I don't listen to public radio, but Not Martha linked to a lovely reaction piece to what can be the horror of : the homemade gift.
I received a couple of homemade items that came with good intentions, but really, I would have been just as happy without them. I'm not as cruel as Michael Scott from The Office, waving my crocheted oven mitt and demanding a "Yankee swap", but it makes me wonder if my co-workers have any clue as to what makes me tick.
Actually, I don't like it when people are able to figure out what "makes me tick", and the consequences of living such a detatched lifestyle are that I rarely receive a gift that I can get excited about. The only time I really get a gift that I truly appreciate is when I have specifically informed the gift-giver of the present they are to purchase.
Conversely, I think that I am a good gift-giver.
#1. I'm more observant than people realize. Most of the people that I am around are much more generous with their opinions, and so I spend more time listening to what other people want and take notes. I sort of have a running list in the back of my mind and when I run across something that I know someone has mentioned, I'll pick it up even months before I need the gift.
B. When in doubt, ask. Part two of B is to actually get the person what they asked for. It doesn't do any good to ask if you don't plan on following through.
III. I believe in the gift card. There are some in my circle of friends and family who just do not believe in the power of the gift card. They think it's impersonal, they don't want the recipient to know the dollar value -- whatever. I say, get over yourself.
I once gave a co-worker a twenty dollar bill as a going away present. I knew she would be driving cross country after retiring and I told her to stick the money away in her glove compartment and keep it there in case an emergency came up. She kind of chuckled when she read the note, but she said that she thought it was an extremely practical idea. Hey, I can live with practical!