Shopping for a Special Gal? 10 Gifts Not to Buy


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If you are trying to show a woman she is special and loved, do yourself a favor: Avoid these gifts like the plague.

Whether it’s for Christmas, a birthday, anniversary or Valentines Day, shopping for your gal can be a minefield. Based on the decision you make, your gift can either leave her with stars in her eyes or end up being a deal-breaking disaster that leaves one or both of you weeping. Not yet sure what to get the woman in your life? Improve your chances of success — and save some time  — by steering clear of these 10 things:

1. Vacuum cleaners, kitchen gadgets or appliances

RossHelen / Shutterstock.comRossHelen / Shutterstock.com

Unless she specifically included appliances on a wish list and handed it to you, do not buy her appliances — especially those used for cleaning, and particularly if they would be used to clean a home you share. Sure, fancy vacuum cleaners, ovens, refrigerators and other appliances are useful, and quite spendy. But these gifts may suggest work more than they express love. Avoid them. The exception to this rule might be a small luxury appliance like a juicer or a one-cup espresso maker — things that make her trip to the kitchen a treat.

2. Exercise equipment, gym memberships or self-help tools

Nadya Chetah / Shutterstock.comNadya Chetah / Shutterstock.com

Fitbits and other activity-monitoring devices are hot items this year, but again, unless your lovely lady specifically asks for one, it isn’t a good idea to buy her exercise equipment. No matter how many times you tell her you love her just the way she is, a new elliptical or gym membership could give her the louder message that she needs to lose weight or improve herself. On the other hand, if your beloved is already into yoga, hiking or some other activity, there are a lot of things you could get to enhance those activities. Check out: “22 Great Gifts for the Athletes and Outdoor Enthusiasts on Your List.”

3. Clothing — including lingerie

Lolostock / Shutterstock.comLolostock / Shutterstock.com

You might think you know her well enough to choose clothing she likes, but this is a gamble. It’s hard to get the size and fit right, and a bigger risk is that you get something she considers completely out of step with her style. It can be difficult enough finding clothes we like for ourselves; it’s an even bigger challenge shopping for someone else.

4. Selfies

aslysun / Shutterstock.comaslysun / Shutterstock.com

Yes, there are numerous services that can turn your selfies into gifts by embellishing them with borders and fancy frames. However, giving someone a picture of yourself just screams “self-absorbed,” among other not-so-loving things. If you want to take advantage of some of the great photo services available, however, you might want to instead choose a photo of the two of you on a memorable hike or trip. Technology lets you send her a selfie, literally, any time you want. Don’t make the mistake of sending one as a gift.

5. Gifts she gets stuck with

Fernanda Arce Amare / Shutterstock.comFernanda Arce Amare / Shutterstock.com

It’s not only a good practice, but also highly appreciated when you give gifts that can be exchanged if they don’t fit or simply aren’t something she likes. If she can’t return the item or exchange it for something else, you will end up wasting time and money on a gift she can’t or won’t use. Even better than giving gifts that can be exchanged? Understanding and being okay with the chance that she might actually exchange it.

6. Stuff you secretly want for yourself

Kues / Shutterstock.comKues / Shutterstock.com

Most of us learn this lesson when we are young, but not everyone gets it. People don’t usually enjoy gifts that they know you really bought for yourself. For instance, video games, flat-screen TVs, beagle puppies or steak dinners are fantastic gift ideas for people who really enjoy them. If your girlfriend is not one of those people, don’t buy those things for her on the pretense you can enjoy them together.

7. Skin care products and cosmetics

Oilyy / Shutterstock.comOilyy / Shutterstock.com

For many women, skin care products and cosmetics are popular items we like to splurge on sometimes for ourselves. However, it can be difficult purchasing the right skin care, cosmetics or perfume for someone else. An even better idea might be just to buy her a gift card for a brand or store such as Ulta or Sephora if you at least know where she likes to shop. Above all, stay away from wrinkle creams, youth serums, acne creams and other products designed to remedy things she sees as flaws.

8. Food

KonstantinChristian / Shutterstock.comKonstantinChristian / Shutterstock.com

Unless it’s really good food or something very unusual, food (including candy) isn’t a great item to buy your gal as a gift. Food falls into the must-have-or-will-die category and is rarely seen as thoughtful or endearing as a gift. If she needs food, don’t wait until a special occasion — just buy it for her. Also, if you must give a restaurant gift card, make sure it is for someplace special — avoid Subway, Pizza Hut and other fast food restaurants.

9. Pets

lario / Shutterstock.comlario / Shutterstock.com

Although the idea of giving someone a puppy sounds sweet, buying a pet as a gift can be a bad idea for both your gal and the pet.

“Giving a pet as a gift is usually an ill-advised decision that can end tragically,” according to this article by PAWS. It points out that the recipient needs to be committed to having a pet, be financially and otherwise able to care for the critter, and feel the pet is a good fit. If you know for certain that your girlfriend is an animal lover who wants a pet, you might want to opt instead for a gift certificate for a shelter or organization. This also gives you the chance to take your time find the perfect pet together.

10. The same thing you got her last year

PR Image Factory / Shutterstock.comPR Image Factory / Shutterstock.com

Sure, it can seem like she wants the same thing every year, but that doesn’t mean you should buy her the same thing every year. Part of the joy of getting gifts is being surprised and delighted at the thought that went into the gift. Getting her the same thing you got her last year is neither a surprise nor an indication that you put much thought into it. Get creative! Get her something she’ll not only appreciate, but also remember.

If you know your girlfriend or significant other well enough to be certain she would enjoy any of these gifts — and, naturally, there will be exceptions to our rules — then go with what you think is best. However, for everyone else who might not be sure or have no clue, take it from us: Stay on the safe side and think of something better.

If you’re stumped, check out these handy gift guides for ideas:

What’s the worst gift you’ve ever given to or received from your significant other? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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