Vic's recent ideas on "Ten problems with nickel and diming" are similar to my recent thoughts on optimizing your giving. The psychology of gift giving suggest that gifts are given to strengthen relationships. Here are a few thoughts I have had recently on how to maximize the return on your gift giving this season:

First: Being generous is a signal that you value the other person and would like to know them better. For those wanting to signal romantic interest this season is an opportunity not to miss. I have thought that women have the harder time finding a partner, as the male simply needs look for a kind, patient generous open heart to be a good mother for his children. But the female looks for a balance between aggressive competitiveness and generosity. Signals that he is capable of both protection of self interest and signals of valuing close relationships. A man that understands the need to display both sides will be well ahead of the vast majority of his rivals. And the female that see the need for both will neither overvalue the myth of the need to "feminize" men nor undervalue their self esteem and fall for a "bad boy" that is abusive.

1. Those looking for partners should spread many small gifts around. As a shy, scrawny 16 year old perhaps my best move was to give several hand carved key chains to girls I was interested in… I still get complements from those girls when I run into them.

2. For those in a committed relationship. Remember that your gift is a signal of how you see the relationship as well as a re-commitment to it. Giving somethingthat the partner will use often is great for this. Buying something sentimental and of fine quality also gives you points.

3. Personal giving helps us understand the impulse to give. The secret to loyalty in many open source business, is the partnership instinct with the giver and the receiver of a service. Showing good examples of parental gifting between each parent is a great lesson for the kids of why and how to optimize the impulse to give.

If you want to get credit for doing anything, take a page out of the service industries mantra: Attitude is everything. Joyful, playfulness is a must in giving.

4. Wrapping is an important way to personalize and adding a personal note is a great way to show you care.

5. Try to give the gift in person if you can. Smile and add a personal comment after it is given. Don't neglect this. If many gifts are given at once, this can be in form of a side comment, note or even a phone call.

6. If gift cards are used or gifts are mailed for those far away, it is even more important not to forget to actually phone them. This is one time that texting is not an imposition. Checking on a gift is a great excuse to renew a friendship.

7. When giving a gift to a child, talking with their parents prior to buying it shows that you value their efforts and place in their child's life. Spending time with the child with the gift shows both that you care for them. Joyful, personal time together is almost always the highest gift to a child.

The gift of listening is also highly valued from the elderly and those no longer in your daily routine.

Charity no matter your beliefs, is a good way to expand your world and a chance to learn the lessons of those less fortunate than you. Some of those lessons are governmental injustices, some personal bad decisions and some are lessons of simply bad luck. These harsh life lessons are much better to learn from others than having to live them yourself.

9. A kid befriending an addict and seeing the sight of many addicts and self inflicted poor will erase the medias and movies romanticizing the dangers and life of a druggie and legends of victimhood.

10. Giving to a world wide organization can give you a reason to understand a culture and place beyond the ordinary path and travel.

11. Giving to children can establish a strong bond with the future. It is a nice way to see beyond your past.

12. Learning the diversity of the individual stories make clear the moral bankruptcy of a sterile governmental inforced "safety net" .


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