Expensive Presents: Why Meaningful is Better than Pricey

Hugh Thomas
expensive presents

There are many pitfalls one might fall into when choosing the right present for someone, and going straight for the most expensive is often one of them. If you assume tangible, expensive presents are the way forward, I’m at least fairly confident that by reading this article, you’ll start thinking otherwise.

It’s a common myth that the sheer expense of a present matters. A good line of thought for people to go on is that choosing the right present isn’t about how expensive it is; it’s about what it means to that particular person. Take Charlotte, for example. Charlotte enjoys cake decorating. With some basic logic employed, one might think she’d appreciate a food mixer or a brand new convection oven for her kitchen. Chances are, Charlotte probably already has stacks of food mixers, cookbooks, utensils, and the like. But how many times can she say she’s baked a cake under the expert tuition of one of her favourite chefs? Given half the chance, Charlotte would trade any top of the line food mixer for an hour with Mary Berry. Empathy therefore goes a long way – consider for a moment what sort of gift you’d want to receive, and how that could be translated in accordance to what the recipient’s interests are.

mary berry cake

credit: Nick Webb

In this sense it often fails to cross our minds to gift things that aren’t tangible or tactile, though often the best presents are. It’s a little ironic that someone would buy a physical gift so that it can be remembered purely out of its existence – it might be common sense, but a memorable present is more memorable when it creates memories rather than one that will collect dust in the corner of a room. Martin Lewis, a money-saving expert, suggests that the ultimate place for a poorly-thought, materialistic present is a landfill site, which is bad for our pockets, even worse for the environment, and only serves to clog up landfills.

Physiatrist Neel Burton has advice along a similar vein. ‘Experiences are generally more memorable than objects. But some objects can be experiences – so long as they are well chosen.’ Let’s use Richard as an example. Richard likes black tie parties, but is growing tired of receiving the same generic cufflinks that barely suit any formal occasion. But how would he feel about creating his own set under the guidance of the illustrious company that supplies the Royal Family? Probably quite glad.

Don’t think for a moment that because something is valuable, it means you have to empty your bank account. A carefully hand-written card detailing an hour-long massage given by yourself is going to cost nothing, but if you research some basic techniques, it’s sure to please the recipient to no end. The same can be applied to almost any other situation: If someone has a particular dish they enjoyed in a restaurant, offer to cook it with them. If someone needs some sunshine, propose to take the train to the coast. As the old saying goes, ‘it’s the thought that counts.’


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