11 People Weigh In On The Christmas Gift You Shouldn’t Waste Your Money Buying Anyone This Year

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I know that it’s the ~thought that counts~, but to be honest, I’m getting to a point financially where I’m wondering whether or not some gift purchases are worth the money. Sometimes around the holidays, it feels like I’m really stretching for a gift idea for some people (like, the people whom I know I’m supposed to buy gifts for, but don’t really know much about personally, and therefore have no idea what to get them).

I decided to round up some horror stories (well, I’m being dramatic — they’re not horror stories, they’re basically just regular stories) of the worst gifts they’ve ever received, and what specific things they believe are a waste of money to get as gifts for people. Here’s what they had to say.

1. “Socks… I know it is like, a traditional holiday joke to get someone socks, and then they’re like ‘Awww, socks, thank you!’ and then grandma is like aye don’t mention it. And then you grow older and you’re like, I could totally always use some extra socks, that’s a great gift to get someone. Wrong. Socks are so subjective. No one likes the same type, everyone has specific sock-preferences. Same with underwear. These are personal choices.” – David

2. “Last year my sister got my parents and myself a bunch of lottery tickets. She got really mad at us for some trivial reason on Christmas Eve, scratched them all and still gave them to us after we made up, on Christmas morning.” – Maggie

3. “Anything from Spencer’s Gifts.” – Andrew

4. “There’s a tradition of buying women scented bath products. I kind of like it — when I was younger especially, I did really love to receive a set from Bath & Body Works. But as you grow up, or maybe it is just me, you kind of settle into a routine and a set of products that works for your skin, your life, etc. So when I get a set of like Sweet Pea body splash and shower gel, I’m like, okay — my husband will hate that scent, I kind of hate that scent, those lotions are pricey but not at all moisturizing. Etc. I kind of feel that it is a thoughtless gift. Like oh, she’s a girl, she probably likes pink lotion.” – Carrie Ann

5. “Little tchotchkes, only because people I think only like very specific types of tchotchkes. For example, I received a little ceramic frog last year, which was cute, but I have very themed décor in my home and it has a neutral color palette, usually not involving the color green or amphibians of any kind. Unless you know the person super well and know that the little thing will fit in with their life and they’ll really like it, it is most likely a waste of money that they’ll end up re-gifting or donating.” – Katie

6. “Worst gift to get are like, gag gifts. I know they are meant to be cute and humorous. I’m not a fan.” – Ben

7. “There have been a lot of neutral gifts that I just never used. I guess the worst gifts are ones that show the giver knows nothing about the receiver but they give a gift anyway. Because then it shows its more about the obligation than the person.” – Thomas

8. “People probably shouldn’t waste their money buying video games anymore. They are not worth the high price, I’ve actually stopped playing games due to their prices.” – Mike

9. “I literally got a box of granola bars once from a family member because I told them I liked granola bars. It was cute but like, obviously I buy those for myself. That is more of an obligation to buy me a gift while not knowing anything about me besides the fact that I enjoy granola.” – Audrey

10. “Gift cards tend to be a shitty Christmas gift unless specifically requested. At that point it seems like maybe you shouldn’t be getting them a gift.” – Anthony

11. “I hate getting ties so so so so so much. Get me something that excites me, not a corporate noose hanging from my neck.” – Ryan

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Pexels 

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  • Jack

    Hah, YES TO EVERY SINGLE ONE. I’m probably considered hard to buy for now because I’m so picky, and I was definitely the one to veto gift gifting in my family for the last couple of years.
    But I still did secret santa at work. It was a $20 limit and I brought a cute set of Lush bath bombs. I ended up with 2 flasks. TWO. I do not drink, I don’t hang out with people who use flasks, and my father is an alcoholic so I really don’t like alcohol paraphernalia. Ugh.
    Also on this list should be those gift baskets that include terrible generic hot chocolate etc. I sound like a Grinch don’t I?!

    • Holly Trantham

      That sucks that your secret santa clearly put zero thought into your gift — at least *everyone* loves a bath bomb 🙂

      • Jack

        I mean to be fair we weren’t buying for specific people, it’s one of those white elephant steal things, but for some reason everyone assumes that everyone else LOVES alcohol!
        But I guess not everyone loves baths either! The most popular gift to get “stolen” was a scratch map!

      • Tara

        A-hem, I am not a bath bomb person. I’m just not a bath person.

        That’s why articles like this are funny/interesting to read — because there IS no blanket “don’t buy this for someone” list out there. Everyone is different!

  • Bri

    Those bath product sets are the woooorst. I always end up throwing them out. And now that I’m older I kinda hate receiving gift cards because it’s like… you seriously put zero thought into this.

    • Holly Trantham

      The. literal. worst.

    • Jack

      And if the gift card is like $25 for a pricey store, you end up spending your own money too to get something decent!

      • Bri

        Exactly!! Someone always gives my boyfriend and I a $25 gift card to a really, really nice restaurant and we’re just like…. we still can’t afford to go there.

  • Summer

    Absolutely yes to #4. Unless it’s something truly unique like a high-end, fancy hand soap or maybe something obscure from Lush or whatever, please just don’t. Nothing says “I put zero thought into this other than recognizing the fact that you’re a girl and thus assuming that you must like anything having to do with bath products” like a randomly selected Bath & Body Works or Victoria’s Secret lotion.

    Gift cards though I do love. Obviously the more interest I have in the venue to which they are accepted, the better; but overall I think they’re pretty great.

    • nancxpants

      I agree, gift cards are definitely worth it. My Christmas list always includes a selection of stores I would like gift cards to, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had relatives say they didn’t want to get gift cards because they’re “impersonal” and then turn around to give me something random (that would often fall under other categories on this list). If you don’t know what to get, buying someone a shopping trip is better than whatever catches your eye.

      • Lauren

        Agreed. I. Love. Gift cards. As long as it’s to a store that I at least vaguely like (which is pretty much everything except like, Sports Authority or GameStop), I’m thrilled. I never know what I want for Christmas, so rather than have my friends and relatives try to guess what crap I want and miss the target, they can give me the gift of a guilt-free trip to Sephora. Ka-ching!

    • Gifts cards from places stores that stock that you would buy though. So places like Amazon or department stores, not specific fashion or beauty brands because ugh. I can’t spend a £50 gift card at Topshop.

  • Mila

    About the granola bars.. I’d be delighted to receive my favourite snack as a gift, seriously, a university student should never say no to food, especially their favourite kind of food!

    • Yeah, I love gifts that are something I love but hate spending money on. Snacks are a good example. I loathe paying for an entire box of my favourite snack (so I never do) but if someone knew me well enough to buy me an entire box of something I love, I’d be super thankful.

      • Megan Stacey

        Agreed! A Costco-sized amount of my favourite snack is the path to my heart.

  • alyjarrett

    I love gift cards, but usually as the frosting to an already thoughtful gift. I once did mason jar mani/pedi sets with Sephora gift cards for all my friends, and they went over really well. I’d add generic plushies to the list. Our first Christmas together, my ex gave me a shit-ton of cheap chocolate and one of those freaky plush animals with the huge eyes. It was a terrible gift that I wouldn’t have given on Valentine’s Day as a middle-schooler, let alone a grown-ass adult. We had a pretty large age gap, so that had something to do with it, but it was awfully difficult to be polite when faced with that level of cluelessness.

    • Tara

      If you’re not a stuffed animal person then you definitely shouldn’t be receiving them as gifts. But I’m a total stuffed animal person so that gift would’ve gone over well with me! That’s why it’s really hard to write prescription articles like this — everyone’s different. ::shrug::

      • alyjarrett

        Totally! I love plushies when they mean something to me, and I have a bunch from my favorite TV shows/anime. It was rather the generic aspect of the gift that turned me off, like the kind of random Beanie Baby you can pick up at a CVS. In the age of Amazon wish lists and Pinterest boards, it’s easy to put at least *some* thought into a gift (or so I thought lol!)

        • Tara

          True! I guess I’m just a particularly big sucker for anything cute 🙂 Haha!

  • Laura

    Video games are too expensive? I would argue that they have the best money/hours of entertainment ratio out of any other form of media.
    Pro-tip for any gamer: if you’re interested in a game, put in on your wish list on Steam. They will send you an alert when it goes on sale. I bought Endless Legend for like eight bucks, and I’ve sunk >30 hours into that thing.
    Brand new console games can be expensive, but as long as you don’t play them when they’re new, they are cheap form of entertainment.

    • 100% this. Mike stopped playing video games because “they cost too much”? What.

    • and that’s why a receiver is going to be happy, because (some) games are expensive and you can’t be buying them all the time. i know my nephew’s face is gonna lit up when he opens his present and sees that he got the new game he has desperately trying to save his allowances for (he is 12, and although i find his saving skills and determination impressive, he is still 12 and his allowance is not that big :D).

  • SN

    Hahaa love this. 100000% agree about the lotion/bath products. I 100000% disagree about socks though. I love and always need cute socks and you really have to suck at sock-buying to fuck that one up.

    I’ll chip in with one: I am not a fan of when people buy me clothes. I am so picky about clothes and have a hard enough time finding stuff that’s flattering and worth the closet space…and yet…every year!

    And obligatory: http://www.collegehumor.com/video/7006113/how-to-pretend-you-like-that-shitty-gift

  • Lauren

    When I was a teenager, I got some weird gifts. I’m an identical twin, and relatives for some reason liked buying us matching clothes. Except my sister and I never dressed alike. One time an aunt got us each the same shirt, only one was two sizes larger than the other. I still don’t get it.

  • Susannah

    I disagree with the sock thing, but only if you know the person well enough to know their sock habits. I adore wool socks, and living in New England and wearing boots a lot its literally impossible to have too many. A pair of well made wool socks that are big enough is literally my favorite present to get these days! A nice pair is ~12-15 which is enough to be a meaningful present (granted for broke college kids) that someone will remember you for everytime they wear them!
    I think that gift cards can be a good present, but again only if you know the person. For example, a $20 gift card or something to a place like Starbucks (or an equivalent non-chain place) would mean a lot to me because its not within my budget for the everyday (or even every week) but would allow me to treat myself. It would have to be something that the person could use though.

  • The most important thing to do on any occasion where gifts come up is to: talk to your family and friends about it. If you don’t know someone well enough to know something they would like and use, don’t buy them a gift. Or ask them what they would like.

    Gifts should never be bought out of obligation, they should be heartfelt. I hate when someone gifts me an item because they felt they had to and I end up with a bunch of junk that I will never use and have to guiltily hide in a cupboard somewhere or give away. It’s a waste of their money.

  • B.

    I can’t be the only person reading this who thinks this kind of comes across as ungrateful.

    Especially to someone of lesser means, socks could be a blessing – it means I don’t have to buy them. Maybe I don’t like that particular lotion, but if I can regift it to someone who would, that person just saved me a trip and a few dollars.

    This article is really focusing on the material things and not the thought behind them, and that disappoints me a little. Any gift thoughtfully given is worth being thankful for. Maybe this could’ve been reworked into a piece that helped people brainstorm how to give thoughtful, heartfelt gifts that are inexpensive/practical, so no money is “wasted.” Either way – not every article is every reader and I respect that. Just wanted to share my two cents because I don’t think I’m the only one out there. <3

  • Alexis Graham

    I LOVE gift cards. I’d rather someone gift me a card, rather than hit & miss with a regular present. That’s a total waste of money and I would feel guilty if I didn’t like the present. I love makeup. So cards to Ulta and Sephora are awesome. Last Christmas I racked up about $250 in gift cards to Sephora.

  • Mary Harman

    The comments on this article are LIT. God bless friendly discourse.

  • i love getting socks! cause no one’s gonna buy someone the cheapest/ugliest socks, so my nicest, cutest & comfiest socks are often received as gifts! i also love bath stuff, especially if it’s some seasonal/christmassy cented one. and gift cards! give me a gift card to anywhere where one can buy books and i’ll be happy. i’m just a really easy when it comes to giving gifts. i also love flowers and anything edible. really, i feel like the act of givign a gift is what makes me happy. i don’t think that it’s so much about not knowing someone when you give a generic gift, rather than it’s hard to give a gift to someone who doesn’t really ‘need’ anything. kids always need clothes & want toys, as adults are more difficult. so when someone gives me a gift it tells me they think me important enough to wanting to give me at least something. and that’s nice.

    and oh poor Ryan! i bet he would rather receive socks or gift cards (but not to tie shops) :D.