Do You Buy Yourself Gifts?

Content warning: Mild cynicism, don’t read when in the thrall of holiday cheer.

I’ve long since given up buying my family gifts. I’ll lend or give money, but the effort of looking for a gift only to have it politely rejected and thrown away is more than I’m willing to put in.

Similarly, I don’t really like getting gifts myself. Oversized clothing, notebooks I’ll never use, chocolate goods that’ll give me hives. I feel awful and ungrateful for not wanting these things and try to smile (however unconvincingly) in return, but my family has never known me that well and, honestly, I am at a level of income where if I want something I can get it myself.

Other than handmade art and food, I think cash gifts are the best gifts. But since it’d be silly to just hand each other envelopes of money, killjoy that I am, I’ve asked that my family just cease gift-giving altogether. This suggestion has been met with weak approval, some parts confusion, and a sinking realization by my parent that her kids are now full-fledged adults.

But sometimes it’s nice to get something out of the ordinary. And for that, I might give myself a gift or two.

During my long vacation, I decided to book a couple massages for my fiancé and I to decompress after a long and stressful year. That’ll happen next week and afterwards we’ll have a nice 30-minute soak in a Japanese style hot tub. $200

In addition, as part of my drive to decouple myself from my generalized internet addiction, I’ve decided to order myself a Kobo Aura 2 e-reader. That way on my commute, instead of scrolling mindlessly through my phone, I’ll have something else to focus on. And long form reading is so much better without the glare of normal screens. $100

Before the year is out (and in particular, before I join finances with my fiancé and have to stick to a personal indulgence allowance), I’d also like to get myself some nice earbuds to replace my broken ones. Is there such a thing as buy-it-for-life earbuds? $50

So yeah. With the $350 I’m spending on gifts for myself, no wonder there’s no more room in my holiday budget. Sorry, fam.

How about you? Do you buy yourself gifts? Any suggestions for BIFL earbuds?


12 thoughts on “Do You Buy Yourself Gifts?

  1. My family and I are definitely comfortable giving cash as gifts, red-envelope style (or the more modern version of bank transfers or Venmo). We know from experience that none of us can reliably pick good gifts for others. Other people have a reasonably high success rate with me, I probably have one of the worst success rates. K and I have also gotten to the point where, even if our parents could be reasonably good at picking gifts out for us, we’re definitely already buying ourselves the things we want most.

    I’m a big fan of e-readers! When I got my first Kindle several years ago, it really got me back in the habit of reading. I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit because I’m having a hard time finding things I want to read, and I find the e-reader isn’t as good for more dense or academic nonfiction, but it’s great for most things.


    1. Do you have a protocol to know which relatives to give money to and how much? We don’t have much contact with our Asian relatives and only exchanged red envelopes with them on one or two visits while young, so it’s not something I have a ton of familiarity with.

      Already I have been reading so much with my Kobo, two novels in four days. I’ve found the pickings from my library are a lot more limited for borrowing ebooks, but I think I’ll be able to keep myself entertained for a good while. Is there something particular about the format that’s bad for dense nonfiction or just the selection?


      1. There are definitely a lot of rules, some of which entirely escape me! And I think even different Taiwanese families have slightly different rules (my mom’s side of the family has been giving red envelopes longer past the kids attaining age 18 than my dad’s side). My parents’ generation and my grandparents’ generally gave us around ~40 USD per new year’s (and possibly Christmas) when we were small, and they sometimes give more like 100 USD around graduations since we got older. Family friends’ parents sometimes give similar amounts, but I think my mom makes sure to give their kids equal amounts. I think in some other ethnically Chinese communities the rules might be a little different too. I had read that, in Hong Kong, people give red envelopes more broadly, but in much lower dollar amounts.

        It’s only now that I realize that the red envelope numbers likely feel much bigger to my Taiwanese relatives, given the really low salaries (and less than robust worker protection laws) there, ack. By all rights, I should feel pretty sheepish about having received some of those post-graduation red envelopes.
        Until marriage, my family doesn’t see the “kids” in my generation as generally having red-envelope giving obligations, so I may have a very hard time finding an occasion to fully give back anytime soon.


  2. For my wife and I, Bose QC20s are near-everlasting. We’ve only managed to kinda break one pair over several years, but that was replaced at a discount by Bose.

    They’re also $250 each. I’ve broken literally all my cheaper ($5-50) earbuds in 1-5 months, and lost a few as well. Tough to know which is the better ROI, but the QC20s are way better on airplanes and have better acoustics in general. The buds themselves are also much less prone to let ear wax get into the driver units for me.


      1. Yes, I don’t use mine at the gym or while walking very often due to this concern. That’s why the ROI is OK – good but not great.

        I will mention they work well for sleeping in noisy hotels, which helps the ROI (a little better than high-end earplugs).

        At the end of the day, it’s probably worth buying if you fly a lot and stay at noisy hotels a lot. Otherwise, may be better to spend $20 three times a year.

        I agree with the “universal gift certificate” suggestion for gifting to family. However, our Christmases have now turned into a farce where literally I will give my grandma $50 (Amazon), and she will give me $50 (check). So I’m trying to pivot to buying a nice meal or buying Kindle books.

        Not exchanging gifts and just enjoying time together does sound better, though. Gifts are really more exciting for the under-11 set.

        My gift to myself is refreshing my high-end smartphone (annually), laptop (every 18 months), and Kindle (every couple years) too often. My wife likes to remind me that these are my birthday and Christmas presents :-).


        1. I never have trouble falling asleep on flights and in hotels. I think it comes from years of practice falling asleep on long, bumpy bus rides as a kid. Also from living near a senior center while young (lots of ambulances in the middle of the night).

          After writing this post, I actually got my old Symphonized earbuds replaced by the manufacturer under warranty. But if I manage to break them again (which… probably) I’ll keep the QC20s in mind, thanks!

          Gotta love revenue neutral Christmases. I think nice meals are a good compromise. I’m a firm believer that “food” should be added to the list of love languages.

          New laptop every 18 months! Sounds like you are a very generous gift giver. 😉


    1. So far we have two votes for the QC20s. They must be really amazing. How long have you had them / how do they stand up to daily abuse? I use mine for walking, at work, and working out and often plug/unplug from my mobile device, so I worry about wearing them down quickly.


      1. I don’t listen to music while walking or working out. Something cool about the earbud ones is that they charge via USB versus the over the ear ones take batteries. If you work near a computer a lot, that makes them easy to charge. I also like that the case is pretty small, which means it fits in most of my purses. I’ve had them for about two years now and they’re still great! I don’t abuse them though by any means. If you make sure to get the version for your type of phone, then the controls on the earbuds work, which is super helpful!


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