Gift giving, a guide for the Ones who made it offers practical tips and thought-provoking ideas to help bring joy to the winter holidays.

Becoming a One can mean having more money and figuring out what to do with it! Saving, sharing, and spending can be a big adventure. The winter holidays add a twist to it all. Handing out presents, to oneself or others, comes easily to some. Giving the right gift to someone I care about feels as good as winning a raffle, scoring a touchdown, or preparing a scrumptious dish perfectly. But, I struggle with other aspects of giving—from deciding whether to give to how much to spend on and present each gift. Having found ways to make peace with gift giving, here I share guidelines based on what I’ve learned as one of the Ones who made it. I hope some of y’all find this guide useful. 

We’re Ones! We’ve imagined and created a life we never thought we could have. Find a way to give a gift of that magic! Keep reading for practical tips.

Questions to ask when gift giving, a guide for the Ones who made it
  1. Have you placed yourself in your recipient’s shoes? Can you imagine the look on their face when they see or interact with your gift?
  2. Are you proud to give it? Is it hard to wait for the big day? If not, why bother?
  3. Does the wrapping, whether material or not, add to the gift? A heartfelt preface or introductory story can set the stage for giving as effectively as any festive bow.
  4. Will it give back? Airbnb encourages its hosts to learn by booking a reservation with another host. So, if you’re a shared-housing host, gift an overnight stay for you and your family or friends. Your tree house, yurt, or other accommodation—including Black-owned ones, Noirbnb or Innclusive—may provide a tax advantage. Some may view giving a gift that gives back as awkward. But there’s no need to make getting something in return the most important criteria to consider when selecting a gift. If giving happens to give back, ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Gifts and colleagues

Gift giving around the holidays can be loaded, even more so at work, as Dear Ms. Harriet addresses in another post. Will giving set a precedence? Does it reflect personal values that conflict? Will the gift reflect salary differences? As a One, we already navigate a full set of professional issues. Instead of giving gifts to colleagues, attend the company gathering. Address a non-denominational winter holiday card to all and post it on the break room bulletin board. Or, bring in a gift for all to share.

Some may suggest bringing in a gift from your cultural background. In a perfect world, that’d be ideal. In today’s world, doing so may set up an expectation that you’ll be the resident expert on that culture. So, consider whether it’d help to establish boundaries around how much you’ll share (or won’t). For example, bring in a family dish and share a single story about how your family it throughout the holiday season, but don’t share the recipe.

Frankly, sugary treats are plentiful around the holidays. Finding ways to celebrate alternative occasions gives you a bigger bang for your buck. As a geek, I much prefer to celebrate Pi Day! In mid-March, no one expects to get pie and receive thanks for the support they’ve provided.

Not to gift

Sometimes, I’ll think of the perfect gift for someone with whom I typically only exchange greetings. I talk myself into getting it for them because it’s a cool item, they’d like it, or it’ll only cost $6. When I find myself coming up with multiple excuses, it’s likely I haven’t considered what my real purpose is in wanting to give. Taking a deep breathe while shopping for presents can help me remember to ask why and recall that we can gift in a range of formats. Some don’t cost a dime.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It could get worse. I could encourage y’all to give (back) “lost” items. So, just stick with me here.

The gift of modeling financial stability

Even as our paychecks grow, we Ones likely have opportunities to spread our wealth across a broad range of, shall we call them, concerns. Student loan debt, delayed retirement savings, and deferred maintenance—health, home, or otherwise—frequently need funds. Statistics consistently show that our income is probably lower than our peers for doing the same job. Chances are we pay higher interest rates on our debt. And, we periodically cope with real crises that cost real money. In other words, a One’s savings account is not just in case of a future rainy day. It’s for the imminent storm.

One’s savings account is not just in case of a future rainy day. It’s for the imminent storm.

In times past, gift giving aided social division and survival. I’d guess the latter occurred during a time with fewer Ones and when more had similar means, next to none. So, wedding china didn’t mean a new couple had an option to eat on the nice dishes; it meant they had dishes to eat on, period. To get out of guessing what’s an equitable exchange when you may be the only One with means, think hard about whether to gift.

I think about the giving expended in greetings, taking time to listen, and sending positive thoughts—good energy, loving kindness, prayers, and the like. I’ll invite people to my home for a simple dinner or to take a walk to enjoy a sunset or see a view. Gift choices like these reflect how I’ve come to believe that modeling how to stick to a budget serves a real purpose given the increasing wealth gap in American today.

While this penny-wise justification may work with some, it’s got its limits, especially with the younger set or among those with whom gift giving provides another way to connect.

Giving outside of the “gift” box

The following practical tips help when deciding what to give.

Extend a gift to the host.

Because of the nature of our careers, Ones more often live alone and sometimes nowhere near family. When invited to a holiday dinner, offer to help clean up or take out the compost/garbage/recycling at the end of the meal. Or, have groceries or a meal delivered when the leftovers run out. These alternatives to the more typical bottle of sparkling water or wine may be a nice a way to give your host back some time.

Give a group gift.

Join with others to give an individual something meaningful that no one individually would think to give or could afford. One family I know enjoys camping. I gave them a set of extendable roasting sticks for roasting hot dogs, marshmallows, and more. Before I relocated for graduate school, my friends pooled together to get me a pair of all-weather saddle bags that I still hoist over bicycle and think of them all.

Arrange a gift exchange.

For years, my in-laws have selected a theme, like disaster preparedness, and dollar range for a gift exchange. Would you get a cat evacuation kit with emergency chocolate any other way?

Make up a gift experience.

Make your own gift box or your own experience to give. A set of YouTube videos shows what excites dogs. Not surprisingly, cats and pigeons do. Joking with my family about similarly what excites each of us helped me design an experience gift, a self-paced local craft beer tour.

Put your loved one in your shoes.

We’re Ones! We’ve imagined and created a life we never thought we could have. Give a gift of some of that magic. Help someone imagine another way to be. Help a kid become a DJ or a scientist for a day. Or, help them learn to get rich. Make it possible for someone who’s technically unsavvy to learn to use Facebook for keeping in touch with family or friends. Help another use other social media to vent. Or, make it possible for someone who hates shopping to look and feel like a queen for a day by helping a personal shopper help them (click here for a coupon or here to see what major competitor will soon offer this service).

Give (back) memory.

Send someone a sweet message in a silly way. Or, take time to write down or record a memory or story. Doing so can make a precious gift.

An aunt once told me a story about my parents who visited her family shortly after my mom and dad had married. My aunt and her husband noticed that thier new sister-in-law had opened the curtains first thing every morning. ‘I do that too!’ I realized. Knowing this detail about my mother when she was young continues to delight me. I live far away from my nieces, but occasionally send her stories of her dad, and my brother, when he was little.

One final story: a close friend’s daughter was born during the year I lived abroad. I felt terrible being so far away, but took consolation in our time zone differences. It allowed her to talk to me when she up with the baby at all hours. At some point while talking, I realized the potential of my idle hands. For the whole year, I transcribed stories, observations, fears, doubts, awkward moments, and even family spates as she made the transition into parenthood. I cautiously sent her and her wife the entire transcript for their daughter’s first birthday. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But to this day, we still share a full belly laugh when talking on the phone and she jokes, “you better not be typing this!”


Thank you for reading my guest Dear Ms. Harriet post. I close joining her in wishing you all the best with gift giving and more during this winter holiday season and beyond!