Question.  What makes a gift ‘practical’ rather than ‘impersonal?’

To put it simply, my mother turns 50 this year.  And she did more or less hint she’d like something substantial for it.  I think last year I only sent a card, the year before we sent flowers, but the previous year was one where I was frightfully broke and honestly couldn’t think of anything she’d like.  Nor did I have £30+ to spend on flowers.

So this year I decided I’d do something a little more thought out.  Flowers were expensive, and to me have always felt like a copout.  They’re expensive, but don’t last very long, and there’s nothing really personal about them – unless the flowers in question have some meaning between the parties.  Not to mention when you’re trying to send overseas, the logistics of what company to use can drive you up the proverbial wall.

So instead I did some searching.  I found a relatively nice (and admittedly cheap) necklace, and bought a bag of Thornton’s toffee – something my mother loves and I used to buy on special occasions all the time.  For the main gift, I dug through all our recent conversations, and after remembering she’d recently taken up golf in the last few months, I bought a book on golf tips for women.  It looked interesting and useful enough for my mum to appreciate it.

Finally, I decided to add an additional.  Last phone call, my mother admitted she was going into the hospital, so I plucked my fluffiest toy Angus from the bedpost and popped him in too with a get well card.  She gave her pet dogs away last year when her job’s hours made it impossible to care for them properly, so I figured a fluffy toy would help while she was recovering.

With all this sorted, I wrapped it up and headed for the Post Office along with my most recent eBay sells.  Then I put the parcel on the scales…

I think I nearly passed out at the price.  The postage was almost more than the gift itself!  Was almost twice what I’d expected to pay – never have I been so glad to have made extra cash on eBay, had to withdraw money the second I got home to recover costs.  I can believe some sweets, a book and a soft toy cost so much to ship.

So much in fact, that it actually would have been cheaper for me to send flowers.  Which brings me to my question.  I don’t think flowers make a great gift.  I never have.  Considering how much they cost to buy and then deliver, I’ve always wondered just why people don’t just send money in a card – surely that’s better than something that will be thrown out in a week.  But when the alternative of sending a gift is made financially…crippling?  Is it better to send a token arrangement rather than a thoughtful gift?  I’m sure my mum would appreciate receiving anything on her special day, but I have always appreciated gifts that have effort in them.

Regardless, it’s a little late in the day to be debating this, but it does make me wonder what the situation will be when I’m in Australia next year, and it’s the friends and family in the UK whose days will be many.  Some I’m sure, will be happy with a card, but I can’t help but wonder if my Dad and Nana will find flowers on their doors come their days, and a rather guilty expression on my face for taking the ‘cheap’ way out.