onegeeklogo6The end of the year is quickly approaching, and for many folks, that means gift giving decisions are hanging heavily overhead. Choosing the right present is stressful enough, but (especially with the current economic situation) many of us also struggle with other gift-related decisions as well – who do you give to, how expensive of a present do you give, and what types of gifts are and aren’t appropriate for each recipient. These challenges plague our pre-holiday thoughts, and the anxiety that accompanies them can put a damper on our otherwise high holiday spirits.

In order to restore some of the jolly in your holiday, we’re offering some simple Do’s and Don’ts from One Geek to Another. Hopefully these simple tips will help minimize your gift-giving tension and ensure your gifts are received in the holiday spirit they’re intended!

Do – Give presents the recipient will appreciate.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in sharing our own interests or allowing our own preferences to dominate our gift choices, but remember: The present isn’t for you – it’s for the other person. Just because you love bad sci-fi movies or Spawn action figures doesn’t mean your spouse/parent/child will appreciate them with the same gusto.

Don’t – Give insults disguised as gifts.

Save your helpful advice for other occasions. No one wants to get surprised with critique in the form of a gift. Unless your giftee has specifically requested it, avoid presents that are designed to “fix” an issue. No work-out clothes, weight loss books, hygiene products, or exercise equipment. Ditto with gift certificates for personal trainers, stop smoking courses, or self-help programs.

Do – Be thoughtful.

Give some thought to what you’re bestowing on your gift-receiver. Don’t give animal products to your favorite vegan, or wine to a recovering alcoholic/underaged friend. Save perfumes or other highly scented gifts for those who you are certain will enjoy them. Don’t buy or make clothing unless you’re certain of the size/style/color preferences.

Don’t – Break your bank.

Especially in today’s climate, gift givers should never be embarrassed about giving only what they can afford to give. The days of maxing out credit cards for gifts are (or at least should be) long gone. It is better to give a small, thoughtful item, to make something homemade, or simply to share the gift of one’s presence and attention, than it is to go into debt buying “things” that inevitably end up broken, unused, forgotten or under appreciated in the long run.

Do – Give appropriately.

Gifts tend to come in three basic categories, each with a different “personal” level:

Token gifts – for co-workers, neighbors, teachers, group members (game, movie night, etc). These are the “unnecessary” gifts. They shouldn’t be too big or personal, especially since they may not be reciprocated and a fancy or personal gift might make the other person feel uncomfortable to have not gotten you something. Consumables make awesome token gifts – cookies, candies, cocoa/tea mixes, coffee, wine, holiday treats, candles, flowers. For an extra nicety, combine food/drink with a mug/wine glass/pretty plate.

Friendly gifts – for folks you know well, but aren’t extremely close to. These are folks you’re expected to exchange gifts with, either by tradition or agreement, and can be more difficult to shop for because (unlike token gifts) it’s expected that you find the “right” present for them. Good choices include hobby or interest items (art supplies, photography gear, hiking equipment, bowling accessories), movies or music (find something they own and like, then give something by the same artist/actor or in the same genre), or a more advanced version of consumable. Nice wine with a set of glasses or wine charms, for example, or gourmet coffee and syrups with a pair of matching coffee mugs and chocolate-dipped spoon-stirrers. Non-personal clothing items can be appropriate as well – matching hat/glove/scarf sets for cold-weather climes, or for the geek giftee, t-shirts with appropriately geek-tastic sayings/logos.

Intimate gifts – for close family members or people you’re seriously involved with. Only at this level should very personal gifts be given. Perfume/makeup/toiletries, for example, or personal clothing items (pajamas, underclothing, etc.) While some jewelry can be given as a friendly gift, it’s best to save it (especially meaningful items, like rings or engraved bracelets) for closer relationships.

Do – Give of yourself.

If you have a talent that your recipient has commented on, or can do things you know they have trouble with, don’t be shy to gift your time, knowledge, skill and experience. Gift a yarn/cloth/pattern shopping trip and the creation of a blanket/clothing item, if that’s your expertise. How about offering a system update, defrag and installation of up-to-date virus-control programs for your favorite not-so-tech giftee? A monthly movie outing (complete with door-to-door transportation) for someone who’s not keen on driving or who doesn’t get out much can be a thoughtful gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, as can a seasonal “day of yard work” for someone who’s time or health won’t let them keep up with pruning, raking or planting.

Pairing a small gift with an offer to teach or share your expertise can be a nice combination as well. A mixing bowl and set of silicone cupcake pans, with your secret recipe for red velvet cake, for example, or a digital picture frame with an offer to bring your scanner over and help convert old photos to electronic format.

One caution when giving your time, however – Follow through is EVERYTHING with this kind of gift. Don’t offer to babysit and then suddenly become busy when you’re needed, or gift a weekly/monthly/seasonal chore completion and forget about it. Write it down on a calendar/daily organizer/electronic scheduler, and be proactive about follow through. Be cognizant, however, of whether your offer is making the giftee uncomfortable or not – not everyone may be comfortable with time-focused gifts (see below).

Don’t – Give presents that come with an obligation.

Event or movie tickets, classes and gift certificates for services (spa/massage/manicure) can be great gifts – if they’re what the recipient wants to do. If not, they will either go unused, or under appreciated. Choose the activity carefully (especially those that happen only on a certain date, or require travel/childcare/fancy dress to attend) and only give things you’re sure the giftee will be both able and interested in doing.

Also, don’t invite yourself along. Unless you know the giftee really wants to see that movie/concert/event with you, just give them the tickets and let them decide who accompanies them. No fair hinting, or acting pouty if they take someone else.

Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at and your question may get answered in one of our future “One Geek to Another” columns!