even the adults. "The Gift of the Magi" is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Get that shit outta here.

Which brings me to the budget which is what the list really represents. I expand or shrink who gets what based on cost projections. Almost anything worth a damn is going to cost at least $10. And if there one of my relations who I like, or has hinted at something in particular or who has had a rough year and needs a pick me up that gets blown to hell.  So it's more responsible to budget $25 and see where I stand.

If there is any money left after the kids everybody gets a card and a visa gift ... card.  The teenagers can buy what they want online especially if it's music or movies or video games or whatever. And the same goes for everybody else.

Other than that I keep or try to keep an amazon wishlist year round of anything I think would make a good gift for the fam.

Black Friday

So we arrive at the capitalist nightmare-hell  (it warrants a new compound word) that brought this on.

Yeah no.


Uh uh.

Not doin' it.


The reason why Black Friday has significance to me is that it marks a date close enough to Christmas so that it's not unreasonable to buy stuff but far enough out so that if I buy stuff online it will be in stock and probably delivered on time, with the ancillary benefit of cyber Monday sales.

I am not walking into a store unless I'm desperate and chances I'm not going to be that desperate on Black Friday.

Spend the time making a list before and then spend an hour checking out and be done from my desk.

I have too much brand loyalty to Amazon. Thier lists make mass shopping like Christmas and personal projects easy, but I on occasion worry about knock-offs but there are some ways around that.
First off avoid buying from Amazon sellers and buy stuff straight from Amazon. They have to stand by their products or risk their reputation. That's not foolproof though so if you really want to be safe buy straight from manufacturers.

Gift Ideas

As I already mentioned, resist the urge to buy anything for teenagers. "But I remember what was like when"... no you don't and things travel a thousand miles per hour these days even if you did. Just give them money and be done with it.  They will thank you for it.

That said for younger kids there is a little more leeway.

Stick with the classics. They are the classics for a reason. Really young kids like physicality. Stuff they can manipulate with their bare hands. That's what toys have been since my granddaddy's day for a reason. So things like dolls, blocks, trains, cars and the like never get old.

But as kids grow older that start appreciating abstraction. It's not just what a toy is but what it represents.  Age matters. What is super special awesome for a 5 year old will be laughed out the room by a 10 year old. 

Which brings me to board games and the like and my same advice follows. Stick with the classics unless told otherwise by the kid or the parent. I know the urge to get "creative" is biting. You saw Betrayal on Geek and Sundry and started drooling but that's something for you. The holiday is not supposed to be about you 29 year-old Miles. You had your Christmas'.



The advertising may get confusing but keep in mind the same damn companies have been basically been making the same damn toys with tweaks and revisions for years.

When I was a boy Beyblades were a thing but as I look back I am surprised I didn't realize that they were nothing more than modular flashy spinning tops. That wouldn't have been wholly alien 50 years ago.

But to kids the small differences matter.

Beware Licenced Toys

This is the exception to the rule about sticking to the classics. Stick to the classic in form but in image don't. Unless you are amazingly plugged into the minutia of fictional media targeted towards children chances are your going to screw it up. And corporate America has vested interest in your ignorance.

That being said kids love stuff from the latest movie or comic or whatever. But if you screw it up they will be piiiiiiissseed.

Aside On "Gratitude"
As adults we all know the amount of time money and effort that can go into getting good gifts for kids but rule one when dealing with kids is don't punish them for being kids. Children especially young children often aren't aware of how much their stuff is worth and how all of that translates into tangible work.

And that's not their fault. At least not in the case of little kids.

So don't expect them to appreciate that that PS4 meant 2 weeks overtime until they're older.

We all want to pretend like Christmas is about family and all that jazz and if you're over 13 maybe it is but for kids let's be honest it's about having one of two days in the year where everybody else will bend over backward to get you what you want, everything else be damned. I didn't appreciate it when I had it.  And I wish to god I could pass it forward.

But I can't.

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