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.


Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of How to Fail...


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Jun 12, 2014
>Consider your birthday. That commemorates a day you hurt your mother and did absolutely nothing useful for society. Should you be rewarded for THAT???

For many people, a birthday is actually a celebration that they have gone another year without becoming a Darwin Award winner or having succumb to Double Stuff Oreos.
Jun 12, 2014
Must admit I'm in your camp on this one. Then I'm the kind of person who's never happier than when I've done a good full car run to the tip - that's real satisfaction, much more so than trying to dredge up an expression of delight at some unpleasant scent or garish novelty. I hope one day to reach the karmic state of not having any unnecessary rubbish about my abode. Guess I'll have to wait until the kids are gone.

I do wish some of the potential gift givers in my lot would read the comments about alcohol being ideal though.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 12, 2014
Gift giving is easy.


Either they drink it and then it is easier to put up with them or you help them drink it and then it is easier to put up with them.

If they claim to be non-drinkers then I find alcohol filled chocolates are sufficient to fool them.
Jun 12, 2014
People routinely gift for similar reasons that they play the lottery.

They know, deep down, that it's a sucker's bet, and they aren't going to make either themselves or the recipient feel better. But there's always that slim chance that they'll hit the jackpot and find that one gift that is meaningful and deeply appreciated and treasured for years.

People are basically optimistic. Did you think you're the only one who checks for superpowers?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 12, 2014
I think you're missing the point about gift-giving; it's primarily a social event that should evoke an emotional response. Being too practical about it takes out all the fun and turns it into a business transaction.
Some of the best gifts I've given were completely useless.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 12, 2014
What we require is an App that rummages through your address book, selects the correct time for gift giving for all therein, and selects and sends gift.
The recipient also has an App that receives said gift, acts suitably delighted and returns appreciative text. And then disposes of gift in a charitable fashion.
Thus both giver and receiver are satisfied that their gift giving duties have been efficiently dealt with and some poor sod in Africa gets buried under a mound of over engineered cork screws and kitten covered knick-knack bags .
Jun 12, 2014
The ideal gift shows you've been paying at least minimal attention, spent at least fifteen minutes and aren't offering veiled criticism. Do that and money -- or absence of same -- is no object.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 12, 2014
Your posting made me laugh. That's a gift in itself.
-6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 12, 2014
"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."
I'm with you on the anti-gifting. I don't want or use most gifts, and I hate shopping in all of its forms. However, stop the car! Who is driving? With what kind of vapid poseurs do you associate?!? Oh, I forgot. The SF bay area is chock-a-block full of people that treat environmentalism as a religion. If I received a gift in my name to an environmental cause, I'd throw the "watermelon" out of my celebration (see urban dictionary #28). Environmentalism is no replacement for morality or common sense, and has become a caustic force in our society. There are plenty of worthy charities that I gladly support. Any lame-@$$-charity-gifter better find out which ones I support ahead of time. ;p
Jun 11, 2014
Huh. Only two obvious downsides:

1) Shredding money will lower inflation. In general deflation is a bad thing.

2) That's money now no longer in the economy going to some poor worker in the US or elsewhere in the world who could have probably used that money to buy food or shelter or whatever.

Yeah, but other than that, sounds great.
Jun 11, 2014
My wife and I have this discussion on every standard gifting occasion... "people want to know what to get you for (fill in the blank)". I always ask, how much do they want to spend? (I know a-hole answer). The answer is always "keep if under $50", to which I reply if it's less than $50 and I really want it, I'm just going to buy it...the argument then ensues. I now simply tell people to buy me lottery tickets. I am however going to ask for your new book for my birthday (August 1st). I have heard great things about the book, albeit all from you, but I figure if you sell a few more copies maybe you'll just let it go! LET IT GO MAN! Move on with your life!!
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2014
Just give me the money. Easy. Don't buy a cow for Biddleonian refugees from Elbownia, don't shred it, just give it to me. Simple.

"It's the thought that counts". Yeah well if I thought I wanted to give money to charity or environmental causes, i would. Don't think too hard about trying to figure out what I might like, a good thought is just give me the cash and I'll get something i want with it.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2014
I WAS going to buy a dilbert gift for dad, but screw it.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2014
I give gifts on an as needed basis. I give my wife flowers outside of holidays so that they cost us less and she gets flowers more often because I buy them about twice as often due to the decreased cost. And on the subject of giving gifts to your spouse giving your wife flowers that you paid for out of your joint account has to be the ultimate in shredding money, unless she really likes flowers and then you are just indirectly paying for intercourse.

But back to gift giving. I give gifts to those around me when they need them. If you don't live near me or interact with me frequently I probably won't give you a gift as I won't be around you at some point that you need something. And to reciprocate you won't have to get me anything either.
Jun 11, 2014
So... I go to Amazon and add things to my wish list. People who want to buy me something can see what's on my wish list. Ditto, but vice versa for my wife.

Gift giving doesn't seem all that complicated in this day and age.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2014
I am quite sure that destroying dollar bills is illegal in US (I am too lazy to check thoroughly the law, while just browsing the net would provide with just some incorrect stuff). A dollar bill is not yours, its a property of the US Government representing the country.

Not so with a lot of foreign currencies. So the shredder should have some sensors to recognize foreign bills destroyed and a monitor to display the total amount in dollars at a current exchange rate.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2014
On a practical note, consumable gifts are less likely to pre-garbage. Food items, specialty coffee, wine, liquor, etc can be thoughtful, and even if the particular type is not of the recipient's taste, it can be served at party.
Jun 11, 2014
Giving gifts isn't so bad when you know the person either:

1. You know they wants it and will use it.
2. is a hoarder.
3. Isn't well off so you know that gift card to a grocery store or whatever will go to good use.
4. You know about some specialty stores that sell stuff they'd like
5. The recipient is a woman and you get her some chocolate (even if she said she doesn't like it as a gift, you know that unless she's allergic to it, that stuff is getting devoured).
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2014
Booze ...the perfect gift.

A minimal amount of research will reveal the recipient's intoxicant of choice. Use and disposal are linked. And if you time it right, they will share it with you.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2014
The name of the book jnvm is referring to is Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays by Joel Waldfogel. Interesting and nicely short book.

I hate wasting money so I don't buy presents any more. I give money. Cold hard cash. Gift cards are stupid 'cause you have to go to a certain place to use them. CASH can be used anywhere. Or saved to earn interest.
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