Considering the state of my budget as a graduate student, I spend most of my time looking at things.
Whether it’s a free trip to a museum, or the time honoured practice of “window licking” (the French aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to window shopping vocabulary…), I spend a lot of time thinking about things without actually buying them. Gift giving tends to absorb lots of that looking time, because I am either an excellent or a terrible gift giver.
My philosophy for gift-giving is that, if I’m going to give a thing rather than an experience, it has to jump out at me as though you’ve simply left it in the store, and I’m simply bringing it back to you. Something that’s so completely you that it’s almost unimaginable that you don’t already have it in your possession. Several of the minimalism or simple life blogs and podcasts that I consume are very against giving things, but I feel that my philosophy for gift giving leads me only to gift things that genuinely inspire joy to the people that I know well.
You can’t spot something that’s perfect for someone if you don’t have at least some idea of who they are, what they like, and how they live their life. This leads me to only buy gifts for maybe a dozen people in my life outside of my American and French families, so it’s not as though I’m going wild in the Bon Marché, recognising random acquaintances in the latest bespoke water bottle.
The trouble with my gift giving philosophy is that it’s time consuming – if I wait until the week before someone’s birthday to try and spot them in a store, I almost always come up short unless I dedicate an entire afternoon to the pursuit of a gift. I’ve done that before, and it’s been well worth it, but coming up with 4 hour chunks to wind my way around the city for some window licking are in short supply these days.
I have several sure-fire streets, like the Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais, or Rue Saint-Dominique in the 7th, where something can usually be found, but more often than not, I am struck by a perfect gift in the moments when I least expect to find something. This results in near year-round gift acquisition – I once found a Christmas gift in early May, and managed to hold on to it for the entire year.
The upside, I suppose, of this year round gift-giving spirit is that I am often thinking of my loved ones, rather than the pressures of marketing or of keeping up with the French Joneses if I drift into a department store on a rainy day. It keeps me critical of the goods that I examine, and affords me plenty of reasons to say “No, I’d better think on that purchase a little more,” which can be a godsend for my wallet if my eyes are bigger than my budget.
I will say, that even though I like being intentional about how I gift my friends, I’m very excited to have a little more cash to when something particularly perfect, if a little more expensive, crosses my path, begging to be brought back for a friend.