Marshall Brain's Father's Day Gift Guide

Marshall and a couple of the Brain kids
Marshall and a couple of the Brain kids
Photo courtesy Marshall Brain

Father's Day is an officially sanctioned event in the United States. President Lyndon Johnson made it so by signing a presidential proclamation in 1966 declaring the third Sunday in June to be Father's Day.

You, as someone's son or daughter, can choose between three options when you pick your way of celebrating Father's Day:

  1. You can give your dad a hug (or a call) and say, "Happy Father's Day." I would guess that as many as half of the fathers out there would prefer that you choose this over all the rest. If you want to slip a token into his hand that is good for a bucket of balls down at the driving range, that would be a nice touch.
  2. You can give your dad a card. I think this is the probably the worst of the three options, because lots of guys just don't understand cards. Here's the thing -- let's say you give me a card. I open it, I read it, and then what? That's the problem: The obvious next thing to do is throw it in the trash. So you spend three bucks, you give me a card, and I throw it in the trash. What's the point? Go buy yourself something nice for $3 and give me the hug instead.
  3. You can buy your father a nice Father's Day gift. This is the option that I would like to focus on today in this, Marshall Brain's Father's Day Gift Guide.

You know your dad. He is probably either an option #1 or an option #3 kind of guy. If he falls into the option #3 category, then this article is for you. The goal here is to help you to pick the perfect Father's Day present.

The Three Rules

Been grounded lately more than you deserve? Buy this for your dad.
Been grounded lately more than you deserve? Buy this for your dad.

So let's start at the beginning, with the most important rule of buying a Father's Day present. Rule #1 is simple:

1. Never buy your father a tie for Father's Day.

This is an easy-to-follow rule. You might choose to break this rule if you are mad at your father and you want him to know that. Otherwise, there is only one reason that you should ever break this rule, and we will discuss it in a moment.

Rule #2 is as simple as Rule #1:

2. Never buy anything that says, "WORLD'S GREATEST DAD!"

Don't do it. Trust me on this. "World's greatest dad," "world's best dad," "#1 dad," anything like that. Don't even think about it.

By combining rules #1 and #2, you can see that buying your dad a tie that says "World's #1 Dad" would be the thing to do if you're very angry with your father.

Rule #3 seems like it should be the simplest of all:

3. If your father has specifically asked for something, BUY IT!

I do not understand why this rule is so hard to follow. Maybe it has something to do with it seeming too simple. I mean, if your father comes up to you one day and says, "For Father's Day, what I'd like is a new 18-volt model XYZ rechargeable drill," many people seem think to themselves, "Where's the challenge?" All I know is that I have been asking for a kayak for Father's Day for at least five years, and I am currently living a kayak-free lifestyle.

This is what it would look like if I had a kayak.
Has your dad requested a Skil 2867-03 18V Cordless Drill? If so, your problems are solved.
Photo courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper

In at least half the cases, you do have to pay attention in order to follow Rule #3. Your father may not be the kind of guy who comes right out and says, "Here is exactly what I want." He might be a little more subtle than that. He might be the kind of guy who sits down at the table one day in early June and says in a casual way, "Wow, that drill of mine doesn't work worth a crap anymore." That is probably his way of saying, "I would like to have a new drill for Father's Day." You have to be smart enough to pick up on that.

And, if your father is like that, you now have to go one step further. You have to figure out what kind of drill he wants. You might say something clever like, "Have you been looking at new ones? What kind of drill are you thinking about getting?" And he'll say, "I really like that new Skil 18-Volt Drill/Driver with Stud Finder." Then your job is straightforward and you should follow Rule #3 to the letter. If you are the sort of person whose gut instincts rebel at the simplicity of this approach, I would suggest that you ignore your instincts.

Now, going back to the only other reason you would buy your father a tie (besides the "not liking him" thing). The only reason why you would ever break Rule #1 is because your father invokes Rule #3 and specifically requests a tie.

Let's say that you are willing to follow Rules #1 and #2, but Rule #3 is not helping you because your father is not dropping any hints. In that case, you need to get creative. So let's inspire your imagination.

Think Big

Still, there's something to be said for a nice pocket knife. Every dad needs to cut stuff.
Still, there's something to be said for a nice pocket knife. Every dad needs to cut stuff.
Photo courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper

Imagine that you are one of my kids, and you come up to me and say, "I have two ideas for a Father's Day present: Idea #1 is a new pocket knife, and idea #2 is to send you and Mom on an all-expense-paid trip to Bermuda for a week." Which of these two options do you think I would choose? I would choose the trip. Here's why.

Do you know how much money I had to spend raising you??? I mean, let's just take one tiny part of your upbringing -- the cost of your disposable diapers. One box of disposable diapers costs $20. You wore diapers for about three years, and you burned through about a box a week. So, just to buy your disposable diapers I had to earn about 3,000 bucks. Don't even get me started on your food, your clothes or your college education. I deserve the trip.

In other words, when you are thinking about a Father's Day gift, think big!

If you subscribe to this school of thought -- the "bigger is better" philosophy -- and you've got the cash to back it up, then here are five gift ideas for you to consider:

A big, beautiful, magnificent 42" flat-panel plasma TV makes a fine Father's Day gift.
Photo courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper

Take those as a starting point and let your imagination wander. What would make your father really, really happy? Go for it -- think big!

Go Electronic

A digital camera
A digital camera

Many fathers like gadgets. If your father happens to be one of them, then why not get him a cool electronic gadget for Father's Day? Every time he uses it he will think nice things about you, and maybe he will up your percentage in his will. It can't hurt to try. Here are 10 gadget areas for you to consider:

A really nice television
A portable DVD player
A new cell phone
A nice watch
A portable music player
A laptop computer

Keep in mind that if you get him a really nice gadget, you can always borrow it back from him when you need to. You kind of kill two birds with one stone this way.

Tools are Nice

A drill
A drill

When I was 15 years old, my grandfather gave me a really nice socket set for my birthday. He's been dead for 20 years now, but I still have that socket set and I use it all the time. Whenever I use it, I think about him -- my point being, good tools make a nice gift that can last a very long time. If your father is the kind of guy who fixes things around the house, tools are always nice. Here are some ideas:

A ladder
A saw
A tool belt
A stud finder
A laser level
A new drill bit set*
A good socket set**
A paint sprayer
Anything for the yard
A really nice sprinkler
A grill

On that last one, is a grill really a tool? Yes. Of course it is.

*Go out in the garage and see how many of his bits are missing from the case. If it is more than two, a nice new set of bits is a great gift.

**Ditto the advice on drill bits.

Little Things can Mean a Lot

A nice pair of sunglasses
A nice pair of sunglasses

How many times has your father heard this: "I wanted to get you something nice, but I spent all of my money on Mother's Day." Even if you are on a budget, you can get your father something that will leave a lasting impression. Here are a dozen ideas:

A really nice flashlight
A nice pocket knife
A Leatherman or multi-tool
Solar lights*
A really good steak
A nice bottle of wine
An unexpected/exotic kind of beer
Tickets to an event he would love
Anything having to do with fishing**
A magazine subscription
A book or an audio book

*I can't explain why, but I think these things are very cool.

**...or golf or whatever your father enjoys doing

In other words, be creative -- have fun buying your father something he will really enjoy!