When it comes to shopping, my husband, Dan, is awesome at knowing which brand of beer to buy. Everything else stumps him. Oh, sure, he'd like to be the guy who gets it right on Mother's Day and other gift-giving occasions. But, truth be told, he's had many more lows than highs. There was the bikini he bought me—when I was eight months pregnant with our second child—because he thought for sure I was eyeing it in a magazine. (Um, seriously?) A frog brooch he purchased can really only be described as hideous. Dan did once manage to nab a bracelet I actually liked—he was so thrilled he bought the same exact one the following year.
Watching him struggle was no fun, so I started to help, for both our sakes. Pre-Internet, I strategically left catalogs around the house with stuff I liked triple-circled with a Sharpie, my size and preferred color jotted shamelessly in the margin. I pretended all women did this whenever they had a few spare minutes, the same way men watch sports. He pretended to believe me.
As my shopping habits migrated to the Web, I took to sending him e-mails or instant messages with links to items I wanted, under the admittedly absurd pretense that I was asking his opinion. We both acted as if this were true, even though we knew it wasn't. My current strategy, a cyber wish list, is better. The premise is simple: When I see something I like, I click a button I've installed on my browser to add it to my list. Then I hit the Share button and presto—a live link to the list pops up on Facebook. Naturally, I don't want my neighbors, high school friends, and professional contacts to think I'm hinting for jewelry, shoes, and books, so the post goes to a private, invitation-only Facebook group composed solely of my husband and immediate family. (This is easy to set up, BTW. If you think your crew could use one, just click on Groups on the left side of your Facebook page to get started.)
Now, whenever Dan is inspired to shop, he can do so without leaving the house. A few keystrokes land him at a site stocked with a lovely variety of can't-go-wrong items. He can literally pick something at random (his preferred method) and know it will be a home run. Come to think of it, my wish list is sort of like a gift to both of us.
Tools to Try
Most of the popular online merchants offer the option of putting items you want on a wish list instead of into a shopping cart. A few of my faves:
Amazon.com: You can create and keep a running list and share it almost effortlessly at this virtual megastore. Even better, Amazon offers a universal button that you can install in a few clicks, then use to add anything from anywhere on the Internet.
Barnes & Noble, bn.com: Keep a log of titles that interest you and let others give you the gift of reading.
Kaboodle.com: This site takes shopping social—you can share your preferences with just your own friends or other shoppers on Kaboodle. Set up registry-style, so you don't get dupes. Install the button, then click to add items from any site you choose.
Etsy.com: I'm addicted to perusing the handmade goods at this virtual marketplace, and my husband loves giving me something unique. The site itself offers a wealth of terrific gift suggestions, but I prefer to load my personal "OMG-I-want-that" stuff to our private Facebook group.
Originally published in the May 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.