I want you to imagine something for a second:
You are ten years old. It’s Christmas morning. You tiptoe out of your room to check out what magic happened over night (even though you don’t really still believe in all that hocus-pocus, you are still hedging your bets.)
In scenario one, there are dozens of little gifts. Mountains of little surprises just waiting to be unwrapped, a large number of which have your name written on the package.
In scenario two, there are few gifts, but the boxes are huge. Like, possibly the size of a new ten-speed bike huge. Or a Playmobil airplane and control tower huge.
Which one of these scenarios gets your inner child excited? Which scenario would you have preferred to come across on Christmas morning?
You are the only one hearing your answers, and even if I could hear your answers, this is a totally no-judgment zone. Both tendencies are completely valid.
One year, for my birthday, when my indulgent husband and I were scrimping and saving to pay for Law School without going into debt, he gave me, quite possibly, the best gift I have ever received from him (and he is the one who, many years later. gave me an iPad Pro for Valentine’s Day, so let’s consider exactly how great this gift was, okay?)
I remember seeing the pile of gifts on the kitchen table, beautifully wrapped and ribboned. Some were flat, some looked like cylinders. There were probably six of them, but we had a tiny little table for two, and they took over the whole table. The illusion of quantity got my little child’s heart all a-pitter pattering.
When I got to work that day, and the requisite “Happy Birthdays” were all said around a pretty cake I had baked, one of my colleagues asked me, “So? What did you get for your birthday?”
And, with genuine pleasure and authentic enthusiasm, I replied: “Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple.”
The looks on the faces of my colleagues took me off-guard.
“You got magazine subscriptions for your birthday?” one curious colleague asked.
“No, silly! He gave me two of each!” I replied.
You see, my indulgent husband knew that I loved to get lost on Martha Stewart’s farm and study her calendar. I loved the closet organization strategies–closet porn, I call them–in Real Simple. And Better Homes and Gardens? Well, that’s just for fun. Hours of sitting on the couch and dreaming fun.
I am a quantity person. You may have noticed: my husband once gave me an iPad Pro as a gift, but that was not the most memorable gift I have ever received from him. The most memorable gift was a stack of my favorite magazines from a period in our life when we had very little disposable income.
Quantity Template People
Quantity people love the potential contained in the wrapping of all those little packages. What is in the package is secondary to the quantity of packages.
To bring more joy to a quantity person, something as simple as a four-pack of socks can be made more exciting to them by you, the gift-giver, wrapping each pair separately. (We’ll talk about non-Earth suffocating ways to wrap gifts in a few weeks.)
The fact of opening a solid quantity of gifts is part of the fun for this person. While, as a gift-giver, you may be thinking, “Why bother wrapping nicely if all they are going to do is immediately rip off the paper?” Let me counter this argument: Unwrapping is part of the thrill.
Some years ago, my husband accompanied a class to the zoo, where they spent some time with the Macaques and their caretakers. Apparently, in order to bring keep the Macaques interested, they hide their food in different containers, so the animals have to figure out how to open them to get their food out. Does that sound cruel? Well, it keeps the animals engaged. The animals enjoy this.
That’s what you need to consider when wrapping for a Quantity Person. A Quantity Person takes pleasure in the engagement of opening the gift, and the moment of uncertainty and guessing what it contains.
If you want to increase the joy for a Quantity Person, find ways to make the experience last longer. Wrap related items individually. Include ribbons to slow them down. Put the gift inside another (recycled) box that they have to open once the paper/wrapping is off. The process is as important to them as the gift itself.
When budgeting resources for a Quantity Person, consider the time and thought it will take to make the opening of the gift as exciting, if not more, than the gift itself.
The downside to this template is that that the receiver might have a feeling of letdown once all the gifts are open. This is not disappointment in the gifts, it’s just a feeling of letdown. In order to assuage this letdown, let me recommend providing a container to put all their gifts in (a basket or a nice sized box), so that they can see all the gifts, unwrapped, in a nice little mountain, throughout the day.
For the Quantity Person consider themed gifts, like a “coffee lovers theme”, with a mug, cute sugar cubes, a specialty creamers, a sweet coffee spoon, specialty coffees, or a “beauty product theme” with an array of products you know they like, and maybe one of those hair drying towels or handcrafted make-up remover wipes (I made my own and I swear by them).
Commercial gift baskets are great, however, keep in mind: this person likes to open their gifts. They like the uncertainty of knowing, and then discovering. So if you go with a gift basket, consider wrapping each element separately.
Quality Template People
This person is the one who, in our opening exercise, had their heart pitterpatter at the thought of the big gift.
Because “bigger gift” or “nicer gift” often rhymes with “bigger price tag”, it is essential to consider, in advance, how much money you have to spend on this person.
Knowing that this person will never be happy with a mountain of individually wrapped nail polishes like his Quantity Template Person will be, you must absolutely take stock of your bandwidth.
To give a “bigger gift” or a “nicer gift” should not bankrupt you. Remember, I HATE IT that at this time of year, we are obligated to put a dollar value on our affection for someone. But this is the reality we live in.
Taking into consideration your bandwidth, (not your Uncle Scroogeness, remember!), this might be an occasion to humbly bring in other people who love the Quality Person to help make their holiday memorable, too.
Think about two things in regards to how you approach this delicate subject:
- Do you want this person to have the object on Christmas Day?
- Can you front the entirety of the cost, or do you need help now?
If you want the object under the tree on Christmas Day, then you need to work double time to make sure you answer the second question. If you need help now, then you need to start communicating now with the people you think might be able to participate with you.
Aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, godparents…these are the people who will be most likely to catch the vision. Honest, humble, authentic communication on the subject will be the most efficient way to advance.
Make it easy for those who want to participate financially in the gift. This means: you know how much it costs and you know where you want to get it from. Although I hate it, Amazon makes it really easy to send gift cards to help defray the total cost. But if, for example, you know you will get the gift from a local mom and pop shop who doesn’t do gift cards, then it is your job to find out how your family can participate financially. Cash? A check? The Cash App? Venmo?
To make this work, you need to “cast a vision” for the Quality Person’s gift, then you need to do the hard, hard work of communicating the vision, collecting the money and procuring the gift.
You might be surprised. Someone might have a leftover gift card or a store credit to the store where you want to buy the item. Someone might offer to go pick it up from the store for you and hide it in their garage until Christmas Eve (a necessity for keeping secrets, do we agree?)
A group gift, while a ton of work, provides opportunities beyond just “handing over an envelope of cash” to make a holiday dream come true for a Quality Template Person.
There is one last, VERY important element to providing a gift to a Quality Template Person in the context of a group gift: Communicating the delivery of the gift to the participants.
Make sure sure sure that you document the joy that the person exhibits in seeing what they had been hoping for. Take photos of them riding their new bike around the living room because they couldn’t wait to get it outside. Communicate these immediately to the gift participants so they know the joy they provided. It takes two minutes, but it closes the loop for the participants, especially those who might have been reticent about being “left out” of the celebration because they did not buy or wrap a gift themselves.
In the case where the answer to question 1 was “No, the gift need not be under the tree on Christmas Day”, then you can still do the communication work with your family: express, clearly, what big-ticket item your Quality Template Person desires, how much it will cost, and ask for a participation in the purchase of the item.
Yes, this is less fun for the receiver and less immediate for the giver, but it is less work for you. However, you still must see it through.
I’m going to say something that you are free to challenge, but I’m not a fan of the “This gift is for Christmas and birthday…” school of thought (unless a person’s birthday is within a week of Christmas.) You see, while a big-ticket item might be better spread over multiple occasions, everyone will inevitably forget that this was the purpose, and everyone will be disappointed when the birthday rolls around.
This is where it becomes critical to manage expectations. This is where knowing how much money you can spend on any one gift becomes critical. Unless you are taking your baths in gold coins (not unlike Uncle Scrooge), there is a dollar value, whether you are willing to say that amount aloud or not.
Communicating this, however, to the Quality Template Person on your list becomes necessary. Telling them that you are only able to put $20 into their gift this year may feel humiliating, but it is the truth. Setting and managing expectations will open conversations about how to bring satisfaction to that person within your giving capacity.
How’s your gift list coming along?
After looking at the troublemakers on your list yesterday, today, look at your list and ask yourself if you have any obviously Quantity or Quality Template People. If you don’t know, make it a little conversation starter while you are cooking dinner or driving to the grocery store.
You know how sometimes you have to go on “fishing expeditions” to get ideas for gifts? That isn’t what you are doing here. Here, you are just talking about how your loved ones best enjoy receiving gifts. There’s no pressure. You are simply becoming a student of the people you love so you can love them better.
Love is the only reason to do anything this season.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the Sentimental Receiver Template and Practical Receiver Template.