From the Tip of Your Tongue to at Your Fingertips: Keeping a Gift Journal

29 Sep

Scenario: It’s Grandma’s birthday again and you haven’t purchased a gift yet. Scratch that, you haven’t even thought about what to your going to give her. Scratch that, you’re not even aware that it is Grandma’s birthday because when your mom called to remind you, you wrote it down on a paper napkin from the taco place you were at and then got distracted by the guacamole and ended up leaving it on the table where the bus-boy picked it up and thought it was a note to him and, because he reads a lot of sci-fi and believes you’ve led him to some sort of code, is still trying to figure out what “gma SEP 9” means. So now you’ve got two people to get presents for (Grandma and the bus-boy because you left a crappy tip and cryptic note).

Save Grandma and yourself from the silent treatment she’s going to give you by keeping a gift journal: a little notebook or stapled pile of scrap paper or a space in the back of your dayplanner where you keep all notes gift-related.

The gift journal is great for three things:

1. Keeping a calendar of birthdays and anniversaries that will inevitably surprise you every month as well as a place to record other events that call for gift-giving: weddings, promotions, divorces, muggings, etc.

2. A spot to write down gift ideas that come to you when you’re sitting in the park or watching Fail blog videos at work so that, even if the birthday is six weeks away, you’ll remember what you wanted to buy or make your loved one. If you don’t have “ideas”, a spot to write down hints that your friend or family member is dropping even though Christmas is six months away.

3. Recording the stores that you saw “that thing that would be perfect for Bev” so that you can go back and buy it when Bev’s 60th rolls around.

Okay, 4. Somewhere to write down those crappy gift-giving rules like you have one year from the time of the wedding to get a gift to the new couple or first-time houseguests should bring a baked ham. I don’t normally pay any attention to these rules but they may come in handy.

Alright, 5. A place to write down stuff you want other people to get for you.

A gift journal can be big, like mine, so you can draw sketches of the things you want to make or hold business cards from the places you want to shop inside. Or it can be small enough to fit in your purse/man-bag. Decked out with Lisa Frank unicorns or devoid of all decoration save the crusted guacamole stains from your fingers. The only requirement is that you keep it close by and keep all your gifty little secrets inside.

Once you’ve made/bought/stolen your gift journal, call the most responsible person in your family, the one with the color-coded dry erase boards next to the phone, and get a list of all the important dates you need to know. Write them down inside the front cover or on the first page of your journal. Save time for a lecture from the Responsible One on how it’s time to grow up and start remembering Mom and Dad’s anniversary and how you still owe them that check.

Next, try to think about what your loved ones like and dislike or gifts that have gone over really well or really poorly. Example: Tiffany Loves: The Secret, Hates: Modern Science; Hank: Loved the German Cheese of the Month Club gift but “accidentally” spilled grape juice on the flannel shirt I bought him. Write all of it down. You may surprise yourself by coming up with some great gift ideas this way.

Keep the gift journal at hand and continue to record gifts you plan to make or buy as well as a follow-up on how the gift went over. Write down new birthdays when you hear of them and new ideas as you think of them. It may sound like overkill but it doesn’t take much time at all and will really help you get on top of your gift-giving. Never again will the awesome gift idea you had for Dad be on the tip of your tongue. Instead you might actually have it wrapped and ready. In time, you’ll feel like a grown-up and Grandma won’t have to lace your care package cookies with laxative to get back at you for forgetting her birthday.


One Response to “From the Tip of Your Tongue to at Your Fingertips: Keeping a Gift Journal”

  1. anniee October 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    Just discovered: In case you’re not “bookish” or you don’t want to have to carry I book around, there is a website called Gift Elephant (, sorry I can’t hotlink with comments). You can use it to record all the dates you need to know, what you bought people, and even send thank you cards.

    I found it a little impersonal and there is no place to write down gifts you’re thinking about getting folks; but it does send reminder emails about people’s birthdays. If you’re around computers often, it might be a good online gift journal.

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