What Am I Gonna Do With A Gun Rack?

Christmas is quickly approaching, and what else would this time of year bring to mind except one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.  In case you can’t tell from the title of this post, the scene I’m talking about comes from the 1992 Mike Myers classic Wayne’s World, which was an absolute font of wisdom for me when I was 10 and my brother wouldn’t (couldn’t?) stop replaying the VHS every weekend.

There are many quotable moments in this masterpiece of cinema, but the scene that always comes to mind at the holidays is the one where Stacy, Wayne’s stalker-ish ex-girlfriend, surprises Wayne with a gun rack as a gift.  Watch the clip for the full effect.

Now Wayne probably could have handled this situation better.  After all, yelling “You’re mental!” isn’t really an appropriate response for a gift, no matter how poorly thought out.  But let’s face it – we’ve probably all given (and received) a “gun rack” at one time or another.  


Gun Racks I’ve Received:

  • Bad Gift Cards –  It took me almost 3 years to spend a $25 gift card to Pier 1 because I hate that store so much.  A Best Buy gift card lived in Mr. PoP’s wallet for over a year before he got sick of seeing it and finally sold it for a discount to its face value to one of his co-workers.
  • Dust Catchers (aka tchotckes or knick knacks) – I really dislike having too many “things” cluttering shelves but some must see that as a deficiency that I need to fill with stuff that in my mind is only an added item to clean.
  • Weird and Inappropriate Books – I won’t name any titles for fear of offending, but I’ve received a few books that have caused me to wonder if the giver knew what the book was about before giving it to me.


Gun Racks I’ve Given:

  • Crystal Desk Clock To My Sister – I was 19 when she got married and had never picked out a wedding gift before.  So on a trip to Europe I bought a fancy crystal desk clock.  I thought it was classy and “grown up”, which of course is what getting married is all about, right?  Permanence, heirlooms, and class?  Wrong.  It totally didn’t fit her style at all and unluckily it was a buy it for life purchase, so it’ll last forever sitting awkwardly on a back shelf in her office.
  • Clothes That Were The Wrong Size – When you don’t see someone for 6 months or a year, buying them clothes can be a crapshoot.  If they’ve lost weight or gained weight, either way ill-fitting clothes can draw attention to it in an undesired way.


Let’s be honest, giving gun racks to one another doesn’t really make anyone happy.  Well, except for the manufacturers.  So how do we stay out of this sticky territory altogether?  If it’s really “the thought that counts” then let’s put some more thought into gifts for one another.


How To Avoid Getting A Gun Rack

  1. Make a Wish List Of Things You Want My MIL loves the Amazon wish list.  As long as she keeps it stocked with a variety of items in different price ranges (usually from books that are just a couple of bucks up to gadgets or software that cost over $100), she is virtually guaranteed to get something she wants as a gift for every major holiday.
  2. Be Clear and Firm About What You Don’t Want – My freshman year in high school, I made the mistake of buying a couple of school-mascot themed items for myself.  For the next 6 years, I got high-school mascot themed items for almost every gift – even after I went to college!  It took me sitting down with the giver and saying, “The time for gifts having to do with my high school mascot has passed.”
  3. Be Careful What You Admire or Compliment – There are certain people that don’t seem to get that you can admire something on someone else without wanting your own.  As such, I’ve learned that sometimes you need to emphasize the directionality of a compliment.  “Oh that scarf is so cute!” can be interpreted very differently from “Oh that scarf is so cute on you!”  Subtle, but it’s there.  And I think it makes a difference.


How To Avoid Giving A Gun Rack

  1. Buying Things To Fit Your Likes – Sometimes it’s tough to shop for someone that has a very different personal style since you can look around a store and the things that catch your eye are what you like.  But if you really want to get that person something that they’ll enjoy, try going shopping with someone that they share style with, or heck – just take them shopping!
  2. Giving Something That Causes The Giver To Spend – Small value gift cards to expensive retailers are notorious for this.  Have you ever received a $10 gift card to Brooks Brothers or Anthropologie?  There’s just not a whole lot in there to be had for that.  So to receive the value of the gift, the giver has to ante up some of their own money they might not have been eager to spend.
  3. Consider Giving a Shared Experience – Since time with friends and family is really one of the most valuable gifts of all, why not consider giving a shared activity that’s something new for everyone?  We recently gave someone the gift of an afternoon of stand-up paddle boarding with Mr. PoP and I.  She loved spending time with us, learning something new together, and enjoying the weather and the beaches.


Or Break The Gun Rack Routine Entirely

Lastly, if you’re in a routine of giving gifts with another person, but it’s become just that – “routine”, consider having a discussion with that person about whether the gift giving should continue.  We’ve halted giving gifts with some siblings (since we’re all “grown up” and can usually afford to buy what we want!), and have tried to initiate the conversation with parents who are so far unwilling to halt the giving/receiving process.



What are some of the more memorable “gun racks” you’ve given or received over the years?  Also, what are some tips that you can add to avoid giving or receiving a “gun rack”?

44 comments to What Am I Gonna Do With A Gun Rack?

  • Giving gun racks is a bad idea and can be bad for your relationship. I did it one year to my wife, who was then my fiance. Needless to say I didn’t put any thought into the gift and it hurt her bad. Not because she’s materialistic. But because I didn’t take the time to put any thought into it.
    Justin@TheFrugalPath recently posted..Time Saving Tips for CouponersMy Profile

    • I think you’re right – it’s not about being materialistic. It’s about feeling like the giver wasn’t really thinking of *you* when they got the gift.

      I’d much rather someone give me $1 worth of candy that is my absolute favorite than a $100 necklace that I’d never wear.

  • I made the mistake one year of mentioning how cute I think themed salt and pepper shakers are- and they are!-just not for my house. Why does someone need to change their salt and pepper shakers up every season? I have probably 5 sets for Christmas ranging from snowmen to mittens 5 or 6 normal sets, halloween ghosts…it’s ridiculous and I hate that they clutter my already limited storage. I wasn’t implying that I wanted them I just thing they’re cute to look at in other peoples homes! I’m pretty good now at not buying something just because or if it’s something the person wont want/use I don’t bother.
    Catherine recently posted..Fun and Frugal Dinner PartiesMy Profile

    • Oh I totally understand that scenario. And once you get a critical mass of them other people are going to start thinking you like them too! More salt and pepper shakers! That’s a bad kind of snowball effect =)

  • I have had some gift cards in my wallet FOREVER! I still have a Target card with something like $8 on it that I always forget about. It’s been in there for years!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Guarding Your Personal Information from Corporate InterestsMy Profile

    • haha, I have no problem taking care of a Target gift card since it’s our “go to” for a lot of stuff around the house. But I have a Macy’s GC in my wallet that I’ve been trying to get rid of for the last year… and I forget about it every time I’m in!

  • Wayne’s World is one of my favorite movies of all time – I *just* quoted the gun rack scene a few days ago! A client wanted my address to send me a gift, and I said (without thinking) “If it’s a severed head I’m going to be very upset.” I’m pretty sure my client now thinks I’m insane. 😀
    Andrea recently posted..One Year of Self-Employment: The PresentMy Profile

    • Haha! I love it! There are so many good quotes in that movie.

      When people are sick, I’ve been known to hand them a cup and say, “if you’re gonna spew, spew in this…”

  • Haha, I love wayne’s world, lol, GREAT idea for a post :-) When my wife and I have people to get stuff for, I try to always be sure that they’ve actually asked for it or want it in some way. Sometimes my wife isn’t sure what to get someone and will say, “Oh, a nice sweater maybe?” And I always put my foot down. Don’t know what they want? Get them nothing or get them a gift card. A dumb sweater or smelly candle ain’t cool when you don’t want it!

    “If you need to spew, spew in this cup.” — OH man, I love that movie!
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..Never Ask About a Foreclosed HomeMy Profile

    • That is totally one of my favorite lines. If I ever have kids, I can totally see myself using it on them whenever they’re sick. (Perhaps this makes me unqualified to have children =) )

  • I try very hard to get what people actually ask for. I don’t want to be the one that gives the “gun rack”. I also provide people with a list of what I want, so they can’t really mess it up. If they deviate, then it is on them.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Free Shipping Day Is December 17My Profile

    • I think if you’re taking the time to think about what other people want, you’re probably a lot less likely to give a “gun rack”. I think part of it is that we get in the “I need to give this person something” mode and forget about “wanting to give that person something special”.

  • I’m always worried about giving a “gun rack.” I put a lot of time and thought into my gifts, but I never know if they already have a better one, or it is simply something they don’t want. Of course if they re-gift it, sell it, or throw it out I won’t be offended.

    • There’s always the “what do you get for the person who has everything?” type problems – and for that we like to give time or experiences if the person really has *EVERYTHING* they could possibly want (within our price range).

  • The worst gifts I got usually came from a boyfriend’s family or my extended family when I saw them around Christmas but was definitely not on their usual gifting list. They gave for the sake of giving but I would rather have had nothing. I like to think that I can find the perfect gift for people I care about but have to admit that most of the time it is easier to ask what they’d like.
    Pauline recently posted..4 tips for a harmonious money relationshipMy Profile

    • It’s tough – people have such varying interests, and with the internet it’s so easy to know EXACTLY which model of widget you want. So if someone gets you the 4.0 when what you really wanted was the 3.0 widget… That’s when stuff like the wish lists come in handy. We buy my MIL the exact shades of make-up she likes because all the details are on the list!

  • Love the clip! It’s been years since I’ve seen that movie. We have a member of our family that gives horrid gifts. When we open them we always wonder what the person was thinking. I think the quote it’s the thought that counts is because of them. :) One thing that comes to mind that I got from them was a Western shirt that was about 5 sizes to big. I couldn’t even bear giving it to Goodwill.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..A Frugal Person’s View on Holiday TippingMy Profile

    • Yeah, clothes that are the wrong size are tough. Maybe I’m over-sensitive, but something that’s too small can feel like, “Are they telling me I’m too fat?!?” and something that’s too big can seem like, “Oh my god, they must think I’m huge!”

      Okay, so reading that, it’s clear. I’m too sensitive about body size. But at least I know I’m not alone in this. =)

  • Great suggestions! I’m sure I’ve given a few gun racks myself. My family of origin now operates off of wish lists and request so we are trying to avoid wasting money on unwanted gifts.

    The most inappropriate and expensive gift(s) I ever received was about $1000 of snowboarding equipment from my mother while I was in college. She tends to pick a theme and go big with it, and that one was a complete miss. Not only did I not snowboard at all (I had tried once years before and completely failed), I didn’t have time for it as I attended a very demanding school and virtually never left campus. Finally, how was I supposed to transport all that equipment to the opposite coast to use while I was in school?? I had to ask her to return all of it.
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..I Wish We Could Buy a HouseMy Profile

    • Oh yeah, that’s a total gun rack. Not to mention that lift tickets can definitely add up $-wise if you’re not already planning on going skiing.

      I hope she was okay with returning it all – sometimes that’s a tough situation.

  • Gift giving has become pretty routine in our family so we cut it back significantly. Everyone is much happier, or at least I am.
    Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom recently posted..Do you dare to dream?My Profile

  • My mom gave me a broken chemistry set once because she didn’t want it in the house, and didn’t want to throw it away either. It’s cool, I threw it away for her :)
    Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom recently posted..Do you dare to dream?My Profile

    • haha, nice. I’ve been known to do that to some of my friends with kids. Like when cheerios had all the paper books in the boxes of cereal for a while? I would give them to my friends with toddlers and say – I don’t want to throw these out when your kids might have an awesome time “reading” them. And since they’re free, who cares if a 2-year-old destroys it?

      They could have thrown them out as soon as I left. =)

  • LOVE that clip. Have a strong desire to watch that movie right now! :)
    Kathleen, FrugalPortland recently posted..Did I save half my income?My Profile

  • We got a gift card to the movie theater from my husband’s aunt once, which was nice, but this particular chain of theaters is not in our state. I had that thing for years and finally sold it on ebay for almost face value, so that’s a good way to get rid of bad ones if you ever have that problem again. Also make sure that if you give a gift card, the recipient doesn’t have to go across country to use it.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..What Will the Fiscal Cliff Mean to Health Care?My Profile

    • Oh I have been there. Family across the country once sent us gift certificates to a local (to them!) bowling alley one year when we were kids. We mailed them back figuring someone should get use out of them!

  • I am trying to dissuade as many gift exchanges as possible this year for fear of compiling too many ‘gun racks’. I don’t know why but people who feel obligated to buy something somehow always end up buying me these weird mis-shapen clothing items. I am incredibly picky in this department so this bizarre ritual is perplexing. If I receive another gaudy sweater, grrr…
    Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy recently posted..Words of Caution: Things I Am Not.My Profile

  • I’ve never understood the “white elephant” gift exchange for exactly this reason. If you don’t want that tacky gift, why would you want me to have it? My step-mom seems to buy me a “gun rack” every Christmas. About 5 years ago she asked for a list of the things I wanted, cool right? Now every year I get Clinique Happy perfume, because 5 years ago that was the scent I was wearing. I’m obviously not going to tell her I don’t wear it, but somebody on e-bay is happy to get a steal of a deal of Clinique Happy :-)
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Student Debt DenialMy Profile

    • Oh I agree… and yet, we have to go to a work party for Mr. PoP on Friday that we have to bring a $20 white elephant gift to. He picked out something that he’d be happy to take home and play with if he had to. But we feel like it’s pretty much a wasted $20.

  • Loved these tips! Though, a relative of mine (similar to crazy gun rack ex girlfriend) likes to regift the worst stuff, no matter how many times we say gifts aren’t necessary or no gift exchanging, she seems to always find oversized (like xxxl) shirts to give us and expired candy… it really is bizarre!
    Shannyn @frugalbeautiful.com recently posted..Tinker Bell Training Update: Freaking Out & Gearing UpMy Profile

  • Ha! You’re right…great minds, huh?

    When I was 16 I gave my brother a cool baseball board game game that had all kinds of awesome bells and whistles…different size parks for homeruns, the ability to change players in your lineup whenever….all kind of season options. It was the absolutely perfect gift….for me. Now, nearly 30 years later, that game is still in my closet. I think my brother actually had it four days.
    AverageJoe recently posted..Investing Myths: Four Traps That Catch AmateursMy Profile

    • Nice! I remember getting a gift like that from my brother – it was the new CD he wanted from his favorite band. Meanwhile I didn’t even own a cd player =)

  • Great post.. I remember Wayne’s World very fondly.. Party on.

    I remember one year we got gift cards to both Blockbuster Video and to K-Mart.. There isn’t a KM within 30 miles of our house (and I am NOT driving 30 miles to go to KM), and who goes to blockbuster video anymore?
    jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..Hey Bro, You Need More Car Insurance!My Profile

  • haha, I love Wayne’s World!

    I’ve got to agree, stopping the exchanging of gifts with those who you aren’t super close to is the best way to avoid getting or giving a “gun rack”. I only exchange with the closest members of my family and a few close friends. The better you know someone, the better gift you’ll be able to give!
    The First Million is the Hardest recently posted..Lessons Learned From My First Year Of Home OwnershipMy Profile

    • I couldn’t agree more. It’s definitely easier to avoid giving gun racks when you know the person well, but even then sometimes we can make mistakes!

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  • Hah – I admire things all the time that I would NEVER want for myself.

    Most of the time, and especially right now, cold hard cash is the only thing I want. Gift cards to useful, practical places (supermarkets?) also welcomed.
    eemusings recently posted..Friday Five: Things I can’t get enough ofMy Profile

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