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  • Dan Albert S. de Padua

The New Rules of Gift Giving

The Golden Rule of Gift Giving: Give unto others what you want others to give unto you. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But it wasn’t always that way. Back in the late 1960’s, I gave my grade school classmate a box of Curly Tops. I would have loved to eat the chocolate myself. That’s why I chose it as my exchange gift. What did I get in return? A bar of soap. To this day, I don’t know why. Naliligo naman ako. I have been emotionally damaged ever since.

Give cash. Obviously, there are people to whom you can’t give money; but for everyone else, cash is a most welcome gift. In fact, cash is the gift from which recipients derive the most utility or happiness because they get to choose exactly what to do with it. Cash is the gift that gives twice: first, when the recipients get the money itself; and then again, when the recipients buy something with it. If the cash is invested wisely, then it’s the gift that keeps on giving because of dividends or interest. There is even a school of thought in economics that says the marginal utility of money does not diminish at all; thus, a really rich guy may be bored by a third yacht, but the happiness he gets from more money will always remain the same. Cash is so great they should write songs about it—

Give cash on Christmas day (Christmas da-ay),

No greater gift is there than cash.

What the world needs is cash (2x) . . .

Beware the Revolution of Rising Expectations. If you keep trying to outdo the previous year’s gifts, you are simply encouraging recipients to expect more gifts, more expensive gifts or more creative gifts each year. You may be able to keep up with this gift inflation for a while, but there is absolutely no way this ends well for you. At some point, you will slip up, run out of time, run out of ideas or run out of money. The balloons above the heads of your disappointed recipients will contain one of two possible thoughts, either “Tag-hirap na si Daddy/Ninong/Sweetheart” or “Hindi na niya ako mahal!! Huhuhu.”

In order to avoid this tragic outcome, always give the same gift or the same kind of gift every year. If, for instance, you were doling out twenty pesos each to your godchildren in the 1990’s, you should hand out the same amount this year. Call it your Christmas tradition. They may call you a cheap bastard, but it’s a small price to pay to protect your loved ones from being scarred forever.

Re-gifting is good. Be honest. We’ve all done it. Maybe you needed a last-minute gift or Christmas had become so expensive that you wanted to save a little or you simply wanted to get rid of an unwanted gift. So, you took something that you received as a gift and presented it to someone else as a gift from you. That’s re-gifting. Well, you will be relieved to know that the practice is not frowned upon as much as it used to be. After all, climate change is upon us, and recycling is one of the things we can do to help. I’m not kidding! Under certain circumstances, it’s called “green gifting”. Look it up.

A number of sub-rules, however, have sprung up around re-gifting to make it more socially acceptable. First, what you receive in one part of your life should go to another part of your life. For example, a gift from a second-cousin-in-law (distant relative) can be re-gifted to a balikbayan former colleague (distant officemate). One from an elementary school classmate back in the provincial hometown (childhood friend) can go to the neighbor down the block (current acquaintance). This sub-rule should prevent a gift from finding its way back to the original giver like the legendary fruitcake. Second, check the expiration dates, not only for food items. If you’re re-gifting something that has been in a closet or drawer for a while, make sure it still works. Take note: that cute little USB drive with 8 MB of storage capacity is pretty useless in a world where presentation files routinely run into the GB’s. And finally, always re-wrap the gift. You didn’t put any effort or money into getting this gift. You can at least spend on fresh gift wrapper. Removing the old wrapper also gives you a chance to check if there’s a personal note for you inside!

Know the good governance rules. A special rule for gift giving in the workplace. Most big companies have policies prohibiting the giving and receiving of gifts above a certain value. One whole lechon is usually above the limit. Cut up the lechon first.

Give a Swiss knife. When cash is not appropriate and you don’t have anything to re-gift, here’s a little-known tip: an iconic Swiss Army knife is the best gift ever in the entire world. It doesn’t matter that your intended recipient might already have one because no one can ever have too many Swiss knives. Besides, there are so many different models to choose from.

A Swiss Army knife is definitely something I want to receive, along with bottles of single malt Scotch whisky (Macallan, must have age statement), Chinese ham (Excelente), and World Peace (not the basketball player).

Friends, please read the last paragraph carefully.


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