Selecting the right, let alone perfect, gift during the Holiday Season is fraught with distraction. The idea that we must select gifts for all who are important to us at the same time -- or as many men know, on the same day when time's up -- is not conducive to meaningful buying. The ironic thing about "bad gifts" is that they're rarely forgotten -- especially by women.
In this morning's WSJ column On Relationships, Elizabeth Bernstein reports "When I began asking people about gifts they received from significant others that had gone awry, examples poured in -- all of them from women. (Perhaps tellingly, many of these bad-gift stories involved former husbands.)" Bernstein's litany of grimacing gifts include "a heating pad, Listerine breath strips ... generic nasal strips to prevent snoring, electric brooms, washcloths ... cheese graters, cosmetic surgery [and] weed wackers" to just mention a few.
My personal bloopers have ranged from a rather expensive set of oil paints, brushes and blank canvasses (I thought my wife needed a hobby) to many beautifully wrapped gift boxes of designer outlet clothing (none of which fit -- there's a reason why stuff ends up in the outlet stores). Bernstein also claims that "Women tend to care more about gifts. They shop more, and think more about them. They attach more emotion to them. And they can be more demanding and less direct. (If I ask my husband what he wants for the holidays, he will say 'nothing' and mean it. If he asks me, I will say 'nothing,' as well. And God help him if he believes me.)"
So without further ado -- and despite that I titled this piece " ... for spouses" -- I'll reprint a superb partial list of gift giving rules from "Tim Connor, an internationally renowned sales, relationship, management and leadership speaker, trainer and best selling author" that's probably not too late for all you men in the Spend Matters audience:
"Follow them and you will never again give a bad gift.
Rule Number One - If she didn't ask for it make sure it is a personal item.
Rule Number Two - If it plugs in don't give it to her for Valentines day, her birthday, Mothers day or Christmas or unless she asks for it.
Rule Number Three - If it reminds her of a former relationship, hers or yours, forget it.
Rule Number Four - Flowers express your thoughtfulness but save them for special times. Don’t use them as gifts.
Rule Number Five - Cards can mean a lot but they are not gifts. They will never make up for an expectation of a gift.
Rule Number Six - A promise of a gift is not a gift. Don't make promises -- either give the gift or don't talk about it or promise it.
Rule Number Nine - If it is not something she likes or wants, it doesn't matter how much it sets you back financially.
Rule Number Ten - The worst gifts are gifts you THINK she wants or will like because you like them.
Rule Number Eleven - If the gift is an act of barter -- you give her something to get something in return -- it will backfire every time.
Rule Number Twelve - You can hardly ever go wrong if the gift has a romantic overtone.
Rule Number Thirteen - If the gift says you were too busy, don't really know her or it has a hidden agenda -- beware.
Rule Number Fourteen - Once you give a gift, don't keep reminding her of how much it cost. All you do is make her feel like she isn't worth it.
Rule Number Fifteen - When you give a gift. Leave it at that. Resist the tendency to add a lot of verbiage and useless words to the gift. Let your gift speak for itself.
Rule Number Sixteen - When you give her a gift make sure it is for HER and not YOU.
Rule Number Seventeen - If it has a plug, make sure she asked for it.
Rule Number Nineteen - If it's on sale make sure you take the tags off of it."