With the approaching gift-giving season, I often get asked how a person should approach the process of deciding who to give to and what to give.
The most important consideration in deciding the who and the what is first to determine just how much you can afford to give this year. The answer should not include borrowing or credit card debt in order to give gifts to family, friends, colleagues, or those who provide service throughout the year. With that caveat in mind, each person has to decide for him or herself just how much they can afford to set aside for gifts.
Next, make a list of the people you to whom you want to give gifts. If the list gets too big, you may have to prioritize. Then slice up your gift-giving budget among those people. Now you have a place to start, whether you shop online or in bricks and mortar stores.
What to give? I like trying to think about what interests the person has and what gift I can find that reflects those interests. Gift cards are another perfectly acceptable way to go. I like them because even if you haven’t found a specific gift, you have directed your gift giving to a particular interest of the recipient. Cash, while not at all personal, is almost always appreciated by service providers and nieces and nephews alike.
You may find yourself in a tight budget situation. In that case consider a gift that includes some effort on your part but which may go a long way in allowing you to give a gift while staying within your budget. It may be something you make yourself that is a gift of your time and talent: a food item like cookies you bake, something you’ve grown in your garden that you’ve preserved, a gift certificate of your time to baby sit a niece, nephew, or friend’s child. As long as you think it is something the recipient would enjoy or appreciate, a homemade gift or a gift of your time has value and meaning.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."