What to Give?

As I blogged earlier, the Christmas season seems to have begun. So I thought I'd try to be helpful.

It has been argued that people should give money as the person given the money can use it for whatever he or she values most. But many people find this unromantic. A less cold-hearted alternative is to ask the person what he or she wants, but many people dislike this, too. Given that...

If your aim is to give a person something he or she actually likes, you should select something which he or she is likely to like, right? Sounds trivial, but many people disregard this simple rule.

Bad: Books, CDs. There are friends of mine whom I've known for years and years, yet I have a hard time predicting whether they'll like a specific book or CD. I've heard an estimate that only about a third of the books that are given as presents are actually read. My experience with buying second-hand books makes this sound plausible.

Good: Basic clothing. Many people routinely wear white T-shirts or black socks. Those are safe bets. A friend of mine has given me a total of three clothing items for birthdays, and I like all of them. This is unsurprising as you simply have to follow the rule to buy a T-shirt or jumper in a dark colour with no stupid writing on it.

May you survive the Christmas mayhem unharmed.

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