Each year at this time The Emily Post Institute receives interview requests about holiday related subjects. Typically, there’s always one issue which dominates more than others. One year we were inundated with requests about regifting; another it was about office parties. This year the focus is on what’s an appropriate amount to spend on a holiday gift and what to do if you have a limited budget.
The issue of an appropriate amount to spend really isn’t an etiquette question except when it involves spending too much. Then it can become an issue of the gift making the giftee uncomfortable and that is the antithesis of what gift giving should be. The reason the value of the gift isn’t an etiquette question is because each person’s circumstances are different. What person A can afford, person B simply can’t without racking up debt. Each person should set a budget, figure out how much they can afford to spend on each person on their list, and then find the nicest, best, most thoughtful gift possible without overspending. Homemade gifts can keep you on budget: food items are always well received but so, too, a scarf you knit or a watercolor you paint.
Regardless of the gift, and frankly even if you can’t give a gift at all, express your sentiments to the person with a card or note. Use it to express your thanks and appreciation to that person for being in your life and wish them the very best in the year to come. After all, that expression of thanks and appreciation is what the holiday season is really all about.
In that spirit, I extend a sincere thank you to all of you who take the time to read this blog. I really appreciate your comments (even when you don’t agree with me), your interest in etiquette, and the importance of building positive relationships. Have a happy and safe holiday, and I wish you all the best in the new year!
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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."