Successful gift giving: Avoid these top 10 worst Christmas gifts

What to do with your worst Christmas presents. (Credit: Jeff Edney)

What to do with your worst Christmas presents. (Credit: Jeff Edney)

It’s that time again. What to give Aunt Sally, Cousin Bob or your dorm roommate? They’re probably thinking exactly the same thing about you. College students are notoriously low on cash, but you shouldn’t succumb to silly or cliché gifts. With a little effort, you can discover what will make your family and friends smile when they open your gift.

First, try to find an appropriate gift

The best thing to do is to match the person with the right gift, rather than getting something useless or inappropriate. How do you find the right gift? Alan Henry in “How can I give a good gift without being cliché?” on a December 3, 2012 post suggests some harmless stalking: “Check out what they’ve said on Facebook or Twitter. Check out the pages they’ve liked recently on Facebook, or items they’ve posted to Tumblr or Pinterest.”

You can also ask friends and family what that person has been asking for or looking fondly at in the store window. Has the person broken or worn out something they use everyday? Buy them a new one. You could also offer services such as rides into town, doing laundry or cleaning the dorm room. Or offer to pay for something you can do together, such as attend a concert, sporting event or museum. A handmade gift is always a good way to go if you’re crafty.

Worst holiday gifts

There are many lists of bad holiday gifts. Whether you gift them or get them, try to avoid these top worst gifts this season.

1 – Holiday sweaters. A classic: usually from a well meaning grandmother or aunt who can’t seem to acknowledge that you’re not still eight years old. They’re gaudy and itchy.

2 – Fruitcake. Yeah, those hard-as-a-brick paper weights with that shellacked, DayGlo green citron stuff. Yuck. Now, a homemade fruitcake (with real fruit) would be nice.

3 – Bonsai tree. They’re cute and elegant but very hard to take care of.

4 – Tacky knick-knacks and tchotchkes. You know, those do-dads and what-nots. Tacky decorations, Miles Kimball catalog unmentionables and dollar store dust collectors.

5 – Socks and underwear. These cross the line from practical to a little creepy. Acceptable only from your mother.

6 – Giant popcorn tin. Way too impersonal, probably stale, too sweet and too big.

7 – Votive candles. These often make top worst gift lists, but I’d like to argue this one. (I love them!) They smell nice, they’re romantic (OK, maybe not as romantic as a taper candle) and they look homey. But others have said they are impersonal and too smelly.

8 – Gift certificates. This is another tricky one. Some people are against gift cards and say they are a symbol of our culture’s lack of intimacy. “They take no thought. It is usually the ultimate in impersonal giving. You are making the receiver do his own shopping and that’s your job,” said Susan Newman, Ph.D., in “Can’t think of a good gift? Give a bad one,” on, December 17, 2012. But in our stressed and over-scheduled lives, and with the ability to use gift cards online for a wide selection of items, they might be worth it. They certainly are easy to mail.

9 – Anything regifted. Don’t try it, people can tell, especially if it still has a gift card to another person attached. It belittles the receiver and shows that little or no thought went into selection of a gift.

10 – Anything the TSA will flag at the airport. A friend of mine tried to bring a wrapped gift through security, but it kept setting off the sensors. They demanded that she open it so they could see what it was…. a lead crystal vase. Other offending items for the airport include any metal or aluminum foil, underwire bras, inhalers, metallic ink T-shirts, anything with lead weights (like mechanical clocks), and jars of peanut butter. Also, snow globes. “The liquid contents of most crystal balls surpass the 3.4-ounce limit and, consequently, aren’t allowed in carry-ons,” reported Gary McKechnie in “7 surprising items that set off airport security,” in, November 24, 2010.

What’s the worst gift you ever got?

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