Using A Wishlist, A Cure for The Gimmies
Do or Don't: The Wishlist
The concept is nothing new, although Amazon's wishlist feature brought things to a whole new digital level. When a gift giving event arises, the wishlists come out.
Kids painstakingly make their shopping, ahem, I mean wish lists for santa. Adults pull together a list of what their too-young-to-write children might want for birthday gifts. And we all keep an ongoing wishlist, whether it's written down or kept in our heads, made public to searchers or kept private with a mouseclick.
It started with registries. There were wedding registries, and then new baby registries. After all, if you choose a china pattern, you need to let your guests know which one you chose or you'll end up with bunny rabbits, lilies of the valley and some random platinum ring running around the edge of your dinnerware. And if you have a baby shower, no one wants to be the one who bought that fourth baby monitor. Creating a registry is a kindness to your guests, not just a selfish gift grab.
Of course, we're all also aware that it's rude to dictate gifts. It's rude to expect a gift in general. While bringing a gift to a bridal shower may be an unwritten rule, mentioning a gift on the invite is also an incredible faux pas. Same with children's birthday parties. Same with Christmas. So how do we unite these two conflicting ideas? Update that wishlist...because you shouldn't be expecting anything, right? Hmmm. And if you do get something, you'd better be grateful. It's the thought that counts.
As many families have discovered, it is indeed the thought that counts. And that's the beauty of wish lists.
The Benefits of a Wishlist
Most websites now have wish list options, where you can input your information and then start wishing away. One major benefit to this function is the way it helps you do your shopping. You can fill your wishlist up with all the products you want to compare and contrast, and then start weeding out the ones that won't work for you after all. Or the ones you can do without. It's less of a commitment than actually placing them in a shopping cart, and there's less risk of accidentally purchasing the Dora the Explorer toothbrush your 3 year old insisted you add in there, just in case.
You can also do some comparison shopping at other sites, and you can keep an eye on the price better if you tuck it into a wishlist. When it hits the target price you're willing to spend or have already budgeted for, your wish comes true at the press of a button (and the debiting of your checking account)
Wish lists are also handy for keeping track of what you're saving towards, and for managing the gimmies when you're window shopping with kids. If you see something they can't live without, and they start the begging process, write it down to add to their wish list. If they remind you to go on the computer when you get home, maybe it's something they're really dreaming of. And if they still want it when their birthday comes around...that wish list provides a handy reference point. It's much more reliable than your memory. Especially when you're standing in the Barbie aisle and all you could remember is that the desired model had a princess looking dress on.
Then there is your own window shopping satisfaction. You know how good it feels to look at new things? Drapes, dishes, sheets, clothes, books? Then there is a strong temptation to buy. You might not find that particular design again. You might not need it now, but will you be able to remember where you saw it when you do need it? Add it to your wish list. Then when you get a quarterly bonus, you can refer back to your handy wish list...and know exactly what you want to splurge on. (Or, be pleasantly surprised that you no longer want that electric kettle that sings Christmas carols. You'll have saved yourself a headache and $29.95, plus shipping. You can spend your savings on new jeans. Or a trip to the movies.)
A wish list also comes in handy when you get a phone call out of the blue. "What would Jenny like for her birthday?" Suddenly your heart drops, you look at the calendar and realize that your daughter's birthday is indeed coming...in six weeks. What does she want? You haven't even thought to ask yet. Well...to avoid suggesting socks (which you're currently folding) or chocolate chips (which she just ate the last of), or the newest Junie B Jones book (which she stopped reading 3 years ago and just donated her copies of to her school library); reference the newest incarnation of that handy wish list. The person calling will be happy to wrap up the Hunger Games trilogy, which will actually get a squeal and a thank you, and Jenny will get one of the many items she's actually wishing for.
Do your kids keep a wishlist?
Amazon Versus A Hard Copy
Some families feel that website based lists, like Amazon, are less personable than a hard copy. I disagree. I've found that by keeping an ongoing, up to date wish list at Amazon, our kids are less focused in general on creating a list of what they want. They don't keep up to date on the newest must-haves, and they take notice of what goes on and what has stayed on for awhile.
There are a few movies that we rent from the library that have been on that wish list for 2 years. There are many more that have been removed because, after all, they were only good for a few viewings. An ongoing wish list helps them make those determinations. The ongoing wish list also helps them keep track of things they might be saving up for. A new doll? It costs...how much again? They can quickly look it up on their wish list.
And then there is the simplicity of never being put on the spot. The best way to make someone's mind go completely blank is to unexpectedly ask them what they want for Christmas. They might be desperate to complete their Zhu Zhu pet collection, or have just put a hole in their last pair of gloves. But ask what they want for Christmas? And they'll draw a blank, eyes will glaze over and they'll shrug. "Oh, whatever." (This, by the way, might be why the fruitcake became such a popular gift so long ago. There were no wish lists.)
The benefit of an online wish list is that you don't pass it out. If you make a hard copy, you need to create it in multiple. You have to sit down and compile it for every gift giving occasion. And people have to ask specifically for a copy. When it's online, all they need is your name or online persona. They can look you up, find your wish list, and send you the perfect gift. Buying a dollhouse for your kids this year? The add on sets get pricey. But if you list all the ones you can't afford on that wish list, friends and family might just fill in the pieces. Which means the dollhouse is twice as much fun, and you only have one set of 'new toys' to find room for.
Of course, there is the problem of materialism. Do wish lists promote materialism? I don't think so. Materialism and greed are generated when too much focus is put on getting and wanting. A wish list is simply a dream. It's a record of window shopping. Materialism is born when the wish list's owner actually expects to find the entire contents of their wish list under the Christmas tree.
As my daughter says, a wish list isn't for what she expects to get. It's a way to let people know what she likes right now. Maybe once upon a time gift giving was easy. Girls liked dolls. Boys liked new trucks. But in today's toy aisle, the choices are overwhelming. There are 9 year old girls who are still into princesses, and 9 year old girls who prefer Monster High, and 9 year old girls who would rather have Legos. With a wish list, you know where your niece's (or neighbor's or bridesmaid's daughter's) tastes run. And you can find the perfect gift...or at least one that won't get donated before it gets opened.
In fact, I think the only problem with wish lists is how many perfect gifts we end up with.