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Gift Ideas For People You Feel Obligated To Give To

Updated on March 24, 2010

Have you ever given someone a gift simply because you felt you had to?

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Simple, Affordable & Painless

I went to college with a girl who always purchased presents for people who, in her opinion, could be valuable to her in the future. This same girl was notorious for giving belated birthday presents to her family and friends or forgetting them entirely. Yet, whenever a certain valuable person’s birthday would roll around, she’d always have the date right and ask me weeks in advance for gift ideas. Through the years, I have met people who, though not as extreme as my former acquaintance, have found themselves in this same situation. Whether their boss is turning sixty or their significant other’s second cousin is graduating from college, I seem to be the “go-to” person for gift ideas. With this mind, I offer you the following ten gift ideas and hope they will help make your shopping experience a more pleasant one.

  • Stationary
    When I find myself in a store with the express purpose of having to buy a gift for someone I barely know (or know and am so-so about) I always head for the stationary department. I give stationary because it’s unisex, useful and, depending on where you shop, relatively cheap. It comes in various designs so it can easily suit the personality of the recipient. Nowadays, it’s more often than not made out of recycled material which makes you feel good about the environment. If you really want to take a chance at impressing the birthday person, you could go to a stationary store where you could have their stationary customized. However, it’s extra money and extra time and if you’re reading this article chances are you’re not willing to expend either. Still, it’s good to know that the option is there when it comes time to consider gifts for people you actually care about.
  • Toiletry Gift Baskets
    Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a store bought gift basket full of scented candles, exfoliating soap and bath beads? Me! I have an aunt on my father’s side who I’ve only met a handful of times that loves sending me such a gift for Christmas. I imagine that she has a vision in her mind of a dainty twenty-something woman opening her Christmas package and squealing with delight when she realizes that she’ll be able to bathe in orange blossoms nightly until the bath beads sadly run out. Every year, I write to thank her for her generous gift and silently thank God that Christmas only comes once a year. Still, thanks to her, I have been able to save some money by re-gifting this basket to someone who undoubtedly re-gifts it to someone else and so on. When I’m in doubt about what to give people who I know enjoy pampering themselves, I always take a look at the discounted toiletry gift baskets. With luck, I will find one for fewer than three dollars that hasn’t been chewed at by mice and in the carriage into goes.
  • Mugs & Other Such Things
    Though few people actually want to receive them, isn’t it great to find a mug, t-shirt or key chain that already has the name or title of the recipient printed on it? When you give someone such a gift, they believe on some level that you actually put thought into it which is a plus for you. For me, I sometimes use these types of gifts to subtly tell someone how I feel about them. For example, if a pompous acquaintance invited me to their birthday party/dinner, as part of their gift I might give them a cheap mug or key chain emblazoned with a saying or word that sums them up. Being that they are too egotistical to think that someone would try to downgrade them in any way, we would undoubtedly share in a laugh while others might scratch their heads. Petty as it is, this never fails to make me feel better. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I urge you to do the same and enjoy the release I feel.
  • Books
    I’m aware that not everybody enjoys books as much as I do. However, I do know that people like to look smarter than they actually are and having a book on hand tends to do just that. When you are trying to decide on what book might be a good one to give, I suggest you stick to the classics. Is this book for your boss? If so, you might want to give them a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with a note inside thanking them for being the antithesis of Ebenezer Scrooge even if they aren’t. Is this book for your girlfriend’s mother? If so, you might want to give her a copy of Lousia May Alcott’s Little Women to show her that you recognize that like Marmee she had to make sacrifices in order to raise the fantastic woman you now love so deeply. True, the recipient may never read this book. However, the brown nosing you just did could get you on the road to promotion and make her mother think twice about criticizing you for years to come.
  • Fake Potted Flowers
    Unlike real flowers, fake flowers never die and, unless left undusted, never make you sneeze. They brighten up any room and withstand travel especially if you buy them potted. True, they aren’t exactly a warm gift and will never replace real flowers, but the fact that you cared enough not to make the recipient’s allergies flare up means a lot. Your gift will last forever even after they are repeatedly re-gifted.
  • Gift Cards
    Without question, gift cards are perfect presents. They never go out of style. They never make you sneeze. There’s no downside to receiving a duplicate of a particular gift card. People who are hard to shop for appreciate receiving gift cards because it keeps them from having to awkwardly ask you for your receipt. The next time you have to shop for someone you don’t know well and getting them something from a discount store just won’t do, I suggest you go the gift card route. It will cost you more, but will save you the embarrassment one feels when their cheap gift falls apart as the recipient is taking it out of the gift bag.
  • Stuffed Animals
    Simply put, stuffed animals are good gifts because even grouchy or snobby people of any age like to hug things. Yes, they may give you a weird look or make an unkind comment when they open their present, but ignore them. Secretly, their inner child is jumping for joy and can’t wait to be alone so they can hug the stuffing out of your gift. Keep in mind when shopping for said stuffed animal that the one with the largest price tag does not always make for the best choice. I say you should buy the small, moderately priced cute one with the perfectly sewn seam. It'll be just as appreciated and won't make you break your piggy bank.
  • What They Borrow From You
    While in school, I always tried to take note of the things my classmates repeatedly asked to borrow from me so that when their birthday rolled around I could buy it for them. Boring as it may be, if you have a coworker who always asks to borrow your stapler, perhaps you should buy them one of their own and save it for their special day? Not only will it keep them from borrowing yours and returning it to you jammed, but it will also make them think that you care enough about them to make sure their office needs are met. How’s that for killing two birds with one stone?
  • Charitable Donation
    I have a relative that, for past couple of Christmases, has decided to donate money to a particular charity in the name of his in-laws. While this gift has gone over well with the bulk of them, his spoiled sister-in-law always makes a stink about it. Personally, I love his idea not just because it outs this brat for what she is, but because it brings gift giving back to the basics. In other words, because of his generosity, others can enjoy a merry Christmas too. I believe more people should follow his lead and donate the money they would spend on people they don’t necessarily care for to help others who will truly appreciate the money spent. The next time you’re in a store bitterly contemplating what to get a certain person for their birthday or other occasion, I suggest you leave the store and contact your favorite charity. If there’s any positive way to make you feel better about celebrating this person’s involvement in your life, this would be it.
  • Mystery Items
    We’ve all encountered an item while shopping that has made us scratch our heads. We wonder what it is we’re looking at and what exactly one would do with it. Oddly transfixed by this item (and the unbelievably affordable price it’s going for), we try to think of someone we could give it to. Unable to think of someone, we move along and leave it for someone else to ponder. Just this once, I think you should put it into your cart and give it to the person who’s the hardest to buy for. Chances are they don’t have this item and will be too confused by it to complain. Besides, at that price, isn’t it worth the risk?

Shopping for someone you barely know (or barely like) is far from easy. Often, you're tempted to go out of your price range to overcompensate for how you feel about the recipient which is never wise. I hope my ideas helped you. If nothing else, I hope they made you laugh and helped you put things into perspective. Best of luck shopping!


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      You're the one with the brains here. I'm waihctng for your posts.

    • LowellWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L.A. Walsh 

      8 years ago from Lowell, MA

      I really appreciate your feedback! :)

    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Great Hubs and great ideas!!! This is information someone can really use!


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