Gee, Thanks: 4 Presumptuous Gifts That Can Strain a Budget

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Should you look a gift horse in the mouth? Yes, when it's these awful gifts that'll actually cost you money.

I remember the worst gift I ever received. It was a vacation to the Bahamas that an old girlfriend gave me. It was one of those too-good-to-be-true, ultra-low-cost package “deals” that was exactly that – too good to be true.

Did you know the Bahamas had ghettos? I didn’t either. Until we pulled up in front of our Freeport “resort.” To this day, I also can’t confirm that the sun has ever been seen in the Bahamas – while we were there, it rained incessantly.

It turns out the whole experience was so bad that we ultimately came home after three days.

Yep. Definitely the worst gift I ever received. Truth be told, it flat-out sucked.

Speaking of terrible gifts, British charity organization The Brooke conducted a study of 3,000 people regarding the most unwelcome Christmas gifts. I notice package-deal vacations did not make this particular list, but here were the items that did:

  1. Bubble bath
  2. Bath salts
  3. Socks
  4. Candles
  5. Belgian chocolates
  6. Knitwear
  7. Books
  8. Ties
  9. Moisturizer
  10. Movies you’ve already seen

Gifts aren’t supposed to cost the recipient money

Personally, I don’t see the problem with many of those so-called dubious gifts listed above.

OK, I lied. I would definitely end up regifting knitwear. Still, I’d argue that it’s not fair to have expectations or requirements for a gift. That’s because, by definition, a gift is supposed to be something that is given to you for free.

You know, it takes some real chutzpah to pooh-pooh a free gift that somebody cared enough to get for you. I know what you’re thinking: But, Len, you just belittled the gift your girlfriend gave you. Hypocrite!

Not true.

See, I said it takes chutzpah to pooh-pooh a free gift – as in costing nothing. Before I could take advantage of the trip my girlfriend gave me, I had to shell out money for the airfare to Fort Lauderdale — and that’s just one of several other expenses that weren’t included in my “all expenses paid” vacation.

I know it’s tough coming up with great gift ideas, but it’s important that you don’t out-think yourself by getting a gift that ends up costing somebody money they’ll need to pay down the road.

In addition to the previously mentioned vacation package deal, here are three other examples. Given enough time, I’m sure you can probably think of a few more…

1. Automobiles

Initial recipient reaction: “I absolutely LOVE IT, sweetheart! Who wants to go for a ride?”
Likely morning-after musings: “It looks like I’ve been taken for a ride.”
Remorse meter: The idiot light is definitely ON.
Comments: Every time I see one of those commercials where the happy housewife looks outside the window at her brand-new luxury car in the driveway – complete with an over-the-top red bow – I have to laugh. So why does hubby have such a smug smile on his face? Unless he paid for that car up front (unlikely), his wife is going to be saddled with making monthly car payments for several years at least. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.

2. Puppies, kittens, and other pets

Initial recipient reaction: “Oh, she’s absolutely adorable!”
Likely morning-after musings: “That was my couch, not a scratching post!”
Remorse meter: Gagging on a hairball.
Comments: Giving someone a pet as a gift is probably the purest example of presumptuousness I can think of. Pets are an imposition on people; they not only require lots of money to keep healthy, they are a huge commitment.

3. Laptop computers

Initial recipient reaction: “It’s absolutely perfect!”
Likely morning-after musings: “What do you mean it didn’t come with all the necessary accessories?”
Remorse meter: Keyboard is missing. Press F1 to continue.
Comments: While a laptop computer usually comes with a built-in keyboard (well, at least the good ones do), there are several items that aren’t included. For example, most owners who care about their laptop will probably want to buy a case. Many folks will also realize that they hate using the little touch pad and so they’ll end up having to pay extra for a wireless mouse as well. Those two items alone can end up costing an additional $100 or more, depending on the quality of the accessories.

As for my old girlfriend, although her heart was certainly in the right place at the time, I guarantee you that her vacation gift will always have the dubious honor of being the worst gift I ever received from anyone, if only because it ended up costing me a lot of wasted cash.

By the way, I swear that opinion has nothing to do with her unceremoniously dumping me a couple of years later. It really doesn’t.

Well, maybe just a little.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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