Friday 4 December 2009

Tight Fist Tip #33: Stop Exchanging Gifts

Hanging Out For The Holidays

As the weather gets cooler and the Thanksgiving tryptophan hangovers wear off, our minds inevitably start to drift to the festive joys of the holiday season. First and foremost: wasting money on useless pieces of crap to exchange for crap you don't really want. Woo Hoo! In my last post I talked about the futility of buying crap on Black Friday, and why holiday gift giving makes baby Jesus cry. But the problem remains is that people, for some reason, just love receiving totally useless crap.

So, what is wrong with the practice of gift giving? Well, potentially there is nothing really wrong with it. If you just bought something for a friend that they really needed, and they reciprocate by getting you something you really need, then it would be ok. Imagine the following unfamiliar Christmas scene:

Jonny: Oh man, I'm so excited to open my christmas present!
Julie: Oh, go ahead!
Jonny: (Opens Present) Holy crap- just what I wanted! Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs! I can make these for dinner tomorrow!
Julie: I'm glad you like them! Now, I wonder what you got me? (Rips open packaging) oh my God! A bus pass! Now I can get to work! This is amazing!
Jonny: I love you!
Julie: Let's make babies!
Is This Meant To Induce Suicide?

And....Cut. But no, that's not really how it happens. If you actually gave useful gifts and got some sort of special joy out of the gift exchanging process (that managed to outweigh the inefficiency of having to guess what your friend really wants), then gifts could really be a great thing. But this is not how it happens in real life. In the real world, it goes something like this:

Jonny: (Opens gift) Oh, what a nice sweater!
Jonny (internal monologue): Oh wow, this would be really great at keeping me warm...IF I WAS FREAKING BUCK NAKED AND DIDN'T ALREADY HAVE A CLOSET FULL OF GODDAMN SWEATERS ALREADY.
Julie: I knew you would appreciate the stylish orange stripe across the front! And now, let's open mine. Oh wow- a new TV! This is awesome!
Julie (internal monologue): Yeah amazing, now my TV viewing experience will be a full five inches wider. It would be just like I had pushed my couch forward one foot and left it there forever. HOW FREAKING ROMANTIC.
Jonny: Now hon, do you want to...

Exceptionally obscene are the stores openly specialize in gifts. How can this make any sense? If you consider your items as gifts, this must mean that THEY ARE TOO INCREDIBLY STUPID AND USELESS FOR ANYONE TO EVER BUY FOR THEMSELVES. Yes, I'm talking to you Pier 1 Imports. And you, Sharper Image. You too Skymall. If a dedicated Tight Fister accidentally gets lost and finds himself in one of these stores, it will require years of therapy to rid the trauma from your psyche.

I won't even get into the disgusting dependence on Christmas gift-giving that keeps millions of terrible, useless strip-mall shops open indeterminately. Or the heartbreaking debt and sacrifice that some families endure to keep up with social norms of gift giving. These things just depress me beyond belief.

But despite all this, I know that many of you out there are not strong enough to break the cycle of gift giving all by yourself. You're going to want to know what kinds of gifts you can give that The Tight Fist will approve of. Grudgingly, I will provide that in my next post.


  1. As a devoted meanster and one vehemently opposed to anything at all that encourages usually sane persons to pay five times the price for an ordinary object that has a piece of tinsel wrapped around it I salute you!

    The festive season, as long we have bemoaned, has become little more than a license for big fat companies to brainwash us into spending big fat sums of money on things that people don’t want.

    Sir, I eagerly await your list of approved gifts. Perhaps one might be a How To Book, a slim volume which explains how you can still do the season and ‘give’ without flashing obscene amounts of cash about the place or being portrayed as a distant relative of Ebenezer Scrooge. (Perhaps, from one stinge-monger to another, we might collaborate on this one day.)

    Yours with the most generous regards,

    Mrs Miser

  2. I always recommend friends who know you love them, even if you don't consume in their name :)

  3. Skinless thighs!? What kind of atrocities are you committing in your kitchen these days Stein?