The unwritten rules of gift-giving
The holiday season is full of tough questions. What to wear to the office Christmas party, whether to go in for seconds (or thirds) of ham, how long leftover seafood keeps for (don’t push it), whether pudding is an acceptable Boxing Day breakfast (it is). But the toughest dilemmas of all have to do with exchanging gifts.
If you’re feeling a bit nervous about gift shopping, you’re not alone. A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that spending more time and money on presents doesn’t lead to more happiness or satisfactioni. Receiving a particularly nice gift results in even less happiness, potentially because of the pressure to reciprocate. So you can stop stressing about not showing someone how much you care about and value them; even science says that spending time together and enjoying good food are far better for that.
That said, chances are that you’ll still want to spoil at least a few of your nearest and dearest. To avoid a stressful experience, just follow a few unwritten rules of gift-giving.
‘Tis just as good to give as to receive
Ever receive a gift from someone and feel awkward because you’ve got nothing to give back? Aside from planning your shopping list ahead of time, the easiest thing to do is to have small generic gifts ready to go. If that friendly neighbour with the baking habit pops by with a bag of homemade biscuits, you’ll have something to hand them in return.
If this doesn’t work for you, think about other ways you could give back to the person who gives you an unexpected gift. A lot of the time, they’re looking for a happy response – they want to know they’ve made a difference. If someone pops by with an unexpected gift, invite them in for a cuppa. If you receive something from a distant family member, tell others (in front of the gifter) why you love it, or even give them a shout-out on social media so their network can see how thoughtful and generous they are.
Stick to your (budgeting) guns
When it comes to giving within your family or friendship groups, try to agree on a budget. The average spend is around $65ii, but you don’t have to go up to that. Plenty of stores offer gifts specifically under certain budgets, like under $20 or under $50. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like setting a dollar value, agree on a rule that subverts the price of the gift. For example, you could agree to all purchase gifts from small local designers and artisans. Or, if you’re feeling creative, go handmade.
Failing that, there’s no harm in shopping for a bargain. If you suspect someone will go overboard on your gift, shop for theirs at an outlet or online sale. Just make sure the price tags are all gone!
Be subtle about regifting
Regifting is fairly common practice these days. It’s borne out of a desire to avoid waste whilst avoiding hurting people’s feelings. If you must regift, it’s a good idea to follow a couple of rules to avoid being detected.
Always rewrap the item – crinkled wrapping paper is a clear giveaway. You also want to ensure you don’t regift it to anyone within two degrees of separation from the person who gave it to you (think family member of the friend that gave you the gift, or a co-worker of a family member). To avoid this, tag it with a post-it note identifying the person who gave it to you.
Keep it classy
This is a classic bit of etiquette: it’s a fantastic idea to get someone a practical and useful gift, but make sure it’s not insulting. In other words, don’t get them anything that suggests they smell, can’t cook, are no good at cleaning, or need to get some exercise! If you’re in doubt, ask for a second opinion.
We wish you best of luck with your Christmas gift-giving – and of course, season’s greetings!