More questions to ask as you select gifts:
Will this gift just be clutter at the recipient's house? Am I giving the gift out of obligation, or because it seems just right for this person?
Oh, how I wish that the person who gave us a coconut monkey-with-a-pipe piggy bank had asked himself this question and decided to skip the whole gift thing altogether.
Can I really afford this? Will buying it stress me out financially?
Please, don't go into credit card debt just because you're "supposed" to give gifts for the holidays! Don't snap at your kids or partner or friends because you're freaking out about money because you felt like you had to spend more than you could afford.
Does this gift support or contradict my core values?
This is an ongoing struggle for me (and I suspect I'm not alone). It started with the whole toy gun thing when the boys were little, and encompasses way more than just gifts. Dante had some money of his own, and last week asked if he could buy a new game for the Xbox. It was rated E (for everyone), so should have been ok for him to play, and I ordered it for him online. It came yesterday, and I was horrified when I saw the actually contents of the game, which included battling a gang of thugs brandishing metal pipes. So then I had to be the mean mom and tell him that even though it's rated E, he can't play it.
It's true that he would have really enjoyed playing it for hours, but it's equally true that I don't want my kids exposed to the glorification of violence. On the other hand, Rock Band was the big present at our house last year. Even though it's a video game -- not my favorite type of toy -- it's interactive, it's nonviolent, it's musical, and it fosters cooperation among family members instead of competition.