Skip to main Content

Advice: Shopping strategies for an Alaska gift-giving newbie

  • Author: Wayne and Wanda
  • Updated: December 12, 2020
  • Published December 12, 2020

Hey guys.

I admit from jump that I’m the youngest in a big family, I’ve always been spoiled and I never shop or give presents to other people, including my family. But I usually get everything I want and don’t really feel bad. No one cares, it’s just kind of expected. The only times I’d get anyone anything is maybe a stupid thing for a friend or when our family has a secret Santa year, but that’s just one present for a brother or sister and that’s easy because I know my parents will make up for it if I disappoint them.

Anyway, I’m done with school, have a job, live with mom and dad to save money and because it’s easy, and I want to try to start making up for not being the best brother and son at Christmas. And I really feel bad about my two siblings who live out of state and aren’t going to come back home to be with the rest of us because of COVID so I want to get them something from home. I really want to get mom and dad each something special, and my girlfriend of course, and also get something cool for my two siblings here. We’re all in our 20s and early 30s.

I’m not rich or anything but I do have some money I saved to make this work. But I seriously have no idea what to do. How do I pick things that they’ll really like? Where do I even shop now? Amazon? Facebook? The malls? I have no clue but I want to surprise everyone and really make them happy. Help me out.

Wanda says:

Congrats! You’ve officially leveled up from the kid-on-Santa’s-lap to a verifiable elfing, an invested, committed adult who realizes at last that there’s value not just in Christmas morning tear-off-the-wrapping-paper joy, but in giving gifts too. It’s a huge leap forward, and actually one that will blow the (gift box) lid off the holiday season for you and your fam in the best way. By giving thoughtful gifts, you truly reap the emotional-boost benefits of joy, seeing people you genuinely love positively burst with gratitude and happiness.

Yes, things are weird right now, with COVID-19 casting a question mark over how we safely shop while also not abandoning our local businesses that badly need our dollars. How you go about it partly depends on your comfort level with being out and about. Know that in Anchorage at least, there are local controls in place through December to keep retail businesses open safely. Online shopping is also an excellent option. Get on it sooner than later. If giving gifts to people in other states, try shipping to them directly. Most companies have options to mark something as a gift so it will arrive wrapped. Or you can ship to someone who lives nearby and is willing to wrap and deliver on your behalf.

Finally, let’s remember the wise words of the Grinch: “It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” While giving gifts is awesome — who doesn’t love to get presents? — you could also get creative by creating some virtual come-together experiences for your family this holiday season. How about a cookie decorating session over Zoom? Or a Christmassy cocktail hour to swap happy childhood holiday memories?

Wayne says:

Well, look who caught the Christmas spirit! You’ll certainly shock everyone, that’s for sure. And that element of surprise is in your gift-giving favor. You’ve set the bar so low that you could practically give everyone each a stocking full of peanuts, oranges, some new batteries and pairs of socks and they’ll be ecstatic.

Point is, don’t put pressure on yourself to knock it out of the park and be some kind of holiday hero this year. Instead, go small and sensible, and pick out useful gifts. Don’t give gifts they’ll use once or grin about on Christmas and then bury in the shed or closet until the next garage sale. Give gifts they’ll get mileage out of, something that will make them think of you often.

So no new cellphones, but how about a cool new cellphone case that reflects a sibling’s personality instead? For the outdoors folks, headlamps are always a bright idea. Jewelry made by Alaska artisans are special and unique hits, and surprisingly affordable. Same goes for Alaska-made clay products and even some art. Practically every Alaska restaurant, bar, brewery and coffee shop has branded hats, shirts, hoodies and more. What a sweet taste of home for your out-of-state siblings! Support local, surprise everyone — it’s a Christmas win-win for you!