Holiday Gift-Giving Etiquette

Holiday Gift-Giving Etiquette

The holidays are the most festive time of the year, during which time-honored traditions are played out and enjoyed by all generations. Gift-giving is part of many traditions and a general custom when attending holiday parties and open houses. Read on for some gift-giving tips from Peggy Post, today’s leading authority on etiquette and the author of dozens of books. As 1-800-FLOWERS.COM’s etiquette expert, Peggy offers gift-giving tips that will help you revel in the joy of giving.  

Top Five Things About Giving Holiday Gifts At the Office

Giving gifts in the workplace is a thoughtful way of letting colleagues and clients know that the business relationship you share is important to you. But gift-giving has its risks as well. If a present is chosen that is in the incorrect price range or is too personal, even the best intentions can backfire. Following these suggestions will take the stress out of gift-giving in the workplace and help enhance the joy of the season!  

  1. Give your supervisor a joint gift with several co-workers or a simple holiday card.
  2. It is OK to give gifts and cards to people who do not celebrate the season or holiday the same way you do. Stick to general sayings such as “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”
  3. Unexpected gifts do not have to be reciprocated. All that’s required is a warm “Thank you!”
  4. If you are unsure of what to get for a colleague, a gift certificate is an acceptable choice. Just make sure it’s from a store that he or she enjoys.
  • If your office continues the tradition of individual gifts instead of a holiday grab bag, make sure to give gifts to selected individuals in private so that no one’s feelings are hurt. Also, do not make gifts too personal, and do not buy something that’s inappropriately expensive.

Top Five Etiquette Tips for Hassle-Free Gift-Giving

Don’t stress about all those gifts you have to buy. Follow Peggy Post’s plan for giving gifts without succumbing to the typical holiday anxiety.

  1. Get their wish list. Ask people for hints or even a wish list. Gather ideas during the year, and write everything down.
  2. Trust your judgment. Forget about being afraid the gift isn’t perfect. If you think the person will like it, chances are they will.
  3. Stick to your budget. Spending more than you should takes the fun out of gift-giving. There’s nothing more nerve-racking than overspending—and feeling uneasy about it.
  4. Buy it when you see it. If you’re shopping in July and see a sweater that your mother would love, buy it. It probably will not be available when you look for it again in December.
  5. Start a gift closet. Stash a few gifts that will work in a pinch: copies of your favorite cookbook, a good bottle of wine, or boxes of beautiful note cards. That way you will be ready if you need a gift on the spot.

Avoid These Gift-Giving Pitfalls


Is it OK for me to re-gift? Re-gifting should be done only rarely, and under specific criteria:

  • You are certain the gift is something the recipient would enjoy.
  • The gift is brand-new (no cast-offs allowed) and comes with its original box and instructions.
  • The gift isn’t handmade, or one that the original giver took great care to select.

Simply put, you have to make sure you don’t hurt feelings—neither those of the original giver nor the recipient. Would your cousin mind if you passed those glasses along? Would it be awkward if the giver and recipient realized what was happening? Only you can decide whether to re-gift—and how to do so appropriately. Think through each situation carefully: If you’re in doubt, don’t do it. You can always pass along the holiday spirit by donating the gift to a nonprofit organization or shelter.  

The Same Old Same Old

Your brother-in-law is a golfer, so you give him golf balls every year. Your Aunt Susan collects green Depression glass, and you know exactly which flea market to go to each fall to pick up a piece. This year, think outside the box and mix it up. It’s likely your brother-in-law is happy to get more golf balls, but he’d probably be thrilled with something a little more thoughtful this year, like a holiday gift basket or holiday decorations. Take the time to find out what the people you care about are interested in or would truly like.  

Inappropriate gifts

Don’t send your great grandmother an off-color comedy movie (unless she’s a huge fan). Don’t give gifts that people can misconstrue, such as a weight loss book to a sister who is on the heavy side. And don’t give gifts that are obviously second-rate: sweaters with hanging threads or kitchen gadgets in banged-up boxes.  

Who Do I Tip? And How Much?

The holiday season is the traditional time to say “Thank you” and “I appreciate the work you do” to those who have provided service to you throughout the year. Every situation is different, so let common sense, specific circumstances, and the holiday spirit be your guides. The tip amounts in this chart are merely guidelines. Don’t forget that one of the best ways to express your appreciation is a handwritten note, which should accompany any holiday tip.

Au pairA gift from your family (or one-week’s pay), plus a small   gift from your child
Babysitter, regularOne evening’s pay, plus a small gift from your child
BarberCost of one haircut, and/or a gift
Beauty salon staff$10 to $60 each, giving most to those who do the most for   you, and/or a gift
Child’s teacherCheck your school’s policy first. Give a gift, not cash.   Possibilities: gift certificate for a coffee shop, book store, or restaurant;   book, picture frame, fruit basket or gourmet food item; or a joint gift with   other parents and their children
Day care providers$25 to $70 each, plus a small gift from your child. If   there are only one or two providers, consider the higher range.
Dog walkerOne week’s pay and/or a gift
Fitness trainer, personalCost of one session
Garage attendants$10 to $30 each
Housekeeper/cleanerOne day’s pay
Mail carriersU.S.  government regulations permit carriers to accept gifts worth up to $20 each,   not cash
Massage therapistOne session’s fee, and/or a gift
NannyOne week’s to one month’s salary based on tenure and   customs in your area, plus a small gift from your child
Newspaper deliverer$10 to $30
Nurse, privateA gift, not cash
Nursing home employeesA gift, not cash
Package delivererSmall gift if you receive deliveries regularly; most   delivery companies prohibit cash gifts
Personal caregiverOne week’s salary, plus a small gift
Pet GroomerOne session’s fee, and/or a small gift
Pool cleanerCost of one cleaning

Residential   building personnel:

Superintendent$25 to $100
Doorman$10 to $80
Elevator operator$15 to $40
Handyman$15 to $40
Trash/recycling collectors$10 to $30 each (for private service); for municipal   service, check local regulations
Yard and garden worker$20 to $50
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