Well, here we are once again in the most wonderful, materialistic time of the year. While I’m content to sleep late, watch holiday-themed daytime television, and enjoy my microwaved Thanksgiving leftovers, most people set their alarms for 5 a.m. on the biggest shopping day of the year, just to ensure that they’re the first ones in line for those $200 laptops at Best Buy.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to love shopping for gifts. Among my friends and family, I have a reputation as a pretty damn good gift giver. Instead of pulling the old impersonal, “favored by distant aunts and cubicle mates everywhere” gift certificate to the Olive Garden, I take mental notes all year long, and usually come up with a compromise between practical and enjoyable.

But with the onslaught of adult expenses, like car insurance and the necessary happy hour here and there, I just can’t buy gifts like I used to. But because of my savvy gift-giving skills, a lot of my guy friends feel the need to share their own girlfriend present purchases with me, in hopes that I’ll approve with an impressed nod and a hint of jealously. Usually I just end up biting my lower lip while asking if they bothered to get a gift receipt.

Purchasing a gift for your significant other is never an easy task. There are so many factors to consider — how long have you been together? Where is the relationship headed? Should you spend more on your husband than your boyfriend?

Seriously, a crappy gift can ruin a relationship. If I could have broken off ties with my father the year he gave me a Chia Pet and a Clapper from Eckerds (no, really, he did), I probably would have.

Which brings me to my first point — think ahead! It’s only Christ’s birthday, you don’t exactly need a day planner to remind you. If there’s an understanding that you’re planning to exchange gifts, there is no reason whatsoever to be trolling Sam Rittenberg at 8 a.m. on Christmas morning looking for an “Open” neon sign. Actually, one of my favorite things to do on Christmas is go to Walgreens and watch the frazzled boyfriends try to choose between the cheap mani/pedi set and a cold air humidifier for their soon-to-be disappointed girlfriends.

Most guys think you can’t go wrong with jewelry, while I beg to differ. Sure, ladies love expensive jewelry, not so much for the item itself, but for what it means. The fact that you’re willing to drop half a paycheck on a tiny, useless piece of body decoration to draw attention to our breasts says a lot. If you’re planning to “Skatell” her you love her, just understand how it might be construed. Also, keep in mind, any time a small jewelry box presents itself, any girl is going to automatically think “engagement ring.” Imagine her dismay when she cracks open that velvet box to find a lopsided New Cooper River Bridge pendant. Oh, and don’t propose on Christmas Day. That just takes attention away from the Baby Jesus.

Just like in any relationship, when it comes to gift-giving holidays, there’s always one person more into it than the other. So make sure that you’re giving a gift because it’s something you truly want to do, not because you think you’re going to get something fabulous in return. Ladies, just try to keep a straight face when he gives you a “Magic Bullet.” And I’m talking about the blender from the infomercial, you perverts. Jeez!