I work nights, so I just started and finished shopping for my wife TODAY. Unless you are experienced in gift giving to your significant other, I DO NOT recommend this option. I have been married for almost fifteen years now, and I feel I owe it to all the newly married BGG husbands out there to warn them of potential gifting land mines.
Husbands and wives, feel free to add you own gifting faux pas, whether it be on the giving or receiving end.
I've been very fortunate. When I have planned something waaay in advance (Stomp, Cirque Du Soliel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a Lewis Black show or a Brian Regan show, etc.) I have NEVER had my wife have a scheduling conflict. These type things are usually not much of a surprise because Lin and I have to plan around our work so much.
NEVER get your wife just a stuffed animal as a gift. No matter how much she fawns over any particular stuffed animal, no matter how well that worked when you were dating, it just never works out as a gift for a married woman.
OTOH, if the stuffed animal is holding/wearing the diamond necklace and matching earrings that are her REAL gift, that's usually a guaranteed win for you.
Corollary to the "no appliances" rule, pretty much anything householdy or homemaker-y, especially kitchen stuff, is just not on as a Christmas gift, no matter how much she says she wants it or how expensive it is. That $400 Wusthof knife set? Buy it as a general gift, not for a special occasion. Similarly, utensils, pots, pans, Tupperware and silverware are just basic no-nos.
The only exception to this rule I have EVER encountered was my first girlfriend, who wanted nothing more than a Forschner diamond sharpening steel from me for Christmas (and in that case I could at least make a joke of it and say I got her diamonds)
Be VERY careful when buying a spa gift card. My gf works at a spa, and has fielded dozens of complaints from wives whose husbands gave them a $500 "worthless piece of garbage that just proves he doesn't know me at all. I want a refund" (to which my gf usually says "well if it's worthless..."). Before gifting something like this as a big gift, try giving her a smaller gift card (say for just a massage, pedicure or manicure) as a stocking stuffer, and gauge her reaction before you throw $500-1000 into a full spa day.
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Be very very careful about buying perfume. Nothing says "Oh crap I haven't bought anything for her and now it's 5:30 PM on Christmas Eve" more than a bottle of crap perfume. Or worse yet, very expensive perfume.
And if you buy it any other time of the year, you will look guilty, even if you are guilty of nothing more than a lack of imagination.
Be very careful buying lingerie as a gift for your wife. It may have been fine when dating (or not depending on many, many factors), but once you are married, your wife may not see it as such a great thing. These days lingerie is a present for me, not for her.
Guys, if you don't have a gaming wife be very careful about getting her games as presents! I have bought my wife 2 games as presents, but only because I knew that she really wanted the first one, and the second is just a cheap stocking stuffer! I would love nothing more than to have games and dvds under the tree, but my wife? not so much.
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While I've heard (astonishingly!) the opposite from some people at work, I would never go out and buy sth. just for the sake of buying sth. A nice nicknack standing on a shelf collecting dust? Great gift. Why not MAKE her/him/your kids/parents/friends something? So, my NONO: shopped presents for the sake of the shopping of the sake of a present. And don't tell me you have no idea or are "not good at that". I suck at handiwork, and make necklaces, earrings, boardgames, pottery sculptures, wood-stuff, fimo-stuff, self made soap, candles, wax art, self-made christmas cards, etc. with varying degrees of prettiness. But, seriously, I think it's the idea that counts. Plus, once you are in version 5, you typically gained some experience along the way, and the stuff starts looking better. You might have noticed a lack of"drawing/painting", but I can't look at my own products they're so bad. So, I use a PC if I need a drawing (e.g. for my BGG christmas cards). And I am SURE, all of you can do it, too. Your wives (et al.) will be positively surprised, believe me.
Internet/electronic downloads? (IE., video games on Steam, music on iTunes, eBooks, etc)
ALSO A BAD IDEA.
If it's music you know she'll like, go to the trouble of walking to the store and buying the CD. Ditto video game (although this is pretty rarely a good choice, it does depend on the person), books, etc.
Electronic downloads of these would be FAILBOATING as a gift. At least take the token effort to acquire the physical media. Nothing says "I vaguely remember you exist, but can't be arsed to even get off my chair to get something for you" like an instantly-downloadable file.
And it's probably not a good idea to give your wife a case of Slim-Fast diet shakes, EVEN IF SHE EXPLICITLY ASKS FOR IT, because then you are likely to be pegged as the "insensitive guy" at every wedding shower, girls' night out, family reunion, and other social function for years. Trust me on this one.
"Elves are very good at board games, and I'm NOT an elf!"
While I personally think that it's just fine to buy the wife a domestic appliance for Christmas, you should really think carefully and refrain from doing so... unless of course you'd rather use that prime piece of rump steak in your fridge for dressing your eyes after she punches you!
I'll be completely honest, this isn't much of a faux pas so much as it's my own advice. This is my personal strategy that's worked for MANY holidays that I've celebrated with my wife.
First, ask her what she wants. Get it for her. She knows that she wants it.
Now, work on something that she doesn't know that she wants. For this Christmas, I've created a board game for my wife called "Crazy Carlie - A game of inside jokes and satisfying your craziness". Last year was a handmade cookbook of all of our favorite recipes. I think about gifts for a couple months in advance, it makes them more special.
All in all, it works, she loves the attention and it's a great experience that continuously shows how much I love her.
Final tip. This is where the faux pas comes into play. If you're doing a big surprise gift, it'd be a mistake not to rub it in. I tease her daily about her not knowing what the gift is. It keeps it on her mind and gives us a lotta laughs.
I apologize for sounding preachy, but this has worked wonderfully for me.
The number one tip I have is - ignore all advice. If you don't know your wife well enough to buy her presents that will make her happy, work on that until you do. If you do know her well enough, you don't need a list.
She might love DIY, space travel, cooking, games... it's really crazy to think that a list of other guys tips is going to work better than you buying something for the person you love.
:-) And that's enough mawkish sentimentality for this festive season!
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Buying her a car for Christmas.
Lexus is pretty bad about this- I see a zillion ads from them on TV and I've never understood who thinks this is a fantastic idea. "Honey, I decided to put us $40,000 in the hole this year for a car you've never seen or considered. Merry Christmas!"