2016 Holiday Gift-Giving Etiquette

11/17/2016 10:26 am ET Updated Jan 13, 2017
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Gift giving is more than a physical exchange of objects but nonverbal communication to the recipient of the gift. Finding that “perfect” gift can be frustrating especially during the holiday season . Before dashing out to the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales, review these ten tips of gift giving etiquette to master holiday gifting.

1. Set a Budget First, stay within your household budget. Gift giving is a blessing, not an obligation. Avoid overspending. January bills are unforgiving!

2. Follow Gift-Giving Policies Research the policies of the college, school, office and organization. Be cautious about giving your professor or boss a gift—even if your university or office doesn't specifically forbid the practice because it could send the wrong message. Consider gift pools for charity.

3. Annually Review Your Gift List How has your relationship grown and evolved? Have you kept in touch via phone, email, or seen each other in person? Did you buy him or her a birthday gift? If the answers these are no, evaluate the need for a gift. You want to avoid having a friend feel truly forgotten and sending a timely personalized holiday card will prevents hurt feelings.

4. Include Gift Receipts Whether it is the holidays, or all year-long, including the gift receipt with every gift is an etiquette best-practice! If the recipient needs to exchange it because it's the wrong size, color, or texture, why make it difficult? Avoid the awkwardness of them coming to you and asking for the receipt.

5. Avoid Matched Spending Stay within your budget and let thoughtfulness drive your gift buying - when buying is driven more by pressure than thoughtfulness, it loses its meaning. When folks buy flamboyantly, hopefully they do so because they wish to, not because they expect anything in return. Most flamboyant gift buyers have everything they could wish for, so there's nothing luxurious that you can buy them that they can't buy for themselves. It's better to plan a thoughtful, sentimental gift without a hefty price tag.

6. Couple Gifts Once a family member or friend is in a serious relationship, gift giving may segue from individual gifts to couple gifts. For example, buy them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant, and including a thoughtful note that shows your gracious holiday spirit. If they are engaged or newlyweds, check their registry for a treasure trove of ideas.

7. Avoid Asking “What do you want?” It’s best to ask unless it's a family member or close friend, asking what they want may make them feel obligated to get you something in return. If you're stuck, consider their hobbies or the place they're at in their lives. The gift should acknowledge those things. f they workout every day, exercise gear is probably a safe choice. Or, if they've just moved into a new apartment, go for a housewarming gift. If the gift doesn't suit them, they'll always have the gift receipt!.

8. Genuine Response to Surprise Gifts If you receive an unexpected gift, be authentic in your response. Share that you are “surprised, and maybe slightly embarrassed that you don't have a gift ready for them.” It’s awkward to race to the gift closet and spring a last-minute gift on them. You may wish to send a thank you note with a small gift wishing them all the best in 2017.

9. Regift Immediately According to an American Express 2015 survey, 76% of U.S. Americans believe re-gifting is socially appropriate. If planning to do so, be sure to regift in different social and family circles. Also, remove all traces of the original giving, including handwritten notes and cards.

10. Holiday Tip With loyal, long term service providers, consider a holiday gratuity or tip. Visit our blog Access to Culture for this year’s Holiday Tipping Guide and printable checklist if you choose to express gratitude with a ‘gratuity’.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

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