The Purpose Of Gift Giving

by Elana Bowsher

gift-giving-tipsI am lucky. I was born in America, I have two educated parents, I grew up in San Francisco, and I have a college degree. The fact that I can sit here on my MacBook and think about the purpose of gift giving tells you how lucky I truly am. As such, I have a responsibility–a responsibility to work hard, to help others, and to make thoughtful choices. I believe that thoughtful choices can take shape in big ways but also in smaller, day-to-day ones too.

The point of giving gifts is to show others that you care. Sometimes that’s hard to remember because the holiday season is stressful and buying STUFF can feel gross and empty and gluttonous. Let’s change that.

Here are 5 simple ways to make gifting a little bit more meaningful this holiday season:

1. Think before you shop. Obvious? Yes. Easy? Yes. Does it always happen? No. Here’s the ticket: Take some time to think about what would make your mom feel special, taken care of, or genuinely happy. Do it BEFORE you hop online or arrive in the Target parking lot. You’ll eliminate any sort of in-store nervous breakdown, and chances are that your present won’t end up in the garage for all of eternity.


2. Buy your gifts from small and/or local businesses. Most companies have online stores these days, which makes it easy to shop smart from the comfort of your couch (if that’s your jam). Purchase from companies that inspire you, make quality products, or contribute to the world in a positive way. Check out our Gift Guide or the B-Corp site for more inspiration!


3. Gift someone an experience. I’m a big fan of restaurant certificates. It’s really fun to be treated to dinner and it’s an opportunity to bond with someone. If you like this idea, but your giftee doesn’t love dining out, there’s always the option to cook or order in for her/him. Other easy ideas: a museum pass, a manicure, a spa date, or a trip. The trip doesn’t have to be expensive, either—write a card and propose a camping weekend or plan a day where you experience something new together.


4. This is not the sexiest idea, but ask your giftee if she wants or needs anything. This one removes a bit of the holiday magic, but I’m pretty sure that magic was lost when we started mindlessly buying presents anyways. Or maybe I’m a cynic. When my boyfriend’s mom bought us a vacuum last year (hot damn!), we were genuinely happy because who wants to spend money on a vacuum and who doesn’t want a clean house? Plus, if you want to add an element of surprise, tack on a little something small and indulgent.


5. Minimize the number of presents that you buy this year. Quantity v. quality, you know? Less = more, right? Though it might be super fun to arrive at your aunt’s house like Charlotte in Sex and the City, excessive gifting is wasteful. Minimizing the amount of stuff you purchase might even allow you to gift something more tasteful (handmade even?). Plus if you’re really feeling the need to splurge, spend that money on someone/some cause that might need it even more!


That said, if you have the luxury of buying presents for those around you, you also have the opportunity to support small businesses, your community, and to show your friends and family that you know and love them.

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