I don't know if I, personally, have any particular rules about gift-giving other than when I am the recipient it is totally appropriate to do it often.
My mother and Mr. W., on the other hand, have Rules.
From Mom: Birthdays are for PERSONAL presents. NO blenders or dustbusters or tire gauges. Cash or a check is NOT personal. In fact, until the advent of the Target/Barnes and Noble/Michael's etc. gift cards, no form of gift certificate or cash or check was acceptable as a gift. Took any personal thought and attention out of the gift. She's all about personal thought and attention. Truly.
Christmas can be the blender or the dustbuster or tire gauge, but still some thought needs to go into the gift. For instance, she would maybe dream of getting me a dustbuster (because she knows how I don't keep house) but wouldn't actually DO it unless I had at one time or another mentioned that I might actually like to own one. None of this 'suggestive present-ing'.
From Mr. W.: Absolutely, positively NO gift clothing, unless the recipient has expressly and frequently mentioned/hinted/begged for a particular item of clothing. You need clothes year round, they're a necessity, not worthy to be a GIFT. Don’t get him "filler" gifts. He'd rather receive (and give) meaningful and/or useful gifts, or nothing at all. Gag gifts make him do just that.
Both of these Important People in my life give GOOD gifts. One of the most notable things about my early years of marriage to Mr. W. was how he could get me the perfect gift that I hadn't even realized I couldn't live without. He and Mom (and J.) put me to shame, mainly because they listen and RETAIN, whereas I have to stop and write it down if I actually notice that someone has mentioned that they'd like something. Um, and I frequently don't notice. Or don't write it down.
Enter christmaswishlist.net – an online place to write down what you want, give details, and provide a link to a webpage that shows EXACTLY what you're talking about. You can rank your desired gifts on a scale of one to five (five is most wanted). Your family/group can see what you've listed and mark it off so everyone else can see what you're getting and avoid buying duplicates. And YOU can't see what they've gotten for you. VERY cool.
We try to keep current wishlists year-round, so birthdays and anniversaries and the like are covered.
We have a couple of 'newcomers' to the family that we don't know well enough to be able to gift appropriately without some input. The wishlist is invaluable in this case.
And for those that we *should* know well enough to gift appropriately, the list sometimes gives us insight into the direction a member of our family is going that might not be discussed during usual conversation.
Having said all of that, last year The Girl dubbed me "Christmas Nazi". I got a bit testy, you see. It was AFTER Thanksgiving and lists of the offspring and their partners and their offspring were non-existent. Exactly when were we supposed to do our shopping? Sheesh - we hadn’t even MET one of the partners, and they lived nearly on the other side of the country! Gimme something to work with here, please! I send emails. No lists. I get on the phone and pace and lecture and nag and say, "If you don't put something on your list you're going to get whatever I give you, whether you want it or not." Hence, Christmas Nazi.
The lists were hastily made up and posted. There were some bumps in the road with the newcomers, since they were a) new to the whole list thing and b) not sure what to expect so didn’t know what was appropriate to list.
(Ferrari, no. Hobby or reading material, hell yeah. Dustbuster... well, maybe, but not for your birthday)
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