O.K., friends, with the season of giving upon us, it is a great time to talk about some gift exchange etiquette and guidance. We all know that the whole holiday gift thing can be super awesome or super awkward depending on the situation and the skills of the giver or recipient. As you give and receive this year, bring more joy and planning to your holiday season by considering these thoughts on holiday gift giving and receiving:
1. Do start with a list. Do a brain dump of everyone that might be on your gift list. Consider doing this on your computer with a program like Evernote or Google Docs so that you can easily refer to it next year (or even refer to it for birthdays, etc.). Don’t forget to include things like “stocking stuffers” and “Santa gifts”. You may want to organize your list by family, friends, coworkers, service providers (e.g. hair stylist), and kids. As you purchase things, write it next to their name so that you can refer to it next year and remember what you gave and to whom. This year, I’m loving the iPhone app The Christmas List.
2. Do create a budget. Once you have your list, set a budget for how much you plan to spend on each person (you can use excel, Google spreadsheets, or an app with a budgeting feature like The Christmas List). This will shape your list and your gift choices – don’t be afraid to trim down your list. Gifts purchased out of guilt or obligation, especially when we are on a budget, leave us financially AND emotionally depleted. Having a clear budget will reduce your stress by making sure you still have enough to take care of your regular monthly expenses. With your budget in mind, next year you can plan to put a little aside each month in a special savings account just for the holidays.
3. Do take some time to really think about what would make someone’s life easier or bring them joy. What do they love? What do they struggle with? What do they talk about but not do for themselves? The holidays are a great time to really LISTEN to people. Make it game to play detective; observe and take notes about the things your friends and family are talking about and admiring.
4. Do think about what YOU love. For gift inspiration, look at your daily routine and find those items or little things in your life that you can’t live without. Think about your favorite coffee, snack, lip gloss, lotion, pen, book, service etc. that you could share with others.
5. Do keep some small gifts on hand for hostess gifts and people on your list that you may have forgotten. Keep a bin of these types of gifts that you can add to all year round. This is a great way to re-gift little things that you won’t use or aren’t your style…just remember who gave them to you first to avoid the embarrassment of giving back what someone gave you! Consider doing a “re-gift swap” with your closest friends as a fun and free way to do some holiday “shopping”.
6. Do put some thought into the presentation. Unwrapped gifts, plastic grocery bags, ratty old used bags (especially the ones that say “To” and “From” someone else) give a message that your gift was a last minute thought. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple brown paper gift bag with a holiday label or sticker and the recipient’s name shows that you put some thought and effort into the gift.
7. Do reduce your stress by simplifying and optimizing your shopping. Having a theme for all your gifts (stress reduction, farm-to-table, fitness) and buying the same thing for multiple people can help you to feel less overwhelmed and reduce decision fatigue as you shop. Batch your shopping errands together and avoid peak shopping/traffic times or avoid the crowds altogether by shopping online.
8. Don’t focus on cost, focus on value. You don’t have to break the bank holiday shopping. Write someone a heart-felt letter about what makes them special. Check out Pinterest for DIY gift ideas. Give the gift of experiences. Gifts given from the heart are the most memorable and appreciated. In fact, being over-extravagant can make people feel uncomfortable if they can’t reciprocate.
9. Don’t call yourself a “bad gift giver”. No one needs to know about your gift-giving insecurities. It’s hard to get excited about getting a gift from someone who is telling you they plan to disappoint you. This gives someone the impression that you don’t care enough to really take the time to think about what you would like.
10. Don’t pump it up too much either. On the other hand, don’t go on and on about how amazing the gift you got someone is. You might be actually be a terrible gift giver or maybe you got them something they already have, so don’t put someone in the position of having to pretend to be as excited as you. Let the gift speak for itself.
11. Don’t tell people what you got them. You’re not five years old. Keep a secret and don’t ruin the surprise because of your lack of self-control. Share your excitement but don’t be an impulsive bean-spiller.
12. Don’t say, “Just tell me what to give you.” It’s really just no fun and puts someone in the uncomfortable position of having to ask for a gift. Awkward.
13. Do savor the moment. Remember everything you were taught as a toddler. Read the card first. Take your time to admire and reflect on the gift before hurriedly moving on to the next. Make eye contact. Say “thank you”. Be present and savor the moment.
14. Do write down what people gave you. This is a nice way to keep track of who you exchange gifts with on a regular basis and will give you the opportunity to write them a thank you card or just express your gratitude for their thoughtfulness. You can add this to your same holiday shopping list so that you can refer to it next year.
15. Do focus on intent, not the gift. Someone thought of you enough to give you something. It doesn’t matter what it is. Before you even open that gift, express your gratitude and appreciation of their thoughtfulness.
16. Don’t say, “I have this already”. Not cool. Even if you have a dozen exactly like whatever it is, keep it to yourself and just say “thank you.”
17. Don’t say, “I didn’t get you something.” This takes the wind out of the moment and puts the attention on you instead of acknowledging the thought and intent of the gift giver. Giving feels good, so don’t take that away from someone when they present you with something by making it about what you did or didn’t do. People don’t typically give because they WANT something in return and saying, “I didn’t get you something” makes you look like the kind of person that is keeping score. A simple, “Thank you so much” is sufficient.
18. Don’t tell someone you are giving them something because they gave you something. If you do decide that you want to reciprocate a gift that was given, don’t say, “Here, I got you this because you got me something and I felt bad.” All the gift giver is going to hear is, “I felt bad” and that was NOT their intent when giving you something.
19. Don’t tell people what you want. Unless you are a kid, presenting people with your Christmas list is pretty tacky. Allow yourself to be surprised and focus on giving instead of receiving. That being said, the holidays are a great time to practice the fine art of subtle hint dropping. Admire things openly, talk about what you love, etc. Kids are great at helping with this (“If anyone asks, this is what mommy really wants for Christmas”).
20. Don’t allow gift exchange angst to taint your holidays. Above all, gift giving and receiving should be FUN and MAGICAL! Don’t be a grinch! Remember that every time we give or receive a gift, it is an opportunity to express gratitude and love and inspire others to do the same.
Wishing you a fun-filled, stress-free, warm and fuzzy season of giving! May your heart and the hearts around you grow three-sizes this year!
Looking to bring more joy, order, productivity, and simplicity your holidays and 2015? Join me this Sunday, December 7th at 1:30pm at Happiness U for my 90-minute Time and Life Optimization class! I’ll be sharing bonus materials for a fun, efficient, and organized holiday season!