By Rebecca Alwine
Last year a dear friend moved. I desperately wanted to get her something, but so many obstacles came up. When should I gift it? It’s hard to get gifts after you’ve packed out! How much is too much to spend? I didn’t want her to think I went cheap, nor that I spent too much. What would stand out? I didn’t want to get the same thing that everyone else would get her. I wanted my gift to her to be special. (Talk about self-imposed pressure!)
Gift giving for special occasions is not something left in our grandmother’s era. There are so many opportunities to give gifts in our military community, and there is some serious stress that comes along with those opportunities.
Let’s be clear, there should never, ever, be a situation where you feel you are expected to give a gift. Don’t go into debt to give a gift, don’t feel pressured about it. Gift giving–even in the military community–should feel natural.
When do we give gifts?
There are several opportunities where gifts can be appropriate: Retirements, promotions, and moving come to mind. When new neighbors come or leave, when friend’s children graduate from high school, birthdays, and reenlistments may be a few others. Thank-you gifts can really make someone’s day. (My favorite occasion for giving a gift is because I find something someone would like.)
Often timing comes into play. In a perfect world, all of our friends would leave at the same time–or at least before us,–so we could gift them with something as they depart. But it never works out that way.
More money, more problems
I struggled with what to get my friend who was moving last summer. It wasn’t a great time for me to spend a lot of money, and she knew it. I was afraid of looking cheap and even more afraid of spending too much to try to keep up with others. I knew she and her husband were going to receive extravagant gifts that were way out of our price range. I thought and thought and eventually went with something homemade. It was perfect.
Don’t ever feel as though you need to compete with others in your gift-giving. Gifts for friends come from the heart, and cost won’t be a factor in their love of your gift. Rank has no place in friendships and shouldn’t ever be involved in gift giving. A true friend will be more upset that you spent too much than if you don’t get them something at all.
I’m a big fan of supporting other military spouses in my purchasing, and I love to share these gifts with others. One of the favorite group gifts we’ve done was vinyl-decorated wine glasses for our book club. We were able to get them from a local spouse who was working from her home. Double win!
Here are some other great ideas:
- A subscription or one-time gift from The Six Box or MilSoBox
- An address book, filled out with all of your mutual friend’s contact information, along with some super cute paper clips.
- A state cutting board with their duty station highlighted.
- A charm for their bracelet of choice. I really like the Alex and Ani.
Consider when to gift it
One of the hardest things, particularly for those stationed overseas, is fitting all those last-minute items into your suitcase. Gifts are traditionally given at a unit farewell or a dinner right before a move. Here’s where I strongly urge you to use some creativity. Give the gift before they pack out if they are limited on space. (Trust me, no one will be upset with you giving a gift a month before they move, in a box to keep it safe, all ready to be packed.)
Remember my friend who was moved last summer? After deciding a homemade gift was perfect, I wrote a note, gave that to her at the farewell and then, a few weeks later, mailed her gift to her new house. No packing necessary, no extra stress on where to fit another gift. As an added bonus, a housewarming present from a faraway friend always brings a smile when you’re settling in a new place. And bringing your friend happiness is the best reason of all to give a gift.