Column: Gift from the heart takes some planning

Column: Gift from the heart takes some planning

By Julia Gall

Between doing schoolwork like a maniac, booking a flight home and adjusting to the drop in temperature, life in the midst of the hectic holiday season can be extremely stressful.

So stressful in fact, that you may feel rushed to get your shopping done and end up giving thoughtless or overly expensive gifts with no sentimental value. If you ask me, this is the antithesis of spreading holiday cheer.

Now, if you’re still willing to give a pair of socks or another Bath ‘ Body Works gift set, then go for it. But if you really want to impress those you love and fill their hearts with joy, then take a different approach without breaking the bank.

An inexpensive gift does not necessarily mean it is thoughtless. I am a firm believer in making your dollar go further by finding an interesting gem on a college budget.

The first and most important rule of holiday shopping is to start with a spending limit. I’m not asking you necessarily to prioritize how much you’d want to spend on each person on your list, but I’d hope it would be more for your parents than say, your lab partner.

It’s a good idea to know how much you want to spend before going into a store, getting overwhelmed and buying just anything regardless of the price.

But what if you’re roaming the mall and you stumble upon “the perfect gift” for someone, and it exceeds your limit? Take these thoughts into consideration:

1. Is it really worth the price?

If yes, then go for it, but only if you definitely know the person will like it. Then you’ll be happy you made the sacrifice.

2. Is there somewhere else I can get the same thing, but less expensive?

OK, don’t look at a designer handbag and then find the knock-off on the street. But say you find a stylish shirt for your friend at an expensive, designer store. Try to see if they have something like it at a store like H’M. Chances are they probably will since from my experience they have a version of pretty much everything at a much reduced rate.

3. Can I make this?

As for making something, I say ONLY if you are 100 percent confident in your crafting skills and are positive you have the time to construct it and execute it properly, then by all means go for it. Hand-crafted gifts are among the top tier of gift-giving excellence, but only if they are made properly.

Consider hobbies or general interests. If you get something for them that you know is within their realm of interest, they will appreciate the thought for sure, and probably enjoy your gift.

For instance, if your friend is a devout music fan, but you’re afraid to get them an album they may not like or already have, I’d say go for an iTunes Music Store gift certificate. Cheaper than Amazon.com and a little more “now” than Best Buy, iTunes offers tons of new music choices, as well as movies and TV shows.

This brings me to a very important subject: there is nothing wrong with a gift certificate.

While they aren’t personal enough to give to your parents or someone with the same status, they’re great for college students and anyone younger. I know I would personally love a gift certificate pretty much anywhere since I don’t like spending my own money.

If you are thinking in practical terms, grocery store or gas station gift cards are great ideas because they’re something everyone has to spend money on.

The usefulness factor is important. Think about things your recipients need. Not things they necessarily tell you they want, but things you know could make their lives a little easier. With what might seem like mundane gift cards, you could possibly be giving the most useful gift.

Also, any price is really acceptable with gift certificates. Though $10 may get your recipient a little further at the iTunes Music Store than Urban Outfitters, anyone could use a little help with their shopping. Think of the places where your friends shop the most. Even if it is somewhere expensive, $25 could knock down the price of something extravagant they had their eyes on.

Basically, the key to a great gift is just a little bit of thought. Once you are organized and take a little time out to plan who you’re buying for, what they would like or need all while maintaining a budget, the whole gift-giving process becomes quite easier done than said.

– Julia Gall can be reached at [email protected]

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