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A Gift for Themselves

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"Oh! A present! From me? I shouldn't have! [reads the label] 'To Brian, from Brian.' I bought myself this present with my eyes closed, so I genuinely don't know what it is. [unwraps it] Oh... A pregnancy testing kit."
Brian Butterfield, The Peter Serafinowicz Show

Everyone loves getting presents, but some people are just hard to buy things for. To ensure they get the gift they really want for their birthday, Christmas, or whatever other gift-giving day they're celebrating, some characters decide to just buy, wrap, and open their own presents.

They may still act surprised, even though they're well aware of what it is they're getting, in part just to play the role for any onlookers who may not know they've supplied their own presents for the day. In a Secret Santa situation, these characters end up picking themselves, intentionally or not, and just roll with it. They buy themselves expensive jewelry and clothes and gadgets, laugh at all the dumb cheap gifts everyone else got, and make out like a bandit. In other cases, they do give the gift to someone else...but give them something they wouldn't want in the hopes it'll just be handed back.

This can be a sign that a character is selfish or hard-to-please, choosing to satisfy their own desires instead of attempting to give or receive hard-earned gifts to/from other people. In other versions, they're entirely alone, giving the trope a sadder spin as they have nobody else to get presents from. These examples can overlap with One-Person Birthday Party.


    open/close all folders 

  • In a commercial for Buick cars, several people are shown excitedly looking at their brand new, Christmas present cars...which they all purchased for themselves. One lady claims she got herself for Secret Santa.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Kuzco calls Kuzcotopia, the summer palace he plans to build over Pacha's village, "my birthday gift to me."
  • In Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, Daffy (the Scrooge stand-in) gives himself a universal remote. Later desonstructed during the Ghost of Christmas Future segment, where it's revealed that he tried to will ownership of his department store to himself. Because this is super illegal, said store is soon shutdown.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum admits that he has a tendency of buying presents for his wife that she doesn't enjoy, so he has an alternate solution:
    The way this deal works is that she usually doesn't really like what I give her for Christmas anyway, and I usually end up with it in the end, so I figure I might as well start out by giving her something I want in the first place, so when I get it back I can be truly grateful. She gets the thought; I get the gift. I know it's wicked, but it's realistic and practical.
  • In one of the poetry books written by A. A. Milne, there's a poem about King John. It's mentioned that, due to being "not a good man", all the Christmas cards he gets are "never from his near and dear but only from himself".
  • Secret Santa (2007): Amber sends herself expensive Secret Santa presents so she can brag to her friends about how her Secret Santa thinks that she's worth better gifts than most people get.
    Shawna: Amber always has to be better than everyone else. Even when it comes to Christmas.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Drake & Josh: In "Pool Shark", Audrey decides to buy herself a white gold bracelet with her birthstone for her birthday. But since Walter was planning to give her that exact same bracelet, he makes Drake and Josh go out and find another gift for her.
  • In The Good Place, after her parents forget her birthday one too many times, teenaged Eleanor decides to get her own birthday present... an emancipation notice. And also a cake, which she then eats, alone and triumphant, in her new apartment.
  • House of Anubis: In season 3, Amber celebrates her birthday and has a huge pile of gifts. Some of them came from her friends and father, but a majority of them were ones she purchased for herself, because she knew the gifts everyone else got for her wouldn't cut it.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: In "A Very Sunny Christmas", it's explained that Frank spends every Christmas buying the perfect gifts for Dennis and Dee...for himself, leaving them miserable and giftless. One of the plots of the episode is them trying to make him change his ways, but he calls them out on not caring if he changes and just wanting gifts.
  • In the Christmas Episode of The Last Man on Earth, the group holds a Secret Santa drawing and they grab gifts for each other. Tandy manages to draw his own name but keeps it secret from the others. He ends up getting himself a yacht...and blowing it up.
  • LazyTown: In "LazyTown's Surprise Santa", Stingy wraps a gift and addresses it to himself.
  • Mr. Bean: During Mr. Bean's Christmas Episode, he is shown sending Christmas cards to himself by slotting several identical Christmas cards through his apartment door's letter-slit, and then walking into his own apartment with a feigned "surprised" look on his face at the number of cards he had received.
  • The Office (US): In Christmas Party, Kevin draws his own name in Secret Santa and chooses not to tell anyone, instead getting himself the gift of a footbath. Later, after the office gift exchange devolves into a "White Elephant/Yankee Swap" situation, he passes up the best gift (the iPod) in order to take back the footbath.
  • Played for laughs by Brian Butterfield in The Peter Serafinowicz Show Christmas Special: He buys himself a present with his eyes closed, so that it's still a surprise for himself when he gets it. When he unwraps it, it's a pregnancy testing kit.
  • Scrubs: Jordan tells J.D. the only reason he was invited to Jack's birthday is because he owns his own SpongeBob costume. Dr. Cox asks J.D. why he even has it. J.D. replies that it was a gift, mentally noting, "From me to me."
  • One episode of Silicon Valley had Russ show Richard and the other guys a car with a ribbon on it. Russ then revealed that he bought the car for himself to celebrate becoming a billionaire again.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: In "Christmas At The Tipton", Moseby draws his own name for Secret Santa. He buys himself an expensive watch.
  • Victorious: During her birth week, Trina buys herself a pair of shoes she'd wanted. This causes problems for Tori, who was planning on getting Trina those exact shoes and now must come up with another gift idea.
  • Wishbone: In "Little Big Dog," David's father Nathan justifies buying a new car by claiming that it's a gift for his wife Ruth. Wishbone snarks, "I think I'll be looking for a box of dog treats for Joe's welcome-home present."

    Newspaper Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: Jason does this to Paige in an early strip, when he gives her a toy clearly intended for him for Christmas. However, Paige herself is much more blatant and unashamed about this trope. In one strip, she gushes over the new sweater she got for Christmas. When Peter points out that (technically) he got that sweater (from her) for Christmas, Paige bluntly replies “Same diff.” In a Sunday strip, she openly brags to her mother Andy about the wonderful gifts she got for (again, technically) Jason, Peter and Roger. They are all clothes items for girls, in Paige's size. When Andy points this out, Paige is quick to point out that she “accidentally” tore up all the receipts.
  • Garfield: The June 17,1992 strip had Jon gift Garfield a set of golf clubs for his birthday. When Jon then asks if he may borrow the golf clubs, Garfield says, “Sure…” In the last panel, Garfield, now armed with a club, chases Jon around while saying, “…Right after I’m finished with them!”
  • Zits: When Jeremy asks his dad what he'd like for Father's Day, he's clearly hoping for something cool that he'll be able to borrow. His dad's request of a cordless nose hair trimmer is disappointing.

    Video Games 
  • In a Duolingo story, "I Say Thank You", Sari gives Lilli a shirt that Sari loves but Lilli is unimpressed by. It's Sari's birthday, and Lilli, who forgets her friend's birthday every year, is meant to hand the gift back to her.
  • Fallen London: One Opportunity Card gives you the chance to offer any of the players you know one gift or another, be it specific, terribly unwanted or a mysterious gift even you don't know the contents of. If you're enough of a Hedonist you also get the chance to declare "I myself am my only true friend!" and spoil yourself a little to stock up on valuable Second Chances.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode "The Last Resort", Dr. Robotnik presents a shiny gold watch as a "retirement" gift to himself from himself.
  • In the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas special, Alvin is all set to buy himself a golden harmonica. However, when Dave finds out, he's incredibly upset and disappointed in his selfishness. Unlike other examples of the trope, Alvin has a good reason for his actions - he gave his old harmonica to a sick boy, and because the original harmonica was a gift from Dave, Alvin doesn't want him to find out because he is worried that Dave's feelings will be hurt if he learns what happened.
  • American Dad!: In "Kiss Kiss, Cam Cam", Stan gets Francine tickets for an entire season of baseball on her birthday, despite Francine not even liking baseball. After their first game goes badly, Francine calls Stan out on getting her a gift that he clearly meant for himself rather than her.
  • Danny Phantom: At the end of "The Fright Before Christmas", the ghosts restore and return all the gifts The Ghostwriter stole and destroyed. In a closeup, Lancer's gift is shown to have come from himself, for himself.
  • Played for Drama in The Simpsons: "Life on the Fast Lane" takes place on Marge's birthday. Homer ends up gifting her a bowling ball, with his name on it and holes drilled for his fingers, fully aware that Marge doesn't even bowl. She takes up the sport out of spite, and winds up meeting an instructor whom she likes more than Homer.
  • Wayside: In "Wayside Christmas", The students all participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange amongst each other. Every student receives a gift except Bebe, whose Secret Santa was Myron, who received a crown from Bebe and bought a cheering box for himself, forgetting to get a gift for her. After everyone calls him out on it, and mistakenly believing he is in Yet Another Christmas Carol that inspires him to change his ways, Myron gives the crown back to Bebe, deciding that she deserves it more than him.


Video Example(s):


Life on the Fast Lane

Homer buys Marge a bowling ball for her birthday...despite the fact that she doesn't bowl, the ball has Homer's name written on it, and was drilled with his fingers in mind...

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