Gift giving can turn a happy holiday into the most stressful time of the year. From new relationships to old relatives, our experts show you how to choose meaningful and appropriate gifts without straining your budget too badly. Learn how to get creative with Christmas this year and stay organized during your holiday shopping so you never panic over presents again. Plus see what happens when Reel Girl Lori took the advice of...
Expert: Belisa Vranich
Gifting: Your new-ish boyfriend
If you’re in the early stages of a courtship it’s completely understandable to be a little freaked out by notion of exchanging holiday gifts. Labeling a relationship is always hard to do and there’s a lot that can be read into the present that’s exchanged. How do you show affection without going overboard, both in what you buy and how much is spent? And do you opt for the romantic item versus the more practical one?
Avoid over (or under) assuming, by just asking him if there’s something particular he wants or needs? This tells him that you’re giving some thought to this and his answer may even indicate what he’s planning to get you. Steer clear of anything too personal, especially if you aren’t sure about where you both stand (the framed couples photo can hold till Valentine’s Day).
When in doubt, do some investigative work to find an item he loves and is almost out of—like his favorite scotch or bottle of cologne. Or put together a shared experience that you can enjoy together, like rock climbing lessons. Finally remember not to read too much into the gift you get. Guys, in general, don’t excel in this area. A lame electronic gadget does not mean he’s about to kick you to the curb.
Expert: Lauren Ing
Gifting: The extended family
Handing out lavish gifts to a large family can be completely cost prohibitive. But getting without giving is sure to make things less-than-marry at home. Start with your immediate family. Emphasize that this year you’d prefer to focus on other aspects of the holiday, like enjoying time together, and suggesting alternatives to what you’ve traditionally done. Maybe all of the gifts have to be handmade or experiential (like an offer to babysit on a Saturday night), or simply set a price cap.
Then decide who you’ll be buying for (everyone? a few select people?). There’s no right or wrong way to do this—it just needs to feel right to those involved. Email close relatives to let them know the plan and (politely) suggest they do the same. The value is in the expression of love you show, not the dollar amount.
Remember you can’t control other’s actions. If even after setting parameters a relative still opts to get you something, don’t make excuses for why you don’t have anything for them in return. They did it because they love you, not because they expected something in return. Thank them graciously and move on. Another big complaint I hear a lot: grandparents who go overboard with presents. In those situations, express your gratitude, and later donate the extra toys to a family in need.
Expert: Nicole Williams
This can be a tough situation. Begin by separating your list into three categories: boss, assistant, and peers. Know that those higher-up don’t want to receive anything extravagant‹if at all. They know what you net and would feel awkward if you’d spent your hard-earned cash on them (not to mention the one-upmanship that would occur between coworkers). A holiday card or something inexpensive and work-appropriate is enough. I once got my boss a coffee mug with an image of the book I written on it. If you consider the boss a friend, you can absolutely give them something fancier, but do it privately out of sight of others.
The opposite is true for people who work under you: This is an opportunity to say thanks for all they do throughout the year. Make it something they can really use, like a gift card for a spa service or to a restaurant you know they love. Making (or buying) in a gourmet treat for the entire staff is another considerate way to show you care. As for your colleagues, in lieu of goodies suggest everyone goes out to after-work drinks, dinner, or a comedy show. And do remember others this time of the year. Nix the secret santa to collect donations for a charity you all support.