It’s the thought that counts.

Here is the gift-giving credo that has given a pass to all manner of disappointing gifts, from “what were they thinking?” garments to “oh good, something to dust” tsotskes.

Our smiles might freeze on our faces as we rip the wrapping from a package, but whatever is within, we think, “It’s the thought that counts,” because that’s the nice thing to do when someone is nice enough to give us a gift, no matter how ill-conceived—or, frankly, how little thought appears to have actually been put into a gift.

For me, “it’s the thought that counts” has another meaning as well, which traps me in gift-giving OCD. “It’s the thought that counts,” so you have to put a lot of thought into every gift, strive for some sort of gifting nirvana. You have to peer into the souls of friends and loved ones and find the gift that will, if not complete them, at least set them on a path to happiness.

This can be fun, when the right gift is a no-brainer. But when nothing springs to mind, it’s just time consuming and expensive. I bet a lot of holiday overspending is gift second-guessing, when people like me buy one gift, then start doubting its relevance, and end up buying something else. This happens a lot if I try to shop for people through the year. What seems like a perfect gift in June might not seem just right in December.

I wish I were one of those people who just buys neat stuff all year and gives it away willy nilly, without a second thought as to whether it’s the exact gift this person needs at this moment in time. But I am not one of those people. I have a bag full of things I’ve bought to give as gifts and never have because when the time came, I had a better idea for a gift.

What’s more, I make many gifts, and I have been known to change my mind about something I’ve made, and start over. Double the cost, double the time. And even as I am shopping and crafting the second gift, I’m thinking, “This is silly. The other was fine.” But something got into my head that it wasn’t fine, and so there I am.

I can’t claim that all my gifts are successful. I have no idea because, of course, nobody has ever complained. They all know it’s the thought that counts—no matter how much or little thought it was.

So if the end result is the same, why can’t I just relax?



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    Last reviewed: 13 Dec 2012

APA Reference
Dembling, S. (2012). Gift-Giving OCD. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2015, from



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