Things: We Don't Want!
It’s the holiday season, and that means giving is on the minds of many. For some, it’s an opportunity to give to their favorite causes while potentially gaining some tax benefits. However, the FAI team thought it might be fun to change gears a little and talk about gifting on a personal level. Many of us are struggling to come up with ideas for gifts to family and friends during this time of year. Upon hearing the story of a friend who distributed a list of charities in lieu of a traditional wedding registry, the team suggested an article on the younger generation’s perspective on gifts.
The first thing to keep in mind is that some things haven’t changed: knowing the individual still trumps everything else. If you think you have the perfect gift for them, then you’re probably right. Go with it! But what if you’ve had trouble finding something they’re excited about or are just looking for some new ideas?
Start by considering that younger people today have spent most or all of their lives in a world where the internet is an integral part of life. There’s instant access to everything; information is one search away and buying something takes only one click more. People share stories, pictures, news, and opinions at light speed via social media, rapidly expanding their perspectives. The internet allows people to form large communities via their favorite sites and easily catch up with old friends—hundreds at a time and almost instantly. The younger generation is also more transient, partly because they are at an earlier stage in their life, but partly because attitudes are favoring a more mobile lifestyle.
These changes have led to a shift away from physical “stuff” that needs to be stored and maintained, only to be later packed and moved. The lasting value of gifts comes from the memories they create and the stories the recipient gets to share. Gifts are increasingly oriented towards experiences; dinner at a special restaurant or concert tickets are the new clothes. Another effect of these forces is an increase in the attractiveness of seeing the world’s variety first-hand. Chances to travel to new places or sample exotic cuisines will appeal to a lot of younger people today. In the same spirit, other options might include sports adventure courses, cooking classes, museum visits, or bottle-of-the-month clubs, depending on the tastes of your recipient.
If your recipient is passionate about a cause, consider a gift to a charity. For those who want something to clearly mark the moment, many charities will provide letters or certificates specifically addressed to a chosen recipient. For the right person, doing the work to arrange a volunteer opportunity can also be a great gift.
I think it’s also important to consider something often seen as thoughtless, unsentimental, or just tacky: cash. To many gift-givers, giving cash feels like trying to put a price tag on the relationship you have with the recipient. To the recipient, though, cash represents the freedom to do whatever they want or need with it. They will think of whatever they buy with it to be your gift to them—and it’s guaranteed to be what they most want! Some gift-givers may worry that the money may go to something mundane and unsentimental, like groceries, rent, or loan payments. Consider that for the recipient, that may be one expense the person doesn’t need to worry about for a month. Even temporary relief from that obligation can be a meaningful and deeply appreciated gift that is remembered long after.
Some people prefer giving gift cards to cash. It’s important to recognize that with this perspective on cash, a gift card to a specialized merchant is often less valuable than something like an Amazon or Visa gift card which can be used for almost anything. Continuing with the theme of stories and experiences, what may make a seemingly generic gift more valuable is what surrounds it. Order a personalized gift card with a picture you’ve chosen, and give it to them along with a story of when you took the picture. Send them an unusual dollar amount and include a message for what it means.
Which brings us back to the first rule: some things never change. In the end, gifts are still about the giving, and not what’s in the box. Embrace the experience of sharing the gift, and it’ll be a story they’ll always remember. Happy holidays!
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