The Pros and Cons of Wish Lists

Christmas is just a few days away, and I’m so excited about the presents Chris will give me—especially because I already know what they will be.

I’m no psychic. Chris and I use a simple concept to be sure we both get what our hearts desire at every gift-giving occasion: the wish list.


That was sound of some of my more traditional readers fainting and hitting the floor. Why on Earth would 2 grown adults resort to giving each other wish lists like a couple of pushy 8-year-olds? Isn’t that tacky…and, well…greedy?

Hear me out. Most people stop writing wish lists to Santa (or Mom and Dad) by the time they’re old enough to have jobs. But people expect kids to make wish lists. Does anyone else remember circling all the cool toys in the Toys R Us catalog? Ah, memories….

Chris and I use wish lists as adults to make our lives easier. We love each other very much, but when you’ve been with someone for more than a decade, you start to run out of new ideas. Also, people change and their tastes evolve, so a gift that might have been perfect 5 years ago might not thrill them today.

But doesn’t a wish list take all the fun out of gift-giving? Well, yes and no.

Here’s a quick run-down of the pros and cons of using wish lists:

Pro: Why Wish Lists Are Awesome

  • You get what you really want. You’ll get the book that YOU want to read, not the one Aunt Millie thinks you should read.
  • They make it easier on your loved ones. They probably have a dozen or more people to buy gifts for, so the least you could do is give them one less thing to worry about.
  • Your emotions are real when you tear off the wrapping paper. It’s the difference between “It’s perfect! Thanks so much!” and “Oh, more tube socks….you shouldn’t have, Grandma.”

Con: Why Wish Lists Ruin the Holidays

  • You won’t get as many surprises. Where’s the fun in unwrapping a present when you already know what it is? Why bother wrapping gifts at all—just keep it in the plastic bag it came in and call it a day!
  • Your loved ones may think you’re gift-grubbing. A wish list is presumptuous. No one owes you a gift, and with the economy the way it is these days, your family might not be able to afford that big screen TV or other extravagant items on your list.
  • ‘Tis better to give than to receive. Perhaps you should spend Christmas volunteering at the local homeless shelter, you ungrateful wretch.

I’m definitely on the “pro” side of this argument. I can’t keep up with the latest Xbox games, so I’d rather Chris just tell me which game he wants. And I know Chris is relieved to not have to read my mind.

What’s your take? Do you use wish lists?

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  1. Wendy on December 30, 2011 at 3:06 am

    I’m totally for wishlists. This year, I gave Graeme two knives for his birthday (which is on 1 December) and when I asked what he wanted, he wanted the magnetic holder for them … makes my life that much easier and I’d rather get something I really want than a bunch of ‘stuff’. Loving your blogl

  2. Shybiker on December 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

    The pros you cite are so true — and I learned that from sour experience. My wife Robin wants what she wants and wasn’t happy not getting it, so now I ask her to tell me ahead of time. That does make buying easier for me.

    What I do, to have the best of both worlds, is get her the gifts she selects *and* add a few unexpected ones. The latter add surprise and the former keep her happy.

    Happy holiday, Sage!

  3. Anna on December 23, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Unfortunately wish-lists is the way to go in my family. It’s easy to please my mom – you can never go wrong with a cashmere sweater for her. It’s harder with my sister. She doesn’t care for clothes all too much but it’s hard to go wrong with a sporty jacket for her. My dad is the hard one – he loves to read but only when he picks out the book. I know he’d be thrilled with a new camera lens but honestly, I’m a poor college student with no means to afford a $1000 lens. My boyfriend is the worst. He is EXTREMELY picky. He loves video games, good food, a cozy sweater, tennis, travel , etc. But, he’s so incredibly particular that if the gifted sweater isn’t the exact shade of sea-foam green he had in mind, it goes back with a frown. You have no idea how many times this has happened in the past (i.e the pattern isn’t manly enough, the color clashes with my skin tone, those slippers are too fluffy (as if!), I hate camping, I don’t are for this game, I wanted a different book, etc…)

    For my sanity wish-lists are the only way to survive this time of year. Happy holidays!

  4. xvavaveganx on December 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I’m so with you on the wish lists. I really like them and I don’t think it is gift grubbing at all. I know that I get really stressed out when I have no clue what to get someone. That being said, my gifts for people that don’t tell me what they want are often far more creative and I really love it when I give the perfect gift. However, I also love knowing that I gave someone exactly what they wanted. 🙂

  5. Molly on December 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    We use wish lists, but not for getting each other gifts. We usually just purchase something together that we’ve been wanting for a while for holidays, anniversaries & birthdays. For example, we’ve had Kindles on our wish list for quite a while now and just got them. 🙂 It sounds like you two have a great thing worked out! Unwanted gifts are such a waste, so it’s important to get someone something they’ll love & use.