How to Buy Gifts for Anyone Too Old for My Little Ponies and Legos


I hate giving gifts. There’s just too much drama and angst about it: What on earth do I get them? What if they don’t like it? What if I see they don’t like it? How will my sense of self survive if I see that they don’t like it?

Or what if they know that I shop for everything at Walmart? Is it wrong to shop at Walmart when I can use my gift card to Target? Will that offend them? Will that give them some smug superiority over me? Will that give me some smug superiority over them to know they’re exercising smug superiority over me? Will our smug superiority ruin this birthday celebration?

People aren’t helpful with this, either. Unless they’re six years old or the most annoying person on the planet, they won’t email out their wish lists. They do this coy dance:  “I don’t know” or “I don’t really want anything for my birthday.”

They don’t understand. I have to get them something for their birthday because if I don’t and somebody else does, they will know I’m just a lazy ingrate who doesn’t take the time to appreciate our friendship. Gift-giving isn’t about them; it’s about assuring myself I don’t fail at the adult social scene as much as I actually do.

(Did I say that all out loud?)

Anyways, gift giving is hard. Gift receiving is hard, too, because it involves the impossible choice between giving the thing away to Goodwill or stuffing it in my closet, letting it haunt me, remind me that I lack the moral fiber to declutter my house of gifts from loved ones who might die today or tomorrow and then I’ll be sorry.

There’s a better way — a way without clutter and without shopping at Walmart: gifting activities rather than things.

I got this idea from a fellow college student whose divorced father, unused to picking out the birthday gifts, started taking his kids out for fun things like skydiving and sky boarding for their birthdays.

Isn’t that fabulous? There are many more cool things to do than to buy, I think, and far too few excuses to do them. Six Flags. Wine tasting. Swimming with seals. Dance lessons. Acroyoga. Riding horses. Broadway shows. Jet skiing. Canoeing.

Doesn’t that sound much more fun than running through Walmart last minute looking for something under $20? And you don’t even have to betray your terrible gift wrapping skills!

Since it’s my twenty-second birthday today (go ahead, sing the T-Swift song), my mother-in-law took me out for a mani/pedi — the perfect gift for a frugal girly-girl like me. Other than that, I’m hoping for a homemade key lime pie and some quality time with Erich!

Have you given or received an activity for your birthday? Tell me!

4 thoughts on “How to Buy Gifts for Anyone Too Old for My Little Ponies and Legos

  1. Jasmine Ruigrok

    Happy birthday!! This is an awesome idea. Another thing I’ve found to make easy and effective gifts is to ask yourself two questions: 1) what am I good at? 2) how can I spend time on this person? I’m an artist and handletterer, so for gifts, I often make a special quote or verse in my handwriting and frame it. This is how I show I care by a. sharing what I’m good at, and b. taking the time to do it. And if I know that a handlettered print isn’t going to do it for someone, I can take them out for coffee or something. However, I do think people appreciate what you do well, and love to have a part of that (you know, in the event you become megafamous, they can say they had something of yours first, and then they can sell it for millions of dollars).


    • Bailey Steger

      Yes! Fabulous idea! I’m not talented in areas that lend themselves to gift giving, but my bridesmaid hand-crocheted an entire afghan for my wedding, and I LOVE IT. It’s like getting a hug from her every time I cuddle up with it!


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