Gift Giving Etiquette to Bring Cheer to the Holiday Season

Present from secret santa on workplace. Office celebration concept, copy space

Gift-giving can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful. No one wants to make the faux pa of giving an insensitive, unwanted or lame gift to a friend or loved one. However, trying to find a gift within a budget, sending a positive message, and providing usefulness to the recipient can be like finding a needle in the haystack. Worse so, those dreaded “secret Santa” gifts with an unknown recipient — how on Earth do you shop for an unknown person with unknown interests?


Thankfully, I have some strategic planning ideas to help you in your search for the perfect holiday gift this season. 


#1: It’s not a gift for you


One of the greatest mistakes you can make is picking out a gift you would like. The gift is not for you. I don’t mean to say you can’t or shouldn’t like the gift — rather, your opinion of the gift is basically irrelevant. 


The gift should take into account the person who will be receiving — and hopefully enjoying — the gift. Consider them as a person. Do they have a particular interest or hobby that you know of? How can their daily life be made more enjoyable through an item you can gift? Is there an inside joke that has a special meaning you can use to bring a smile to their face during the stressful holiday season? 


#2: Pay attention


The clues are there if you look for them. 


Your husband may have recently mentioned an interest in joining a golf club. Your wife may have recently noted her need for a new robe as hers in quite literally a faded and sad mess. A friend may have recently found an interest in comic books. Whatever the case may be, a little careful thought is all that is needed to come up with quite a few ideas to widdle down to a perfect gift idea.


Gifts for less-than-close recipients can be harder to shop for, but a little intentional awareness can give some great clues. Perhaps you are doing an office gift exchange and your recipient is not someone you know particularly well. Try to glance over at his or her desk. Is there anything missing that would be helpful to him or her — maybe you can see he or she really enjoys a particular sport, color, hobby, etc. 


#3: Send the right message


One dangerous pitfall of gift-giving can be to unintentionally send the wrong message. Maybe you think you’re friend could use some new skincare products — sounds like a nice, thoughtful gift for a woman — but a woman that is self-conscious about aging issues may look into the gift as a nod to those unwanted fine lines. 


Again, this really goes back to tip numbers 1 and 2. Paying attention and being thoughtful to your friend’s opinions and needs will serve you well this holiday season. 


#4: Consider its shelf life


Gifts can either have a short or long shelf life. 


A short shelf life gift may be a consumable gift such as food or beverage, or something that will quickly run out.


A long shelf life gift can be used for days, months, even years. 


Neither gift option is right or wrong — it’s really about your relationship to the person, the message you want to send, and what you think is most appropriate and useful. It is my opinion, long shelf life gifts, especially those with sentimental value or memories, are best for close relationships. For an acquaintance or a friend you aren’t very close with, a short shelf life gift such as a bottle of wine or cheese basket can be more appropriate.


#5: It’s the thought that counts


It’s important to remember, budget is not a constraint. If finances are tight, consider a DIY or lower-cost sentimental gift to show care. The measure of a gift is not in it’s monetary value — rather, it’s value is measured by its likeability, usefulness and thoughtfulness. 


In fact, gifts of high monetary value can blow up in your face in certain situations. Consider this, if you gave a friend a very nice watch, for example, as a gift and his gift to you in a moderately priced bottle of wine there is an imbalance, causing an awkward exchange. 


In the case you are giving a high-value item: First, expect nothing in return, to avoid disappointment and embarrassment; Second, consider including a card or message with an explanation of why you felt compelled (give thanks, appreciation, etc.) to give such an extravagant gift. 


Lastly, gifts can also be your time, which is free. Instead of a toy for the kids, give them a voucher for one afternoon trip to the park and ice cream with dad, alone and without interruptions. Those special memories are gifts for you both.


There you have it, folks. Now it’s up to you to use these tips to shop for the right item for your friends and loved ones. Best of luck and happy holidays!

About the Author: Lauren Guerra is the Chief Operating Officer and Editor-in-Chief of SHALE Magazine. For editorial inquiries, please email [email protected].


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here