As the clock ticks down, holiday gift giving gets stressful. Whether shopping online or in stores the search for the perfect gift can be bewildering. Forum offers some suggestions, including how to do some social good with your generosity.

Brian Thorson, ,president and CEO of
Francis Flynn, Paul E. Holden professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.
Margaret Rucker, professor of textiles and clothing at UC Davis. Specializes in organizational and consumer psychology.
Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
Matt Mahan, vice president for social impact at

  • A friend of mine told me this year she is giving each person in her family four gifts: one they need, one they want, one they can wear, and one they can read. This strategy meets everyone’s needs and also sets a boundary so people don’t go overboard.

  • Bob Fry

    A few years ago I got tired of giving and receiving gifts to family adults that weren’t what I wanted and I didn’t know what they wanted.

    So we decided to give to our favorite charities in the other person’s name. A win for everybody: the charity gets money which goes to a person who has little (the meaning of Christmas, right?), we get a tax deduction, and we don’t get and give junk we don’t want.

    The kids still get gifts though.

  • Lizscotta

    I’m a 5th grade SF teacher. Each year I have my students look through piles of sales leaflets. They’re given a fictional budget of $500 to feed a family of 4, buy gifts and decorate their homes. They quickly realize what financial dilemma their parents are going through.

    I give each girl a bottle of 99c nail polish and each boy gets a $1.50 match box car. While the boys play with the cars, the girls paint their nails.

    I have a pinata in my classroom – this year it’s Puss n Boots. For our party we play music, dance, eat pizza and drink soda (provided by my classroom volunteer).

    With my adult friends my favorite thing I did this year was a thrift shop challenge. Who could get the most for the least?  I learned that on Sundays if you’re over 55 you get a 20% discount.  I sent the gifts with the price tags to prove how inexpensive the gifts were.

    Enjoy the holidays!

    Liz Scotta
    San Francisco

  • Karen

    Since we are having hard times with this economy, I tried to make all my gifts this year. It helps me think of the people longer during the whole process of making the gift and it makes the gift more special that people see that I took the time to make it for them. 

  • Sandra

    I prefer getting gifts that I need rather than fun gifts because I would have to spend money for it in the end myself.

  • Janine

    I am single, and Christmas is one of the only times I feel on equal footing with my siblings who have children.  Our parents spend the same amount on each of their children and their respective families.  So the same amount is spent on my sisters and their children and spouses as is given to me.  Making me feel loved, respected and accepted for my lifestyle.  Needless to say I make out like a bandit.

    Janine, San Francisco

  • Amrutha

    I had to drop off the call after 30 min wait. My comment is: Holiday is a time of Giving. The focus should be more on the giving (not expecting and receiving). And giving to the less fortunate than ourselves. Sharing the love gives a sense of happiness that can last more than just one Christmas morning!

  • Giottogato

    I am disenchanted by the material/commercial nature of gift-exchange tradition in our society. As an earlier caller noted, gift giving generates too much unwanted junk. That said, I am no scrooge; I love giving gifts to friends and family whenever I feel inspired or I happen to see something that strikes me as perfect for someone, such as the little bird cookie cutters I found at a sidewalk sale for a friend. To maintain the natural joy in gift exchange, gift giving should be inspired and receiving should never be expected. My very small family/friends group agrees with the “no gift” policy because we don’t want to spend money to fuel the junk-go-round; but we still surprise each other with little homemade trinkets, food snacks, gag gifts from the thrift store, a recommended book and the like. But with rare exception, I’m totally done with conventional commercially inspired gift exchange.

  • Kelly L.

    my best christmas gift memory was 35 yrs ago when my dad was unemployed and couldn’t afford gifts for all 4 kids.  he and my mom planned a “little house on the prairie” christmas for us and we each got a tin cup and mittens.  we didn’t miss the toys because that christmas was more about being together.  

  • Anne

    I think we should all lighten up and stop trying to out righteous each other and do what feels right and then give as much as you can to charities. Give everyone a big smile this year as you pass them on the street.

  • Meaningful gifts are hard to find, especially for those who already “have everything”. Donating to a charity in someone’s name is a great idea. Particularly if you can find a charity that resonates with the person you are giving to. for the readers on your list, Raising A Reader Bay Area provides wonderful books for low income families in the bay area to share with their young children all year long. Donors can “buy a book”, “sponsor a reader” or “sponsor a classroom” and have a beautiful card sent to the gift recipient that describes the impact that gift will have.

    • superdad

      I’ve gotten great tips for reading to my toddler from this org–highly recommended!

      • Uncle John

        I did too!  A GREAT organization!

    • Raoul Wertz

      Raising A Reader provides a wonderful benefit to kids, especially those from disadvantaged families and communities. When I think of literacy, providing opportunities for kids, and ‘leveling-up’ in our society, Raising A Reader’s programs help meet the needs we all know are out there.

    • Naftaki

      These are gifts that strengthen our children, families and community. reading thinking children are a gift to us all for generations to come.

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