Between the dinner preparations and setting up holiday decorations, gift shopping for friends and family can be a challenging project. This holiday season, consider these 8 tips for a thoughtful and successful experience.
  1. Set a Budget With an abundance of holiday spirit, it’s common to want to go overboard when shopping for gifts. Remember to stay within your budget and let thoughtfulness drive your gift buying. When buying is driven more by pressure, it loses its meaning. Don’t think of gift giving as an obligation. To create a visual of how much you’re allotting for each person, make a list with names, gift ideas, and the estimated price tag.
  2. Review Your Gift Recipient List How has your relationship grown and evolved? Have you kept in touch via phone, email, or seen each other in person? Did you buy him or her a birthday gift? If the answers these are no, evaluate the need for a gift. You want to avoid having a friend feel forgotten this holiday season so consider sending a personally chosen holiday card instead.
  3. Include Gift Receipts Whether it’s the holidays, or throughout the year, including the gift receipt with every present is a modern manners best-practice! If the recipient needs to exchange it because it’s the wrong size, color, or texture, why make it difficult? Avoid the awkwardness of them asking you for the receipt.
  4. Holiday Domestic Travels If you’re traveling for the holidays, support your local businesses. For example, in Austin, consider shopping for gifts online at Lammes Candies, Kendra Scott, UT Co-op, or Book People, and shipping directly to your destination or recipient. Not only will you avoid the hassle of carrying extra weight or paying for another checked bag, but your gift will arrive safely and perhaps even before you! At checkout, you can choose the “gift option” for your purchase.
  5. Holiday International Travels Do you have family in another country? Are the holidays taking you overseas? To avoid taking large gifts onboard the plane that may cause a discomfort to other passengers, such as a birthday cake, consider booking your flight a few days earlier than planned to give you enough time to shop in your destination. Or order the cake from a destination bakery like Polka Dots. Shipping gifts to another country comes with a hefty price tag, not to mention the risk of them not arriving on time. Be a smart, international holiday traveler!
  6. Avoid Asking “What gift do you want?” It’s best to not ask unless it’s a family member or close friend; because asking may make them feel obligated to reciprocate. It will also remove the surprise element of your gift. Instead, use their hobbies or pastimes as a good indicator. For instance, if they enjoy playing golf, a golf polo may be a good idea. If it’s for a newly engaged couple, they will appreciate a wedding registry item, housewarming gift, or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
  7. Saying Thanks Were you invited to more than one holiday dinner or event and can’t attend all? Consider sending a nice gift to your friends or neighbors who extended the invitation. You don’t have to send a gift to every single member of the family, in fact sending one gift for the couple or entire family will be greatly appreciated. Examples include baked goods, fruit and sweet trays, board games, and childrens gifts. If your relationship isn’t that close, sending a timely personalized holiday card is a great way to show you’re grateful for the invitation and wish them happy holidays.
  8. Regifting Policy According to an American Express survey, 76% of U.S. Americans believe regifting is socially appropriate. If planning to do so, be sure to re-gift in different social and family circles. Additionally, re-gift items that are unisize or can be used for anyone, such as kitchenware, decor, or scarves. Also, remove all traces of the original gifting, including handwritten notes, cards, and sneaky price tags.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary seriesConfucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Photo Credit: Unsplash, Ben White