Oh, to be young again. Not for fewer wrinkles or greater agility—although that might be nice. But no. It would be great to go back to the years when we actually wanted something for Christmas. My family gave up exchanging gifts amongst the parents and grandparents when the only thing anyone ever really needed or wanted was too expensive to give, like a tropical vacation, furniture, or a new car. And when the youngsters become teens and young adults, all they really seem to want is money.
So we are relegated to being either a Scrooge or a bank.
The Scrooge part was easy. Just do nothing. The bank part was harder. Cash, check, or gift card? When my son was little, he got lots of gift cards. But it would be $10 at McDonald’s, $20 at Walmart, $30 at Toys R Us, and so on. When we added it all up, he had his own little 5-year-old fortune but couldn’t spend it on the one expensive thing he wanted. So I cashed him out. Then, I had to get those cards spent before I lost track of them. After that, I always gave kids cash, something they could spend any time on any item!
So buy a Visa gift card, you say? There are two problems with that. On a lesser note, there’s the service fee. If I’m buying for all my nieces and nephews at Christmas and for birthdays, the service fees could hit $100 per year. But there’s a much worse part.
I bought a VISA gift card for a dear friend’s birthday. She saved it for Christmas shopping but upon presenting it to a cashier last November, she was told that it was registered to someone else! It probably got emptied the day I bought it. The paperwork inside the packaging directs buyers to register the card for online purchases. But we are also told that this isn’t necessary for in-person shopping. The directions should tell people to register the card before leaving the store! I recommend doing that, immediately, preferably in front of the cashier or a manager.
If gift cards are risky and giving cash to contemporaries is weird, now what? Most of us just take each other out to lunch or buy event tickets, which is great! Beyond that, I was stumped.
Then along came gadgetry! Oh dear. Zillions of choices! For sweaty sleepers (or germaphobes), you can get Miracle Sheets, “the cleanest sheets ever.” They contain bacteria fighting silver that leads to “healthier skin and cleanliness.” The fabric even offers temperature regulation. That’s quite a claim. And “No more excessive laundry loads!” OK. What exactly constitutes “excessive” laundry anyway? On the other hand, I have heard that silver is a wonderful health aid. My in-laws mix it into their drinking water. May they live forever! Love them!
Here’s the gift I actually wanted last year but didn’t trust it to work. Then, my sister told me that her son had asked for the same thing: a Galaxy Ball, that glowing orb that floats in the air! Apparently, you can “Toss them around with the kids for hours of offline entertainment.” Really? Turns out, if you get your kids off the internet with this toy, they’ll be right back online after about 10 minutes because the Galaxy Ball will need to be recharged—for 30 minutes! It could take days to get hours of play!
I wonder if the Synoshi Power Spin Scrubber really works. They show an ever-so-convincing picture of the tool superimposed onto another picture of a grimy tiled shower wall. There is a swish of clean where the scrubber allegedly did its magic, complete with fake sparkles. The site asks, “Why are people snapping up this new cleaning tool?” Well, I’d like to know that, too! And what were the returns like? How many? Were they honored?
But then there’s the clip-on virtual mouse for use on any surface. That boggled my imagination! And a car GPS so you can monitor parking attendants, keep tabs on your teenaged drivers, or see where thieves run off with your vehicle. How about a Minimis Glass that puts fitness tracking and turn-by-turn navigation in standalone sports sunglasses? Wow! I was elated just to get an iPad stand for my elliptical!
Want to take a trip down memory lane? Purchase an Atari 2600+ retro console that actually plays old 2300 and 7800 cartridges. That takes me waaaaay back. Probably a bit too far. I remember Pong and then later Tetris and more recently Bejeweled—until they wanted to give me cookies. No thanks!
I do like kitchen-tool, stocking-stuffer gadgetry. But not silly things, like an avocado slicer. Just grab a knife. I use my Hands-free-Zip-Lock-bag-holder regularly. Haven’t you ever needed someone to hold a bag open while you pour in soups, sauces, leftovers or shredded cheese? Now, you don’t have to wait 10 minutes for the Galaxy Ball to need charging or for someone to get off Atari. Just do it yourself.
I also love my wooden toaster tongs. No more burnt fingers. And my long, slender, rubber-tipped scooper gets the last mustard or whatever from the bottom of jars with small openings. It works great for expensive moisturizers and lotions as well! A butter curler pulls decorative, thin curly ribbons of butter from a refrigerated (hard) stick of butter. It melts faster and spreads easier than slices or chunks. Elastic-trimmed plastic bowl covers are so much easier to use than plastic wrap. They’re better for the environment and will save you money because they are reusable.
Speaking of green—batteries are terrible for poor old Mother Earth. And they aren’t cheap, either. I keep my spares in the fridge, supposedly, to slow power loss. In my quest to go as battery-free as possible, I have been trying to find a thermometer and a small, portable food scale that do not require batteries. Sometimes, progress just isn’t.
I miss the exhilaration of shopping! I miss wrapping packages and the revelry of ripping into mysterious boxes with beautiful bows. Gift cards just aren’t as much fun to give. Then, my sister-in-law started taping cash on packages of caramel popcorn or beef jerky or candy so the recipient has something to unwrap while acquiring the moola. Very inspired one Christmas, I hid money inside gifts of clothing for my son. Practicality meets fun! Right? Presidential faces (sometimes just an eyeball) peaked out of all kinds of cuffs, collars, buttonholes and waistbands of new shirts and pants. Later, I also learned that money can withstand going through the wash and the dryer. Good to know.
Finally, I wish you a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. May you find the time to celebrate in glorious ways! Beyond that, it’s also all about BUYER BEWARE—always! Be careful. Be smart. Even when giving to charities! And for this blessed holiday season, above all, be Merry!