When they – the nameless cabal with a monopoly on wisdom – say it’s better to give than to receive, they are right. But only if you give gifts with purpose, only if you wrap, bow and tag meaning and consequence into your parcels. Whatever your holiday, whatever your celebration, whatever your budget, let me offer two brief examples of what I like to call “message gifts.”

Message gifts, as the name might suggest, are more important for what they say then what they actually are. Take a first standard example: gifts to parents. I have two parents who are fundamentally opposite in terms of gift buying. My father needs nothing, asks for nothing and hates everything, while my mother can find a use for, and enjoyment in, any terrible gift I come up with each and every year.

The solution is simple. I buy them condoms. I pray they are not having sex anymore, so the actual functionality of the gift is unimportant (I buy the cheap, condemned, expired imports from Eastern Europe that are made from muskrat hide and wrapped in Chernobyl cellophane.), but the message is stark and clear: don’t have any more kids. I’m saying, don’t have any “surprises,” because I am your son and I deserve all of your love, money and attention.

It’s bad enough that I have to share, begrudgingly, their affections with my sister, but another sibling – and I cannot even fathom the horror of another boy, a brother! – would be a calamity. When they open their small pouch of square, semi-perforated packages on Christmas morning, I think they’ll get my message loud and clear.

Another example: significant others. Forget what you’ve heard about buying nice jewelry, romantic getaways or other high-priced items, which will immediately devalue to a big fat zero should the relationship ever go south. Imagine, if you will, the following exchange.

“Hi, Significant Other. I love you very much,” you say, then whisper, “for now.”

“What was that? What did you say at the end?” the significant other says in their whiniest tone.

“Nothing, nothing, dear. I just want to give you your [enter holiday name here] present.”

“Great! What a lovely box it’s wrapped in. Is that Adidas?”

“Yeah, from those sandals I bought in the summer.”

“Wow. Thanks. Can I open it?”

“Sure. Go right ahead.”

At this point, the significant other will open the shoebox within which you have supposedly hidden your present. The timing at this point is critical. After they open the lid, but before they sift through the fancy stuffing paper (note: fancy stuffing paper not required, but helpful for distraction) you will need to kiss them forcefully on the lips with enough raw sexuality and passion that they immediately drop the box and attempt to remove your shirt. Continue in a clothed, half-clothed or, preferably, unclothed manner for several hours until your significant other has forgotten entirely about his/her present.

This is the message gift in its purest form – there is absolutely nothing in the box at all, save for stuffing paper, because you’re saying your love doesn’t need “things” and “gifts” and “money” to work. Rather, the holidays are a time for the gift of passion, of sweat and romance, of blissfully forgetting everything “of value” and “with a scan-able barcode” that falls beyond the sheets of the bed (note: less expensively, a couch may be used, least expensively, a floor will suffice).

Best of all, this message gift is one found entirely in the moment, and, depending on stamina, is a cadeau you can give and receive simultaneously. The only potential cost incurred here is if your significant other wavers, calling you “cheap” or “disgusting.” At that point, you will need to quickly rent a romantic film that shows the power of love triumphing over financial obstacles – the romantic street-urchin-turned-prince in Aladdin, the penniless-writer-pens-lovesick-opera-in-Paris in Moulin Rouge and ruined-savings-and-loan-banker-discovers-the-true-meaning-of-the-holidays-and-love in It’s a Wonderful Life – and watch it on a loop, hopefully while continuing to give your present.

In the spirit of the season, I wish you and yours a very happy and merry holiday gift-buying season. Enjoy that fresh mint smell that magically seems to cover up even the most rank of discharges at your local mall, bask in the soothing, monotonous ringing of charity bells that drowns out the whiny chatter of family and friends and drink as much eggnog as you can to truly deck the halls.