Buying gifts is a pain in the ass. The giver wastes time, money, and mental energy. And the unlucky recipient normally sees the gift as what I call pre-garbage. Your pre-garbage is the stuff you plan to discard for one reason or another, but until that happy day it will take up space in a junk drawer, closet, or garage. Gifts are the walking dead of possessions.
Kids and newlyweds are still fair game for gifts. They generally appreciate what they get. And graduates are usually happy with their cash, laptops, and new cars if they are lucky. But for the typical adult-to-adult gift, it's hard to see it as a good use of time.
We humans have evolved with a reciprocity impulse, and a sharing impulse. So we can't stop giving even though the giver is not advantaged by the gift. We need a new solution for gift-giving. I have just the idea.
I call my idea the Money Toilet-Shredder.
It looks like a toilet, but it has no plumbing. Instead it has a shredder in the bowl area. It also has Wi-Fi, a processor, and a web cam to record what happens around it.
Just pull the flush handle to activate gift mode.
The camera comes on. The shredder powers up.
Now smile into the camera, toss a handful of your hard-earned cash into the shredder and say some version of "Happy birthday, Timmy. I'm shredding fifty dollars for you." Then you send your video to the lucky recipient of your generosity.
The theory behind this invention is that happiness is based on a comparison of your situation to your peers. When someone shreds their own money for you, your happiness should increase because your net worth is instantly higher on a relative basis.
Shredding your own money is also a sacrifice. People see sacrifice as a sign of love, affection, and respect. So it works on that level too.
They say it's the thought that counts with gifts. You'd still have to do some serious thinking before using the Money Toilet-Shredder in order to arrive at a proper dollar amount. You can't be sure how much the people in your life are worth until you think long and hard about their contribution to society, their general level of personality dysfunction, their life expectancy, and that sort of thing. If someone in your circle pencils out to seven dollars in gift value, no one can say that's your fault. You put in the thought and that's where the numbers fell.
I will grant you that this idea is only second-best compared to pretending you gave a gift in someone's name to an environmental cause. That's still the gold standard in this genre. But if you're not comfortable with lying, the Money Toilet-Shredder might be the solution for you. It's honest and it conforms to science. The only downside is that it associates a person's special day with a toilet. But let's be realistic about the so-called special days.
Consider your birthday. That commemorates a day you hurt your mother and did absolutely nothing useful for society. Should you be rewarded for THAT???
Then there's Christmas. I'm no religious scholar, but I'm fairly certain you did nothing to help out with the birth of the savior. And there's a good chance you're a sinner. Why should we reward YOU???
Valentine's Day is more of a practical joke on men than a real occasion.
I could go on. But it's probably better if I don't.
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of How to Fail...