3 Really Bad Gift Ideas

Photo Credit: Flickr user Robert N


It’s time to swap annual bank account abuse for a season of meaningful gift giving!

A child will be delighted by just about any gift you give them. Perhaps it’s one of the pleasant side affects of having almost zero tangible personal property or maybe it’s their innocent obliviousness to the established social decorum of gift receiving.   

A gift, by definition, is given without the expectation of anything in return, but can any of us honestly say that we don’t at least hope for a thank you? Do our gifts sometimes ask for even more? 

For us adults, it’s not just about the gift, but also about what the gift says. All too often what the gift says to us and what it says to its recipient are two completely different messages. 

What makes a gift bad?

Is it a box of chocolates for your allergic coworker?

Is it an Edward t-shirt for your friend from team Jacob?

Is it an intrusive clown sculpture for your sister’s living room?

These aren’t bad gifts. Not if you’re trying to say, “Hey, I value you. Here’s a present.” 

On the other hand, if you’re trying to say something like, “Go choke on a chocolate,” or, “I think you make bad choices,” or, “Look at this ugly sculpture every day and think of me,” well, then maybe they are bad gifts.

The thought really is all that counts, but sometimes we don’t think enough about those unintended messages that our gifts are passing along.



Bad Gift Idea #1:Gifts for Gift’s Sake

Example: The Solitary Napkin Ring

What It Says:

1. You look like you eat alone a lot. 

2. The occasion didn’t warrant spending more money on 6 napkin rings. 

3. This is a confusing gift.


It’s true, not every gift can be as universally useful as a pack of toilet paper but if the prices are comparable, then maybe the situation doesn’t warrant a gift at all (unless it’s a premium pack of ultrasoft, quilted, quadruple ply with aloe). 

The desire to give a friend something tangible to show your appreciation is completely understandable, but if your budget is small, try opting for a surprise cup of coffee instead.


Bad Gift Idea #2: Obligatory Keep Around Gifts

Example: Pricey Works of Art OR Solitary Napkin Rings

What It Says:

1. I like this, so you’ll probably like it too. 

2. I hope you like it because I spent money on it. 

3. I’m probably going to expect to see it in your house at some point in the future.


If you honestly aren’t going to check in to see how your gift is doing and where it’s been hanging out, then these are lovely presents. However, be mindful of the pressure that recipients feel to make you understand that your thoughtfulness is appreciated by keeping your gifts around…forever.

Many people have a hard time getting rid of mere greeting cards, let alone items that don’t convey semi-racy birthday wishes. Make sure your gift recipients know that you don’t intend for your presents to haunt their junk drawers or closets for all of eternity. 


Bad Gift Idea #3: Awkwardly Extravagant Gifts

Example: $100 Gift Card For Your Not-So-Close Coworker

What It Says:

1. This is awkward. 

2. I bet you’re getting me something awkwardly extravagant too. 

3. From now on, work is going to be awkward.


No matter how well intentioned, some gifts just aren’t appropriate. Audience and venue are key considerations.

This holiday season rethink your ideas of good and bad gifts. Take the stress out of gift receiving. Remember that there is no perfect gift, only meaningful, intentional gift giving.

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