Gift-giving etiquette

Organize your gift-giving efforts to avoid stepping on toes.
SHNS illustration by Hollie Sehrt and Cindy Rodriguez
Story by Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore
(getbuttonedup.com/SHNS)
Mon, Dec 19, 2011
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The holidays bring about their own set of challenges when it comes to gift-giving etiquette. There are many things to consider when getting or giving gifts. While the overall sentiment of thoughtfulness is a wonderful guide, it might be a little too vague to be truly useful. To help you organize your gift-giving efforts this year, we’ve put together five tips to help you navigate it without stepping on any toes.

1. Just say “thank you.” Have you ever received a gift from someone that you did not buy a gift for? Avoid the urge to fall all over yourself apologizing for the fact that you don’t have anything for them and simply say a heartfelt “thank you.” There is no rule that you have to buy a gift for everyone. Another way to avoid the guilt: Make a few batches of cookies and put them in small decorative tins that you can give as impromptu gifts.

2. Wrap well. Wrapping a gift well doesn’t take any longer than wrapping one sloppily. And a well-wrapped gift sends the message that you put thought and effort into picking out something special just for them. If you’re challenged in this department, get a few boxes made out of recycled paper and invest in some brightly colored ribbon. “Wrap” the gift by tying the ribbon only. If you have kids (and, therefore, the 10 tons of artwork that come home with them), use their canvases to wrap gifts for family members.

3. Only re-gift if you can do it with meaning. We all have one or two items cluttering up our spaces that would be perfect for someone else. Re-gifting is a wonderful way to finally put that gift in the right hands. But tread carefully. The last thing you want to do is make the gift someone else’s clutter problem. Be clear that the person on the receiving end would actually use it. And, of course, you need to be sure you’re not re-gifting an item back to the person who originally gave it to you. If you can’t remember who gave you an item, it’s better to take it to Goodwill than to risk giving it back to the giver.

4. Avoid gag gifts. Period. This rule especially holds true at work. The danger lies in the fact that the joke may be missed -- or, worse, misinterpreted. Instead, go with gifts that are personalized in a positive way. Worry less about finding the “perfect” gift; if you think they will like it, chances are they will.

5. If you’re stumped, ask for a hint. If you have absolutely no idea what to give someone, rather than giving a generic gift card or gift, ask what’s on their wish list this year. If everything on their list is over your price limit, you can always get them a gift card to the store where they can get it for a dollar amount that is within your range.

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