Look, not all of us are super close with our first-cousins-once-removed, or really any of the people who may pick us in the family secret santa. So, at then end of the holiday season, graduation, wedding and baby shower season, most of us end up with quite a bit of useless junk that will sit in a box until the next time we move and decide to donate it to Goodwill.
After a lifetime of accumulating clothes I never wore, books I never read, and several gag gifts from the sex store, I chose to compile this list to share the lessons I’ve learned about coyly asking for gifts that you’ll actually use. When I get gifts I actually want, I obviously don’t spend my own money on those things, and the shitty gifts I would have received are saved for someone who may actually appreciate them.
Make a Pinterest board and promote it on social media.
You don’t have to make one that explicitly says “Here is everything I would like to get for Christmas, Aunt Nancy,” although it would probably get good results. Make a board for anything, post it to social media, and any savvy gift giver will click through to your general Pinterest page where they will find a board called “My wishlist,” full of affordable things they can buy you. Aunt Nancy isn’t on Facebook? Make sure her bratty 13 year-old daughter, who she’ll surely ask for advice when picking something out for you, gets tagged in your post (lest your teenage cousin suggest a rhinestone choker you emotionally outgrew in 1998.)
Ask around for money management ideas, emphasizing what you’re trying to “save up for.”
Listen, older male relatives love to impart financial wisdom on anyone who’s willing to listen. Even if they lease a new car every year and put heated floors in their bathroom instead of improving their insulation, leading you to mistrust every piece of their advice, let them talk. Show them pictures of stuff you want to buy with the extra money you’ll save from their get-rich-quick schemes, and when they go out to get you a graduation gift, they’ll (hopefully) remember that conversation and either write a check, get you an appropriate gift card, or go buy the thing themselves.
Flaunt your favorite brands.
Tell everyone how that lamp they keep complimenting is from Crate and Barrel, or Instagram your favorite LUSH products until people get sick of seeing them. Even if the gifts you get are off-base, at least you’ll be able to exchange them with something you actually like.
On that note, exchange, exchange, exchange.
Most gift receipts will only give you store credit, and it’s kind of tacky to get cash for the hideous sweater your grandma spent hours picking for you anyway. So, when you get sweatpants from Victoria’s Secret that say PINK across the butt, but you’re already drowning in sweats that you can’t wear to your office job, go get bras and underwear that you’ll always need more of. Now, Grandma has bought you all of the underoos you’ll need all year, even though you would have been horrified if she had picked out all those red lace thongs for you on her own.
Lie about your favorite stores.
Sure, Lily Pulitzer might be your favorite brand, but a $20 gift card to Home Depot or IKEA is going to go a lot farther, and you’ll definitely need something from there eventually. I’m sure you already have more than enough preppy floral shorts for one lifetime.
If you’re embarrassed to talk about your hobbies with your relatives, invent some.
This tip is a little precarious, but if you’re looking for a new pair of binoculars to spy on your neighbors, definitely bring up birdwatching at the Thanksgiving table instead. No promises you won’t get bird books or instructional DVDs on how to birdcall.
Publicize your #minimalist lifestyle on social media.
If you make it obnoxiously clear to everyone you know that you don’t want to own anything, you’ll probably get opera tickets for Christmas or donations in your name. Maybe they’ll give you a gift card for Airbnb or something. That may not be the exact gift you wanted, but experiences typically come with a lower carbon footprint than things.