In-laws gift-giving made easy

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Every year I pride myself on how fast I can get my Christmas shopping done. Each year I try to do it earlier in a private, unnatural, obsessive competition with myself. I even pick stuff up during the months nowhere near Christmas if I see something one of my siblings would like. I’m pretty good at guessing what people want even if they haven’t realized they want it yet.

This year is a little different because I am also getting gifts for my boyfriend’s parents and his grandmother. I haven’t had to do this since I was about 18 so I am a little rusty on the best gifts for the (not quite yet) in-laws. Luckily, Yankee Candle saved me when they sent me a coupon for buy two, get two FREE candles. For those who are candle-savvy, these suckers aren’t cheap. But they smell so good that people buy them anyway no matter how outrageously expensive they are. So I got a lucky break this year and Awesome’s mom, stepmom and grandmother are getting candles and a homemade bakery item from me.

However, if I hadn’t received this paper miracle in my mailbox one day, I would probably be freaking out wondering what to get since this is the first Christmas I’ve had with his family. I see his mom and grandmother on a regular basis, but since I didn’t grow up in the same house with them I don’t know that they want, for example, a full-size heated mattress pad (which is what my Gammy asked for.)

Asking someone what they want usually works for me. Unfortunately, most parents/in-laws will say one of the following:

“Oh I really don’t need anything.”

“Don’t spend your hard-earned money on me.”

Or,  “We just want you guys to spend time with us, there’s no need for a present.”

Well this is bogus. I mean, I’m sure they mean all those things, but who doesn’t like getting presents? Especially when everyone else is tearing into wrapping paper. I’m sure if you said “I brought you my love this year” they would smile politely but on the inside they would be thinking about what a cheap bastard you are. So if by some unexpected turn of events your mother-in-law says, “Oh you know what I want? One of those Ove-Gloves” get that immediately and DON’T QUESTION IT.

I suggest perking up your ears whenever you are around them just in case they mention something they want or think is cool. People tend to have shopping on the brain around the holidays because they are getting gifts for others as well and are more likely to drop hints about stuff they like.

Warning: this can backfire.

If you are talking about some awesome new thingamajig you discovered and they say anything like “Oh that sounds neat dear” this does not mean they want one. More than likely it just means they don’t want to listen to you gush about it anymore and would like to move on to a new topic.

Women are usually pretty easy to shop for. Candles, books, a nice bottle of wine, picture frames, kitchen stuff, pretty scarves, jewelry, purses (if and ONLY if you know their style), spa and nail gift certificates. There is the ever-popular Bath and Body Works basket of goodies, although I would be wary of this since I personally have enough bath salts, scrubs, gels, bubbles, body wash and spray to last me through at least the first half of the apocalypse.

Men are a little harder to shop for – tools, car stuff, logo t-shirts, video games, expensive bottles of what I like to call “men’s” alcohol like scotch or whiskey. (Although some women do like  the hard stuff. Check out Whiskey Pam.)

I am a big fan of the homemade gift. My family does Secret Santa and we have a dollar limit but we also make homemade gifts as well. This can be anything from painted canvases to wood carvings to poems. Get ideas from Etsy or Pinterest or just do what I did and Google “homemade Christmas gifts.” A lot of times this is cheaper but it is also special because you spent so much time on it and it demonstrates how much you care about the recipient.

I also enjoy making themed gift baskets. Movie theme – DVDs, microwave popcorn, movie candy, slippers, blanket, hot cocoa, mugs. Spa theme – loofah, bath salts, bubble bath, gel face mask, slippers, robe, cotton balls, Q-tips, hand lotion. The list goes on and on. Get creative with it – they will thank you for it.

When all else fails, get a gift card.I know, I know, people hate on these because they are “impersonal” or “the easy way out,” but I say let the haters hate. I don’t see why gift cards are so bad, as long as you get one that someone will actually want. I’ve gotten my dad a Home Depot gift card pretty much every year and he’s never complained. Think of something your significant other’s parent likes and go from there.

For example, Awesome’s dad loves guns, Harleys and watching movies. So if I were getting him a gift card, I would go to Bass Pro, Harley Davidson, and Hoyts. If you cater to what their interests are, it shows that you’ve been paying attention, which all parents love to see from people who are younger than they are.

One last tip: always, always, ALWAYS get and give a gift receipt. This saves embarrassment for both you and your gift recipient when they return whatever you got them. And remember, just because they took it back doesn’t mean they didn’t appreciate the gesture in the first place.

(This post first appeared on the Baltimore Post-Examiner)