Top 5 Gift Etiquette Tips for Gracious Giving

Top 5 Gift Etiquette Tips for Gracious Giving

You know the holiday shopping season is in full swing when the Salvation Army’s ringing bell and red bucket greet you at every store. Family, friends, neighbors, service providers, charities, and colleagues fill your ever-expanding gift list. Selecting the perfect gift for every person on your list can be exhausting, especially when dealing with a packed schedule and limited resources. Simple gifts seem to be out, as shoppers plan to spend $983 on holiday gifts this season according to the American Research Group. The joyous act of giving has become an expensive, stressful, and sometimes unpleasant process—sound familiar?

Perhaps it is time to rethink how we approach giving.

Why do we give? Ideally, we give to honor people. While physical gifts are what many envision when thinking about giving, they are not the only way to show you value people. People feel appreciated in a variety of ways. Do not assume that other people will enjoy what you would, or that everyone loves physical gifts. Instead, consider what makes others feel valued.

For some, the gift of quality time is preferred over any “thing’” they tuck away. Those who value time desire your undivided attention, and might enjoy lunch with you at a local restaurant or a simple coffee date. Other people are honored by acts of service. They feel valued when you find ways to help, such as running an errand, cleaning, babysitting, or assisting with a project. For others, words of affirmation mean the world. They would treasure a written expression of your appreciation for years to come.

To keep the goal of honoring the receiver in mind, here are our top 5 gift-giving etiquette tips to make your holiday list a hit.

1. Regifting

Have you ever received a gift that you did not intend to use? Clothes nowhere near your size or style? A duplicate book or coffee maker? A bottle of wine, but you do not drink? If you find yourself in this situation, it is acceptable to regift if you proceed with caution.

The goal of regifting is to honor the feelings of both the original giver and the new recipient. Make sure you regift in a different social circle so the original giver and new recipient are unlikely to know each other. Only regift brand-new items that are unopened, in perfect condition, not personalized, and label free. The regift must match the new recipient’s taste and be something that you would have purchased for them. When in doubt, don’t! Instead, consider donating items that could help others.

2. Matching Price Point

If your friend gives you an expensive gift, are you obligated to reciprocate with a gift of equal monetary value? Absolutely not. Gift selections should be based on your relationship with the recipient and your budget—not theirs. Trying to purchase gifts outside your budget is guaranteed to create stress. To reduce this pressure, be sure to set a gift budget before you begin shopping.

Genuinely thank your friend for the generous gift and follow-up with a handwritten note of appreciation. Instead of trying to match your friend dollar for dollar, focus on finding a gift that is truly meaningful to them, which may not be a physical item. Would they appreciate lunch with you at their favorite restaurant or a kid-free date night with their spouse? Think outside the box!

3. Tit for Tat

If someone gives you a gift, are you obligated to give them a gift in return? No. Gift giving is an opportunity to honor others, not an obligation. We have all felt pressure to buy people gifts, but we do not give to get. Instead, we give to genuinely celebrate relationships. If you receive a gift and do not have a gift in return, sincerely thank the giver and avoid apologizing. Always send a heart-felt, handwritten thank you note.

4. Changing Dynamics

Gift-giving traditions evolve over time. For example, you may have always exchanged presents with your college roommates, and were thrilled to add baby toys to their Christmas packages when they started having kids. As their families expand, it may become difficult to keep pace and buy presents for everyone and their children. Just because you have always purchased elaborate gifts for every friend or family member, does not mean that you must (or can!) always continue to do so.

What do you do? It is best to have an honest conversation about changing the tradition in advance of the holidays. Consider saying something like, “I know we have always done _____. Our family has grown, finances are tight, and purchasing gifts for every person has become a challenge. Can we all agree to make a change moving forward?” Look for creative ways to celebrate. What if you only purchased gifts for the children? How about drawing names for Secret Santa or setting dollar limits on gifts? What if you traded services or enjoyed a simple get-together instead of a gift exchange? Be honest and keep the goal of honoring your cherished relationships at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

5. Gifts at the Office

The politics of gift-giving at the office can get complicated quickly. Before you begin playing Santa at work, consider these tips.

  • Consider corporate culture and guidelines. If you are new, ask around to determine whether exchanging gifts is encouraged at your office. Your colleagues can fill you in on the types of gifts and dollar amounts that are acceptable. Some companies also have gift policies concerning what, if any, gifts employees may receive.
  • Use good judgment when selecting gifts for the office. Do not give gag gifts, alcohol, religious or political items, or personal items including perfume, cologne, skin care, and lingerie (it happens!). Instead, consider delicious snacks, coffee, gift certificates, event tickets, or items that can be used at work (think upscale journals, pens, and USB drives).
  • You are not expected to give your boss a gift. Gifts in the office should generally flow downward not upward. Giving your boss a lavish gift can look like you are trying to win favor. If you are determined to get your boss a gift, consider joining forces with your colleagues to buy something reasonable. If you are the boss, giving equal gifts to your direct reports is a great way to acknowledge their commitment to your company.
  • Colleagues should agree on how to handle the holidays. Consider drawing names for a gift exchange and setting price limits to keep costs low and fun high! If you choose to give your closest colleagues special holiday gifts, do so away from the office to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.
  • Honor your assistant with a gift at the holidays. Your assistant works hard for you all year. Show your gratitude with a holiday gift, but be sure to consider what your assistant values. I once had an assistant that cherished a Christmas lunch with each person she worked with, as it was often one of the only times we got to share a meal due to crazy schedules! Again, be sure to ask around to make sure your gift is in line with what others are doing.
  • Always say thank you! Do not miss the critical opportunity to thank all your colleagues, and never underestimate the power of a handwritten note. If you receive a gift at work, send a thank you note.

Gift-giving during the holidays is just one way we demonstrate that we care about others. Make the effort to consider what the special people in your life would appreciate receiving, and be a thoughtful, generous giver this holiday season.

How do you want to be remembered?™

Do you need assistance with these or other etiquette skills? We are here to help. Contact Us to find out how Final Touch can support you and your family.

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  1. This is so helpful! Great tips and insight on how to handle difficult situations. Thank you

  2. I agree with Terry…this is very beneficial information, Thank you for sharing!

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