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It's difficult to choose gifts for others even though giving gifts is what Gary Chapman considers to be one of the five love languages.

Gift ideas

Gifts are difficult to choose because we want people to like gifts, and we like the gift to be a thoughtful surprise, but we can't predict what they're going to like.

There are four main types of gifts:

  • Something that they can consume
  • Something that they can experience
  • Something that they can use over time
  • Something that they can admire over time

Most good gifts are something that the recipient can consume, experience, use, or admire. Other kinds of gifts tend to be junk that you gifted for the sake of giving. Don't gift something just to give. That's what capitalists want you to do. Think about the gift before you acquire or make it. Give them something they can consume, experience, use, or admire.

The Equity problem

The Equality problem is the challenge of giving everyone equal amounts of gifts. The Equity problem is the challenge of giving everyone the amount of gift that they deserve.

If you give people more or less to a person, group, or institution than they deserve, then your gift to them is inequitable. If you give more than what they deserve, then it is not fair to other people even though the gift is yours to give. If you give less than what they deserve, then it is not fair to who you gave it to.

People can deserve gifts based on multiple factors:

  • Their relationship to you
  • What they have done for you
  • What they have given you in the past
  • What you have given them in the past

If there are two people in your life who have a similar or equal relationship to you, and you give a gift to one of them that has a much higher value than the gift you give to the other, then the other will feel sad, jealous, or angry. It isn't their fault that they feel sad, jealous, or angry. These are natural reactions to inequity. It's your fault for creating the situation. YOu should've given them equal gifts.

Beyond a minimum threshold, giving people gifts that have values proportionate to their equity is more important than the absolute value of their gift. In other words, beyond the minimum value, relative equity is more important than absolute value.

The Value problem

The Value problem is the challenge of whether to give someone a gift that has a market value or price that is more than, equal to, or less than the value or price that the recipient thinks it has.

Suppose your recipient wants an item and you know they want it because they told you so, but they also don't want to pay the market price for it because they don't think the thing is worth that price to them. Perhaps they have the money for the item but don't want to spend it on that item.

Then, if you purchase that item for them at market price, you pay more for that item than its monetary value to that person. When you purchase that item and gift it to them, then you are giving them an item that is worth less to them than the money you spent. The money you spent on the item is worth more to them than the item you bought for them.

The question, then, is whether that item is a good gift or not.

One response is that, yes, it's a good gift because the gift that you give is worth more than the dollar value. Part of the gift is that you listened to the person as they expressed their desires and delivered a gift according to them. This is unpersuasive to me because you should be listening anyway. Anything else that you would've given them is something that you should have listened to them express desire for or have thought about. It's plain and obvious that you should listen to your recipient and think about your gifts. Therefore, that you listened to them and gave them a gift that they said they want doesn't justify the gift being good.

I'm not sure about the answer to the question, but I might still give them that gift if I didn't have many other ideas. It depends on the market price and the difference between the the market price and the value to the recipient. If the market price is reasonable relative to what I perceive to be the genuine, absolute value of the item, and the difference between the market price and the recipient's perceived value of the item is small, then I think the gift is still good and worth the loss in monetary value because I know that they want it and will likely enjoy it. The loss is worth their joy. The gift is good because they like it, not because I listened to them to learn that they like it or because I thought about it. I always do that part.