The gifts we give others say quite a lot about how we see our relationships with them. Can't think of anything to give someone? Chances are you also don't have all that much to say to them. But there are gifts, which would be better not to give.
Recycled gifts. Last year you got something you didn't like, stuffed it into a drawer and now you are passing it on. Chances are the new recipient will also not like it – and who knows, it might find its way back to you next Christmas.
Very expensive personal gifts. These include things like jewellery. You could find yourself spending R1000 on a ring for your loved one and they don't like the particular style, shape, colour of what you bought. Ask someone what they like before you spend so much money. It is better to spoil the surprise than to waste thousands.
Three of a kind. Right, you've got three sisters and little money to traipse around the shops looking for individual gifts, so you end up buying three of the same thing. Thing is, they're all round the same Christmas tree, and once the first one has opened her present, the surprise is gone for the other two. By all means buy three similar things, but identical is not a good idea.
Noisy toys. On Christmas Day, most families gather in large groups – often in not very large houses. Giving a three-year-old a drum might just spoil the whole day for everybody. Same goes for plastic trumpets and very squeaky plastic animals. Cheap plastic toys also usually don't survive the rough-and-tumble of Christmas Day. Rather go for something solid and wooden – and quiet.
Last-minute gifts. By the evening of the 24th of December, the shops are empty, and what remains on the shelves, is either ugly, or extremely expensive. You could find yourself having to fork out a fortune for something which is not ideal, or particularly wanted.
It's-the-thought-that-counts gifts. This usually means the present is dead horrible or definitely unwanted. Or a last-minute affair, just so you don't arrive empty-handed. Sometimes it is better to arrive empty-handed than with something that is so obviously a last-minute thing.
Chocolates. Always a bad idea. Most people are only too aware of how much weight they are gaining over Christmas, and receiving a further temptation under the tree only makes them even more depressed. Furthermore, when someone receives chocolates, there is subtle pressure on them to open it and share it out, so they don't actually receive a gift at all.
Socks and handkerchiefs and underwear. These are personal items that people like choosing for themselves. Unless you have very definite instructions on exactly what someone likes, don't go down this road. Rather give a gift voucher and let them choose for themselves.
Sale books and CDs. These can sometimes be a great success, but only if you keep in mind what someone's tastes are. If you come across Shakespeare's collected works for a mere R49,99, don't give it to someone who has never read anything more taxing than the sports page of the newspaper. It will remain unread and unappreciated. Your grandfather will also quite likely remain unimpressed with the Parlotones, regardless of whether the CD was a bargain or not.
Break-the-bank gifts. Before you consider buying someone a very expensive gift, try and find out more or less what they plan spending on your gift. It is embarrassing if you give a potential girlfriend three CDs and she gives you a pair of socks.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2011)