Take the Stress Out of Holiday Gifting with Some Gift-Giving Tips


Another year, another holiday season and another yearly arrival of your aunt’s hand-crocheted Christmas gifts. Do you tell her that, after all these years, you finally have enough knitted caps? Do you send her a thank you card? And what about returning the favor? Do you have to send each and every one of her kids a gift, or does a single present cover the whole fam?

To answer all those awkward questions, and to take the stress out of holiday shopping, we spoke with Maria Everding of The Etiquette Institute. Just remember to send her a thank-you card for all the sweet, gift-giving advice.

Receiving Gifts

One of my relatives gives me the same gift every year, and it’s not something I actually enjoy. How can I bring that up? “You shouldn’t bring it up. If asked, then that’s a different story.”

My Aunt gave me an ugly Christmas sweater: Do I need to wear it in front of her? During the following year? At all? “You don’t have to, but it would be nice.”

I have a friend who always gives me really expensive gifts. Do I have to return the favor? “If you’re in the same financial situation, sure. If not, give what you can.”

How can I ask for a receipt if someone didn’t include it with the gift? “You can’t.”

Should I send thank-you cards to everyone who gives me a gift during the holidays? ABSOLUTELY. Especially if you hope to receive a gift next year.

How should I react to a bad gift? “Simply thank the person for his or her thoughtfulness. They’ll know you don’t like the gift, but you’ll show it in a gracious way.”

Don’t give a bad gift this year—gift the Club instead. Send a monthly box of fresh razors for up to 12 months or a DSC e-gift card for your giftee to spend any way they see fit. Tada! You’re officially the best gift giver.

Giving Gifts

What’s an appropriate gift amount for mailmen, doormen and cleaning people? “Generally for cleaning people it’s the same as one day of cleaning. The amount for mailmen and doormen is entirely personal.”

Can I buy a bunch of the same gift to give multiple people? “That’s pretty tacky if they know each other. It says, ‘Here’s a gift. You’re not special, just one of many.’”

If I have a bunch of holiday parties coming up this year, do I need to bring a gift for each and every host? “Absolutely! You’re going to each and every party, aren’t you?”

Is it alright to re-gift a present I received? “Only if you tell the person you’re re-gifting. You can say something like, ‘A friend gave me these gardening gloves, and, as you know, I don’t have a garden, so I thought you might like to have them.’”

If I can’t afford gifts for everyone in a family, should I buy gifts for the kids in the family before the adults? “It depends on your relationship with the family. If you don’t know the children, I would only give to the adults.”

If I’m buying a gift for a couple, should I buy gifts for the wife and husband separately or just a single gift for the couple? “It makes sense to give one gift, but you might have a personal relationship with each person, in which case you should get them separate gifts.”

Is it in bad taste to give an unwrapped gift? “Absolutely! The wrapping is part of the art of gift giving. Anyone can shove a gift in a bag with tissue. The person who puts some thought into it says, ‘I care.’”

If I’m celebrating the holidays with extended family, do I need to get everyone a gift? “Only if you really wanted to.”