Let’s all be honest, the process of gift giving is hard. Yes, seeing a person’s face light up when you get them the perfect gift is wonderful. However, the holiday season is a virtual minefield of social expectations and poor judgment. Who are you obliged to give a gift to? What do you do when someone gives you a gift and you didn’t get them anything? Will getting your wife a vacuum cleaner land you in the dog house?
The first thing you should do is give up trying to match the monetary value of the gifts you receive. Unless you have agreed upon a limit (which can be very helpful), there is virtually no way of making sure the gifts you give cost the same as the gifts you receive. What if you buy a gift on sale? Should you be considering the sale price or the retail price? It is best to throw out the equal value rule and avoid these questions altogether.
Another land mine is the passive aggressive gift. Does a gym membership imply that you need to lose weight? The short answer is yes. The long answer is that, as the recipient, you must assume the best intentions. When choosing a gift, be aware of the alternate messages it might send. Yes, you can buy your wife a vacuum, but you have to be 100% sure it will be received well. It’s best to also get her a more romantic present, just to cover your bases.
No one likes fruit cake. If the best thing you can think of is socks and a tie, you are better off just giving them a gift card. You won’t be winning “best gift of the year” but at least you won’t be remembered for the worst gift.
Surprisingly, people are okay with regifting. A nationwide survey conducted by American Express found that 58% of people think regifting is okay sometimes. That number rises to 79% during the holiday season. So it is okay to pay it forward, just try not to give the gift back to the same person who gave it to you.
If someone gets you a gift when you don’t have anything to give back, just say thank you and be appreciative. Generally, people are giving gifts out of the sheer joy of it, not because they are trying to accrue presents for their selves. It might be a good idea to have some generic gifts in the bag, just in case.
The workplace is a nightmare for the uncertain gift giver. You don’t have to go bankrupt trying to buy presents for your entire department. A secret Santa gift exchange will do wonders in this situation. Just try and make sure everyone is on the same page for the decorum expected. That way, no one gets left out in the cold.
As an employer, however, you are expected to get something for your loyal staff. Christmas bonuses are the most preferable. The key is to let everyone know that they are appreciated. This is more about company moral than a personal satisfaction of giving, although the latter can be possible. Try not to be too generic. Avoid anything with smells, such as scented candles. Be aware of any food allergies. That being said, you don’t have to spend your December tracking down unique gifts for every individual. It’s the thought that counts.
The New York Times, A Gift That Gives Right Back? The Giving Itself: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/11/health/11well.html?_r=0
CNN Money, Holiday Gift-Giving at Work: http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/12/06/holiday-gifts-etiquette-work/?section=magazines_fortune
Organized Christmas, The Unwritten Rules of Gift-Giving: http://christmas.organizedhome.com/gifts-and-giving/understand-unwritten-rules-gift-giving
The Wall Street Journal, The Science Behind Gifting: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324020804578151873737238966.html
MSN Money, 8 Gifts Not To Give This Holiday: http://money.msn.com/shopping-deals/8-gifts-not-to-give-this-holiday
Dumb Little Man, How to Give Great Gifts: http://www.dumblittleman.com/2008/12/how-to-give-great-gifts.html
CBS News, 9 More Holiday Gift Ideas to Give and Receive: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505146_162-57556931/9-more-holiday-gift-ideas-to-give-and-receive/
Squidoo, Hottest Christmas Gifts 2012: http://www.squidoo.com/hottest-christmas-gifts-2011
Kidspot, Top 20 Toys for Christmas 2012: http://www.kidspot.com.au/Christmas/Christmas-gifts-Christmas-gift-guides-Top-20-toys-for-Christmas-2012+7140+660+article.htm
The Date Report, 4 Simple Rules for Avoiding Holiday Gift-Giving Awkwardness: http://www.howaboutwe.com/date-report/4-simple-rules-for-navigating-holiday-gift-giving-awkwardness/#
Spicie, Keeping Holiday Gift Giving in Perspective: http://spicie.com/uncategorized/keeping-holiday-gift-giving-in-perspective/