Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gifting is Horrible: Gift Cards, Etc.

I have a lot of trouble selecting gifts for adults. Even a gift I love might just be clutter in somebody else’s home. Admit it! You’ve opened a present before and thought, “Oh, God. Where is this supposed to go?” No? Whatever. Liar.

Gift cards are great in a lot of circumstances, but sometimes they come off as too impersonal. The worst is when you spend hours wracking your brain for the perfect gift and then run out of time and end up getting a gift card anyway, and it seems like you spent no brain-wracking time at all!  So here are some gift cards and gift card alternatives that I hope will make you seem thoughtful without  sticking your recipient with more clutter. Also, they're fast and easy for you to check off your list!

More links than you can shake a stick at (though I wouldn't put it past you to try) after the jump.

Atypical Traditional Gift Cards: 
  • Gift cards to local non-chain shops and restaurants are a good stand-by. Brand new or unusual businesses are the best, I think. Local antique or curiosity shops are a cool way to go. Or university bookstores. (Trojans <3)
  • Hotel or airline gift cards are a fun alternative. Four Sisters Inns in California (love, love, love, love) is a great example of a small, cozy chain with options that offers gift cards. 
  • Has your recipient jumped on the Groupon and/or LivingSocial bandwagons? Groupon offers a straightforward gift card, to be used to purchase Groupons. In limited cities, LivingSocial offers a gift card redeemable for one of a few pre-selected deals.
  • Or maybe just give a gift card to a store you wouldn't normally consider. Some fun favorites of mine: Fred FlareTerrain, ThinkGeek, Bake It Pretty, A + R, or Chronicle Books.

Subscription Services:
I like subscription services because they often showcase a wide variety of the same category of thing, so if you’re not totally sure of the recipient’s tastes within a category that you know they like, it’s no big.
  • GoCoffeeGo offers coffee of the month subscriptions as well as straightforward gift cards to use on their crazy selections of beans from micro-roasters. Obscure is good. We're all hipsters here, yes?
  • Birchbox sends beauty trial sizes once a month. Which is fantastic if you love makeup or you're one of those beauty junkies who orders from Sephora online when it would be just as easy to go to the store because you need your free miscellaneous stuff, damn it! I won't say either wayYESIAMTHISPERSON. BlackBox does the same thing for guys.
  • Art in a Box is the Compound Gallery in San Francisco's version of a CSA, but with art. Cool idea for those with empty shelves and blank walls.
  • Etsy is awash with zany handmade of-the-month clubs. Have it Sweet offers caramel of the month and marshmallow of the month clubs, while Cubit's offers organic seeds  of the month. Apple Blossom Kids has a baby/kid's skirt of the month club.There are too many jewelry and soap clubs to list. Also on offer are underwear, tea, cookies, ties, candles... It's worth it to click around.

Give a new skill:
My favoritest thing is learning how to do stuff. I think a lot of people are the same way. Or maybe I'm wrong and this is a horrible gift. Either way:
  • Craft shops big and small offer lessons in a variety of disciplines.  In LA, Hands-On Third gives comprehensive crash courses in a variety of crafty disciplines from knitting to soldering. (I've taken their sewing crash. Thumbs up.)
  • Wilton offers relatively affordable multi-week cake decorating classes all over the US and Canada. (I've done this, too. Also thumbs up.) 
  • Exercise classes! Yay! Obviously, you can only give this to someone if you know he or she already really wants it. And, in keeping with the first two bullet points, an outdoor bootcamp that I love is Bridalicious in LA and Dallas. It's not just for brides, but it is just for ladies. My friend Jan loves Morning Crunch, which allows guys.
  • Cooking classes can be useful and fun. A solid knife skills class can be invaluable to someone just starting out.

Charitable Gifts:
How nice of you, right?
  • One of my favorite gifts to give is a gift of Heifer animals. This is a great last-minute gift, too, as you can print a card with a photo of the animal you purchased instantly from the website.
  • My other favorite charity is St. Baldrick's. I'm allowed to have two.
  • Museum memberships allow you to give a tangible gift to the recipient while supporting the arts. 

That's all I have for you at the moment. Let me know your ideas. Anything to make this ordeal easier on us all. 


JanAlyssa said...

This is an awesome post, and you are awesome. Not because of the post. Just in general. I love these ideas. Have I told you I am OBSESSED with Birchbox?? It's like my birthday every freaking month! I got a subscription for my sister, and she's obsessed, too. I'm ALMOST done with my Hanukkah shopping. I would also recommend Heartsy gift certificates for people who love Etsy - it's like Groupon for Etsy!!

And Morning Crunch is the bomb biggity, even when it's unbelievably windy, haha.

mm said...

Aww, thanks! It takes awesome to know awesome, so you, my friend are... awesome? Yes, awesome, indeed.

Oh, samples... I'm glad Birchbox is working out for you. I'm about to start and am very much looking forward to it. Good call on Heartsy. That's an awesome gift idea.