Each year, the holiday season brings out the worst in all of us. Normally rational people are a ball of stress and worry, concerned about things like upcoming travel, getting supplies ready for the big day, and buying gifts for everyone on their list. As you can imagine, some people don’t handle this stress particularly well. Back when I worked at a grocery store, I got told I ruined someone’s Christmas because the store was out of gherkin pickles at 4:30pm on Christmas Eve.
Never fear, kids. Nelson has you covered. It’s exactly 11 days until Christmas, giving you plenty of time to read this, buy the perfect gift, and even a little time left over for whatever it is you kids do these days. Enjoy your Mindcraft or whatever pointless activity gives your sad life meaning.
This gift is so perfect you can get it for all the adults on your list. Everyone from Grandma to your great-aunt Louise will appreciate it.
Are you ready for this? You know it’s going to be good with the amount of preamble I’m giving it.
The perfect gift is nothing.
Oh, you insensitive bastard
Don’t act so surprised.
Here’s the deal with Christmas gifts. Between two adults who have the means to buy their own things, the exercise devolves into an inefficient way of both parties only maybe getting what they want.
Say you and your buddy both want $50 presents. You know exactly what he wants (a sex toy) and he knows exactly what you want (a VHS of the 1984 Super Bowl). You each get each other the present and everyone goes home happy.
(I’m not sure why the VHS for the 1984 Super Bowl would cost $50 either. And I’m not here to judge, your gift is bad and you should feel bad.)
But what if your buddy catches onto this and decides you’re not getting your 1984 Super Bowl VHS on account of that present is stupid? Instead, he gives you something that he got last year, a new pair of gloves. They’re nice gloves, worth approximately $50. He’s satisfied with the transaction, since he got what he wanted while successfully completing his half of the social contract.
He’s happy, but you’re not, since you already have eight pairs of gloves. Now you have to wear his fancy gloves the next time you hang out or else there’s the potential of an uncomfortable situation if he questions you about it. Thus, your half of the social contract becomes a burden.
The whole idea of giving gifts is so ridiculously inefficient. Each year my wife leaves me all sorts of hints about things she’d like for her birthday. Because I am not good with subtlety, I miss a full 98% of these hints. It leads to me realizing in horror about ten days before the big day that I haven’t bought her a damn thing. Chaos ensues, and I end up getting her a coat at the Costco.
In my defense, it was a nice coat. She still wears it. It’s probably one of my better presents, to be honest.
This transaction is not efficient. Look, we are two people who have a meaningful amount of disposable income. We’re cheap, so the vast majority of this gets saved. There aren’t many things that we desire to own. We either already own those things, or have decided they’re not worth the cost.
What a terrible situation to come up against as a gift-giver. You have to get someone a gift, yet they already have all the things they want. You’re forced to either give nothing (which is not a good idea if the person is expecting something) or give something of lesser utility, which isn’t a great solution either.
And yet, that’s the situation most of us are up against. You’re just setting yourself up for failure.
The solution is simple. If you give nothing and receive nothing, everyone is free to then reallocate the money previously set aside for gifts to spend on themselves. You save money and everyone gets what they want. What could possibly be better?
Nelson. I can’t show up at my parents’ house with nothing. They’re getting me stuff.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for many people to convince their parents and other loved ones to have a gift-free holidays. You can’t really blame them; your parents likely have many fond memories of you opening something you wanted very badly on Christmas morning many years ago. Five minutes later you probably broke said thing, but hey. Give them that memory.
Instead of giving them things, focus on giving experiences instead. I’m apparently a cook now, so I’m giving my parents a cheesy gift certificate good for a deluxe meal at my place. If that’s too cheesy for you, get tickets to a hockey game, movie, or play.
Your grandparents will especially appreciate this. Your 92-year old grandma doesn’t give two craps about some new form of yarn. She wants to spend time with her grandchildren who don’t come around often enough on account of grandma being old, whiny, and a little incontinent. Suck it up and invite grandma for dinner. She’ll appreciate the hell out of it unless she doesn’t, but that’s okay. She’ll be dead soon.
I guarantee you it’s a hell of a lot easier to think of something your relatives would like to do with you than it is to figure out a gift for them. And if not, there’s always the slacker’s way out, a gift card.