Updated: February 28, 2013 6:26AM
“Forget the stay-at-home dad stuff, Howie should write a column about giving gifts.”
This suggestion came last week from The Wife’s friend and former co-worker. She had taken notice of the new coat I’d given my bride for Christmas. The year before, I had bought The Wife boots, which her friend had also remembered.
I scored big with both presents. In fact, I’ve been on a pretty good run for the past four years. I’ve given some lousy gifts too, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’ve decided to share the secrets of my recent success.
STAY VIGILANT — Giving a good gift requires paying attention all year. In addition to the coat, I received high marks for a cupcake carrier this Christmas.
We used a cake pan to bring cupcakes to a party this summer. At the time, The Wife openly regretted not having a cupcake holder. I made a mental note that resulted in a big smile six months later.
PRICE TRAP — With most purchases, the first thing I look at is price. But price cannot be paramount when buying a gift. Find the ideal gift first. Then check the price tag. Finding something on sale is a bonus, but a good price shouldn’t be the reason for a gift.
I fell into this trap years ago. The Wife enjoyed the television show “Dawson’s Creek.” I found the third and fourth seasons on DVD for $5 each. I bought the first and second season to complete the set. I was happy with the gift and delighted by the deal.
Yet, my $5 DVDs never made it out of the shrink-wrap. This summer The Wife suggested selling the unopened sets at a garage sale. It was real shot to the groin.
HOT STUFF — Sexy gifts for her are really gifts for you.
ASK FOR HELP — If you don’t know what to buy, find out her favorite, trendy store. Then ask a sales clerk to help you pick out something in the correct size. (Don’t forget to go through her closet and mark down shoe and dress sizes ahead of time.)
Be open to the suggestions of the salesperson. Retail workers often work in their favorite stores. A good clerk will help you find something hip and appropriate. Regardless, you’ll get credit for trying. Few men are bold enough to buy clothes for their spouse.
REMEMBER THE RECIEPT — Always include a gift receipt. Even the perfect gift can be an imperfect size or have some flaw you didn’t consider.
JEWELRY — I once thought that all jewelry was a good gift. I now know better. I’ve been told to stay away from heart-shaped jewelry. And when I point out other jewelry that I like The Wife’s reaction lets me know we have very different tastes.
READ THE CARD — Those sappy cards with watercolor covers all sound the same to me — blah, blah, blah, I love you, blah, blah. But women actually read these cards. So make sure you read it too, because she’ll know if you don’t.
Finding the perfect gift is tough. While I’ve had a good run using the guidelines listed here, I’ve hardly mastered the art. I’ve given bad gifts before. I’ll give bad gifts again.
But giving a good gift is a great feeling. I still remember giving my first girlfriend a Mickey Mouse wristwatch on Valentine’s Day. Seeing her happy made me happy. Here’s hoping all the gift givers out there have the same luck this year.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org