Gift-Giving Strategies

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

With the holiday shopping season upon us, it's time for me to think about giving gifts to friends and family. In the past I've tried some different strategies, but I'm wondering if the mental_floss audience can help me figure out what to do this year! Here's a roundup of past strategies:

Wish lists - these days it's typically the Amazon wish list, but generally this strategy involves asking each person what he or she wants, then buying something. Pro: people get stuff they want, and I get to pick how much I spend. Con: not everybody has a wish list, and sometimes it's spendy. Also: Mom and Dad sometimes just ask for "a hug," which is hard to mail.

Here, enjoy my taste in music - I've given out a couple of favorite albums to pretty much everyone in my family -- notably Bob Dylan concerts from the mid 60's and anything by Vince Guaraldi. These are recordings I love, and love to listen to with family, but you never know if they're going to mean much to someone else. Pro: might be a big hit, and makes you look like you know stuff about music. Con: might end up collecting dust, and/or your family may feel obligated to play it when you're around.

Gift cards - I was going to buy my brother some new music for his birthday this year, but I realized that he probably had most of what I was going to buy him. After a few probing questions (like "Do you have the new Feist?") I realized that, indeed, he was way ahead of me and had already bought everything I could think of. So I just gave him an iTunes Gift Card. Pro: broad choice for the giftee. Con: picking a dollar value can be dicey.

Make something - I'm worst at this, but it may actually be the best strategy. I haven't really made gifts for people since I was a kid, as I'm not sure what to make. But this year I'm looking at making MOO Cards from digital photos. Pro: giftee says "awww," and it's cheap. Con: time spent to make stuff.

Gift of the Magi - only applicable if you're in a relationship where one of you has long hair and the other a prized watch. Pro: touching/heartfelt. Con: tragic.

So let's hear it. What gift-giving strategy works best for you? Also: bonus points if you have a story of a horribly failed gift.