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Buying Christmas Gifts for the Hard-to-Buy-For: What Do You Do?

Yes, it's still a little early to think about Christmas shopping. I understand. But it's coming up soon. And we all know that one person who is extremely hard to buy for. What do you do?

I will make no apology for this edition of our weekly "Conversation Starter." I'm selfishly motivated by the need for your help. And I don't care that Halloween is still three days away. Or that Christmas is still nearly two months off.

We need all the time we can get.

See, here's the problem: My father is in his early 70s; my father-in-law is in his early 80s. If anything, they're trying to get rid of things.

What do you buy for the hard-to-buy-for? What do you do to make the Christmas merry for the folks who seem to have everything, don't need anything or who won't let themselves get pinned down?

Here's another stumper for you: My son is 17. He's a drama kid, a singer, a World of Warcraft fanatic. He is every bit as hard to buy for as my family on the other end of the age spectrum. I hate to tell you how many gifts he's received that went unopened and ignored, only to be returned months later.

I've heard the suggestion of making a donation on a person's behalf to a worthy charity, and I like it, and I may do it. And while my son might very well appreciate it, it's hardly the sort of thing a teenager covets under the tree.

What's your strategy for these people? How do you approach gift-giving for the hard-to-buy-for?

Shari Kinninger October 28, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Call Scrubby Dutch Cleaning for a house cleaning gift certificate. Go to www.scrubbydutch.com
Patty Rode October 28, 2012 at 04:00 PM
All teenagers that I know just want money. The other thing is boxer shorts. As for 70 and 80 year olds, how about gift certificates to where they pick up prescriptions, their favorite restaurants or fast food places; and doesn't everyone like to get a lottery ticket or two or three?
Carla October 28, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Does ur father or father innlaw have their lawn mowed? If so - find out who their service provider is and gift certificate a month of cuttings! (helps small business in these economic times too!). Also - car wash certificates are great! My mother (who is in her mid 70's LOVES This! Books are another great gift!! For your teen ager --- good luck - buy funny silly stuff to open or a family board game to play - and give em cash!!
Lisa October 28, 2012 at 06:33 PM
My late-70s mother does not need more "stuff" in her house, so for a milestone birthday, we made a "VoiceQuilt" for her. I invited friends and family to dial in to the toll-free number that came with the package, then arranged the greetings along with some of her favorite music. It comes in a little music box-type thing, and when you open it, all the familiar voices are giving good wishes. A few months after she received the VoiceQuilt, her best friend of 60 years passed away - Mom still opens the box from time to time to hear her voice. They also post a private link to the VoiceQuilt, so you can access online. When my daughter graduated HS, I did the same thing for her. You know how hard it is to make a teenager cry happy tears from being touched?! Yup, it was priceless. In the summer between HS and college, she'd go up to her room and I would occasionally hear the voices <grin>. AND she took it to school with her. I highly recommend - it's an unusual, thoughtful, unique and memorable gift. Various package levels are available - you can put together a nice one for less than $100, easy. And no, I don't work for them - but for weddings, major life events, etc. it is fast becoming first on my list. www.voicequilt.com
Lisa October 28, 2012 at 06:39 PM
One more thing - for hte holidays, you could make a family VoiceQuit, then give the little folios with a CD and a family picture in the frame area. Takes care of a whole bunch of family members at the same time...:-)
Kay Scott-Boyd October 28, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Things that are disposable are the best for older adults. If there is a favorite treat, get them that. How about either a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or a delivery service that delivers food to their home? Other things would be tickets to a concert or even something like car washes for X number of times. The other thing is give a certificate of time. Once a week or even once a month you have a specific "date". They can chose or it can be a surprise. They are not as hard as you are making it. In our family everyone has to give a gift wish list to all in attendance on Thanksgiving before we are allowed to eat. That is a BIG incentive for teens, FOOD! The first year it was hard to get them to come up with things but when they did not get to eat they started really thinking! I asked if there were gift cards they wanted. Tell them they need a few items of varied costs on their list. But as my kids got older,cash or gift certificates were what they asked for.They may have something they want but never thought to tell you. They can put anything on the list just not assume they will get that!I give gas cards, fast food certificates, movie theater, bowling, even paint ball certificates to my teens/young adults. This way they can go and DO something and it not cost them anything. Gift cards can be as little as $5 and as much as $1000.
Cathy Edmond October 29, 2012 at 01:50 AM
for the older folks, bird feeder, binoculars and a bird watching book. What about buying a bunch of greeting cards (birthday, anniversary, sympathy etc) and a couple books of stamps. I like the idea of paying for a housecleaner or their yard service as well. If they like gardening, a stature or stepping stone for the garden is nice. Disposable gifts are great. Teenagers are hard. Give them some homemade cookies, candies and a gift card. It's what they want. I-tunes is good for the music/drama kiddo, or Amazon. Or of course gas station, they always need gas.
Chels October 29, 2012 at 04:32 AM
I think it's about finding the right suggestion for the person. For example I love the idea of a charity donation myself as a 30-something who doesn't need much but you're right, your 17 yearold has stuff he wants, and a charity is not it. For someone young or in what I call "need mode" where a gift is function rather than just form I find a way to ask whether it's a wishlist or just outright asking. Unless something just strikes me as perfect that's going to be a better bit. In the middle you have the people who don't want anything but appreciate everything as long as it's creative it will be appreciated... That's the type I'll do a charity donation, picture book, or fun stuff for. Then you have the needs-nothing but will expect something relevant. For those I think it comes down to really having a chance to clue into a conversation. You don't have to ask to hear what they're doing these days, what they like and while you may be a bit off on the pick, that you matched says so much. Good luck!
Bob Nickles October 29, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I really enjoyed reading everyone's suggestions -- and I'll admit that despite my reservations about starting those Christmas conversations early, I did find myaself sympathizing with the author. So I'll chime in. I always have to check myself when I feel a little anxious about gift giving. Am I just feeling obligated and don't want to mess something up? If so, I have to take care of that feeling before buying anything. Some of my worst gift decisions have come under that kind of pressure! But if I'm feeling otherwise, say, wanting more connection with a person I care about, then I tend to give that feeling free reign. It usually leads me to spend more quality time with the person in question, which almost always gives me bright ideas and important data for future gift-giving. Consumable gifts and/or gifts that lead to memories tend to rise to the top of my list, once I get my feelings in line. Books or appliances that increase self-sufficiency tend to sink lower on the list because they tend to be used alone, and today many of us spend much of our time alone anyway. Best of luck in your process. Hopefully the "sleuthing" will be just as meaningful (if not more so) than the gift itself. Because let's face it, a gift is only as great as the relationship that produced it.
Bill Williams November 01, 2012 at 06:21 PM
We had a stained glass window made. It gave them privacy and beauty all at once. You can pick it out yourself or get a gift certificate.
Frances Aubuchon November 01, 2012 at 09:43 PM
For the teenager give a gas card for his car or clothing gift card to favorite store . For parents or older person give a picture video by using pictures starting with baby picture , then wedding picture and then put each child and pictures of graduation of weddings , when they were a baby and put all their kids and families. You put all the pictures to songs that mean something to them . At the end put a letter in the video telling them how much you love them and how much they mean to you all . Have all the names of the people in the family at the end of the letter . There are places that make these videos . You need to do a google search for PICTURE VIDEOS
RegalT62 November 01, 2012 at 10:40 PM
We once gave my husband's Grandmother a "Memory Jar". We filled a glass jar with typed (in large font) "memories" each member of our family had of times with her. For example, I remember her always answering my kids saying "are we there yet" with "we are closer every minute". My husband and kids thought up times at her house, favorite foods she made, etc. We had 52 memories for her to read, one each week for a year. She sat and read all of them right then! We all laughed and talked about the memories for hours. The next year, she asked for more "memories" so others in the extended family made more She loved that gift more than any we've ever given her!
Dawn S. December 07, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Go to Biffybag.com and your problem will be solved. It is a disposable toilet and it makes perect sense. Pure genious.

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