Like weddings and job interviews, holiday gift-giving can feel like an etiquette minefield. Fortunately for you, we’ve got a map.
Talk it out.
There’s nothing wrong with being forthright about what you can—and can’t—afford this year. If you’re trying to stick to a budget or to keep things simple this holiday season, be open with loved ones. Let friends and family know what your goals are ahead of time, and explain that you’d prefer not to exchange gifts this year, or to stick to a certain amount per person. If you receive presents anyway, accept them graciously and know that they bought you something because they wanted to, not because they expect something in return.
Get the lay of the land.
Step one is to figure out who your recipients are. Just because you’ve exchanged gifts with someone previously doesn’t mean you have to do it again. Does your office culture include buying presents for bosses or coworkers? Figure that out on the front end.
Re-gifts get re-wrapped.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with re-gifting as long as you do it right. Remove all tags and paper from that pint glass, poster, or desk ornament, and fix it up your way. (The personal touch makes it extra-convincing.) But whatever you do, avoid re-gifting within your family: The potential for getting found out is just too great.
Start a stash of little somethings.
‘Tis the season for last-minute party invitations, not to mention thank-you gifts for mail carriers, teachers, and doormen. Stock up now on small boxes of chocolate and $5 gift cards for coffee or snacks and you’ll never go empty-handed again.
Thoughtful presentation goes a long way.
A $9.99 bouquet of grocery-store flowers can look like a boutique masterpiece with a few minutes of careful arrangement and accessorizing. For an elegant but homespun touch, wrap gifts in plain brown paper and top each with a hand-tied yarn or twine bow.
Don’t take it personally.
Everyone is stressed this season, and everyone is doing the best they can. If someone left you off their gift list or re-gifted something you picked out, take a deep breath and let it go.
Set a good example.
Expressions of good manners and gratitude can easily get lost in the holiday bustle of goodies and goods, but now’s a great time to model gratitude and politeness for the little ones around you. Let your kids pick out a present for their favorite teacher or babysitter, and have them write a heartfelt note to go along with it.
Stick to established limits.
Just because you can afford to drop twice the amount of cash on your office Secret Santa doesn’t mean you should. Those limits are in place for a reason. While you may think you’re being generous, your recipient may end up feeling indebted—and maybe even a little resentful.
“An owl-shaped backpack? My goodness. How did you know?!?!” You don’t have to like what someone else has given you, but keep in mind that they went to the trouble to do it. Smile now; you can laugh about it later.
Write thank-you notes.
Here’s an easy formula: “Dear [giver], thank you so, so much for the [thing]. I can’t wait to [enjoy it/use it/wear it/eat it] at [occasion/date/holiday]. [Generic sentence about hoping to see them soon]. Warmly, [your name].” There. You’re welcome.
Holiday gift-giving putting a strain on your wallet? Think outside the gift card with these 7 creative (and affordable) gift ideas.