How to graciously receive gifts

how to graciously receive gifts

While I know plenty about giving gifts, I am admittedly still working on how to properly receive gifts (with the right warmth and enthusiasm that the gift giver wants to see). But I understand that gift giving is a two-way street, so I tapped my grandmother, a psychologist for the past 30-years and gift-receiver extraordinaire, to write a FeatureMe blog post on how to respond to the act of love that is receiving gifts. Here’s what she had to say:

My grandmother, Sydney, who is a gift-receiver extraordinaire. 

My grandmother, Sydney, who is a gift-receiver extraordinaire. 

My granddaughter recently reminded me of how she and my other grandchildren love giving me gifts because I'm such a gracious and enthusiastic gift receiver. I've been thinking about her feedback and how glad I am that my grandchildren feel that way. Hopefully, the rest of my family and friends feel similarly.

I have a friend I give an annual birthday gift to. Her response to my gifts, which seem more dutiful and polite than anything else, makes shopping for her a chore.

She is a very dear person but not a gracious gift receiver, even though she wants her gifts appreciated. I end up feeling that the gifts I get for her are not good enough (whether they are or not). In fact, I recently suggested since neither of us really needed anything that we end our tradition of birthday gift giving.

Because the truth is gift giving is an exchange between two people. For it to be a good experience for both, the receiver needs to fully participate in the process. Every gift giver needs a receptive gift receiver.

Especially when the gift is given in person. In this case, our gift giver is attentive, waiting with excitement or anxiety to see and hear a response to their effort. A wimpy or tight 'thank you' isn't enough for a positive experience. And laughing about or misunderstanding a gift (unless that's part of the gift) can be crushing to the gift giver, at best pretty disappointing.

So what makes a good receiver?

You need the ability to respond with gracious appreciation. Take time and focus your attention on both the gift and the giver.  Notice the details of the gift. Comment on how you might use or wear the gift. Comment on the meaning of the gift. Smile, hug, ENJOY yourself in the receiving role. Enthusiasm is always appreciated.

For some, it's vulnerable to be a receiver, even embarrassing. I had to challenge myself to get over that, by remembering that it's as important to receive as to give.

In fact, it can be selfish not to give the gift giver expressive appreciation, even when it's hard for you. Practice being expressive and gracious. It's the love communicated in the gift, not the gift itself, that matters and over time, what will be important.

Allow yourself to be authentically open and vulnerable as you receive a gift, appreciating the gift exchange out loud (no one can read your mind).

Examples of what to say:

  • "I love that you think of me this way!"

  • "Oh my gosh, this is perfect!"

  • "You really pay attention to the kinds of things I love.”

  • “Thank you so much. I really love this"

  • "I'm very touched by your thoughtfulness.”

  • "This is a work of art.”

  • “I know just what I'm going to do with it!"

Examples of what not to say:

  • "Oh, you shouldn't have"

  • "Thanks" before immediately putting the gift aside.

  • "What is it?" (Sometimes that might be necessary though but risky. Proceed with caution.) 

  • "I'm not sure what I'll do with this.”

  • “Where'd you get it?"

Sometimes we have to be honest about an unwanted or negative gift. It's a delicate situation
and how to handle it is specific to the nature of the relationship. Some people are just not good gift givers (shameless plug, maybe those people should sign up for FeatureMe’s email list).

Be gracious and appreciative anyway. Their effort really does count. Because what is gift giving but an act of love?

Five tips for bridesmaids on a budget

how to budget as a bridesmaid

Being a bridesmaid is both a blessing and, quite frankly, a curse. On one hand, you’re excited to be there for your friend on her big day, but on the other, you might have to live out of your car if being there costs as much as one month’s salary.

The financial stress of being a bridesmaid is compounded by the fact that you might have that honor multiple times in a single year. On average, bridesmaids shell out $1,300 per wedding. That’s unfeasible to pay once if you’re strapped for cash, let alone three or four times.

But no fear—it is possible to be a good bridesmaid and pay for groceries this week. All it takes is being proactive, honest and a bit creative.

Try these five money-saving tips:

1. Make a budget

Open an excel spreadsheet, a bottle of wine and take a deep, long breath; it’s time to face the facts. Figure out your travel needs (car, bus, plane), expected responsibilities (are you paying for your own dress? Are you throwing the bridal shower?), what gift you’re planning on buying and other incidentals that may pop up along the way. From there you’ll be able to see approximately how much this wedding will cost you, where it’s important to spend and where you can save.

If possible, sit down with the entire bridal party and the bride herself (see tip #5) and plan a budget together. If the bridal party is expected to pay for their own dresses—compromise and plan a low-key bachelorette party. If you all get on the same page early on and have a budget to stick to, there will be fewer hiccups later in the process (and hopefully no unexpected financial commitments).

2. Split a meaningful, unique gift with your fellow bridesmaids

While bridesmaids aren’t always expected to purchase a gift, it can feel awkward to show up to a bridal shower or wedding reception empty-handed. Instead of buying that expensive blender or crockpot on the couple’s registry, opt for a unique, heartfelt gift that you can go in on with your fellow bridesmaids. If you split a $100 or even $200 gift between four bridesmaids, that’s only $25 or $50 each; a steal for a gift the bride will cherish forever.

3. Throw a potluck bridal shower

The cost of the shower falls on the shoulders of whoever throws the shower. If that’s you, it can feel like an overwhelming financial burden, luckily, a bridal shower doesn’t have to break the bank. Instead of reserving a room at a fancy restaurant, opt to throw the shower at a house—with all members of the bridal party on the hook for bringing an appetizer, drink, main dish or dessert. Pick up decorations at a thrift store or Dollar General and viola, you have a wedding shower on the cheap. (Bonus savings if you can combine the wedding shower/ bachelorette party into one event).

4. Scour eBay  

Some brides will let you choose a dress within their color palette and theme—especially if you are forthright and present the bride with the cheap dress you have in mind early on in the planning process. eBay has great deals (there are a whole lot of bridesmaids-of-weddings-past willing to sell their designer dresses for cheap). By showing the bride that you can find a beautiful, on-theme dress for half or a quarter of the price of one she’d find in-store, you’re showing that she doesn’t have to sacrifice her dream wedding or your bank account.

And a dress isn’t the only item you can score for less. Look for jewelry, shoes, bachelorette party/bridal shower accessories, even gifts. The best part? Once the wedding is over, you can resell whatever it is you bought on eBay (or a consignment shop) and get back at least a percentage of what you bought it for (or maybe even make a profit).

5. Be honest

As a bridesmaid, you have the honor of standing by your good friend as she marries the man or woman of her dreams. Remember that as the wedding process gets stressful—the bride is your friend, your good friend. Be transparent about your finances (without giving details that are too personal) and honest about the strain an expensive wedding could cause for you personally. This may mean having to politely decline the invitation to an extravagant bachelorette party in Vegas, but often times it can mean working with the bride to create a wedding experience that’s affordable to all involved.

An introduction to minimalism | Your essential questions answered

You probably have heard the term minimalism before (especially if you’re in on internet trends), but found that the amount of information, and rigid rules, leave you feeling more overwhelmed than relaxed. We have your back with our quick and dirty guide to minimalism.

an introduction to minimalism and meaningful living

What is minimalism?  

Everyone defines minimalism differently.

You’ll find people who say a minimalist is someone who lives in a tiny house and has exactly two shirts, two pairs of pants and a 4’’ by 4’’ box that fits everything else they own. And you’ll find people on the opposite end of the spectrum, who believe that going on a Target shopping spree once a week instead of daily is minimalism.

Both are right.

I define minimalism as rejecting the paradigm that stuff equates happiness. You reject that paradigm by decluttering (donating, recycling, repurposing or throwing out what you already own) and simply buying less. This applies to every aspect of your life—from your desktop to your closet, to your entire home.

Minimalism is thriving with less stuff. How much less depends on who you are, where you are in the minimalist process and in your life in general.

Why does minimalism matter?

America is a capitalist country. Advertisements convince you that you need whatever it is they’re selling to be fulfilled. But studies have found that spending more money on stuff only makes you more miserable.

Surprise, surprise the ad agencies are lying to you.

By adopting minimalism you’re rejecting that false narrative and taking control of your own life, setting yourself up to prize your own emotional well being over The Next Best Thing TM.

Minimalists also accept that choice can be paralyzing. That’s the whole idea behind Project 333, a “minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.” You take the choice away and find yourself happier in the process. You’ll never have another debilitating morning, staring at your rack of clothes and feeling that sense of defeat, the “I have nothing to wear” anguish.

In the end, minimalism simplifies your life. By decluttering your closet and your home you’re decluttering your life. You are creating space in your life to focus on other things (relationships, experiences) that will bring you that elusive happiness stuff cannot.

And, as an added bonus, you may find that you’re saving money (hello, Paris vacation).  

How should I approach minimalism?

Living in a country that prizes material items and wealth means that becoming a minimalist can be difficult. At every step of the way you have society telling you that you’re doing the wrong thing (or, sadly, other minimalists telling you that you’re not doing the right thing well enough).

At its heart minimalism is a very personal transformation. Everyone’s journey will look different and you need to decide what makes you happy. There is no “right” way—no set amount of items you can have in your household that will automatically make you a thoroughbred minimalist.  (Although if you need that type of structure both the KonMari and Minimalist Game methods are great places to start).

The simplest way to begin your minimalist journey is to remember why you set off on this journey in the first place. Maybe you found yourself drowning in anxiety that you could never quite shake. Maybe the clutter engulfing your house is overwhelming. Maybe you found yourself turning to stuff to fulfill your life—and felt you were focusing on all the wrong things.  

Whatever the reason, let that guide you as you walk this new path in life.

Take getting a gift for your spouse, for example. If you decided to try your hand at minimalism because you found that you were prioritizing stuff over your relationships, opt for gifting experiences. Take your significant other to a concert, instead of buying them that artist’s CD (even if you know they’d love that CD). You’ll be swapping stuff for time with your loved one.

But if you chose minimalism because the clutter in your house was getting out of hand, you can gift your significant other something that’s meaningful, useful and that will last a long, long time. Perhaps, a nice chef’s knife (on the condition that they donate their collection of less useful knives).

Be conscious and thoughtful about the stuff you buy. When considering purchasing a product, ask yourself why? If you’re satisfied with the answer, go ahead and purchase whatever it is you’re wanting. If not, don’t.

In the meantime, start shifting your focus to the more important aspects of life: your relationship with yourself and others and creating experiences that make life worth living (after all, what is life but a collection of stories?).

Remember, wherever your journey may lead and however long that journey takes, take heart in the fact that you’re on your way to making your life all the more balanced and whole.

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