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The Art of Gift Giving

Giving is receiving, and with the holidays right around the corner, we gathered the best gifting tips to make sure you are present-perfect this season.

Gifting Faux-Pas

  • First gifts are like first impressions — you don't get a second chance. But choosing the perfect present for that new friend doesn't need to be daunting. Personalizing a gift, such as purchasing a cute helmet and matching gloves for a friend who bikes, shows that you care without being over the top.

    Read more first gift tips.

  • Thank you card etiquette holds that for every person who gives you a present, you should send a note of thanks in return. Whether it’s a small card or gift, thank yous speak volumes and are always appreciated. We know the holidays are especially busy, so try these two note-writing time-savers: 1) Keep a signed stack of cards ready to fill out. 2) Send each note out as soon as you get a gift instead of waiting to do them all at once.

  • Typically, it is a party faux-pas to arrive without a gift for the host, and the holidays are filled with festive occasions, so how do you keep up? Simple gifts, such as homemade Christmas cookies, a bottle of wine, or seasonal poinsettia flowers are the perfect touch — without having to spend a fortune — to let the hostess know you appreciate the hospitality. Plus if you plan ahead, you can buy in bulk to save money and always feel ready when the spontaneous celebration gets thrown!

  • Don't apologize profusely if someone gets you a gift and you're empty-handed — or worse, lie and say your gift for them got lost in the mail/is being custom-made overseas/flew out of your car window on the drive over. "Just say thank you and leave it at that," advises etiquette expert Lizzie Post.

    Read more holiday etiquette tips.

  • If you have a client roster who all get a little something around the holidays, avoid sending anything with a logo — it smacks of self-promotion. Deliver your gift a month early, so it won't get lost in the pile of packages from other associates. If you're in a position to receive gifts, be cautious. Check your company's policy -- you might be prohibited from accepting gifts of more than a certain value.

    Read more about holiday office etiquette.

Alternative Ideas

  • From the moment you ripped open the wrapping paper, you knew the sweater was going to end up in the back of your closet, unworn. Good news — you can regift it. Avoid an awkward regifting scenario by keeping track of who gave you what and by making certain it isn’t regifted so late that it’s out-of-date (like Harry Potter rather than the Hunger Games). Also, stick to more general crowd-pleasers and be cautious of how niche the item is. If it's too specific a product, the recipient might be confused as to why you picked it out for them.
  • You might be tempted to pick up a gift card when you're pressed for time and out of ideas, but it might come across as last-minute and impersonal. Remember that list you made of all the gifts you didn't want? This is the perfect opportunity to recycle a gift, and if you can rewrap it so that it's back to its original condition — unused and in a box — even better.

  • If your coworkers like to celebrate the holidays with some gift swapping, consider gifts that improve office life, like mugs for the kitchen, or suggest that everyone chip in for an espresso machine. Do the same for your boss: a group gift makes everyone look good. Or, keep your own gift personal: Fill a jar with her favorite candy or treat. "Something expensive will only make your boss uncomfortable," says gift expert Sherri Athay, founder of GiftElan.com.

    Read more about holiday office etiquette.

  • The major difference between childhood and adulthood? It costs a lot less to be a kid. Tap into that kind of carefree spirit with a crafty gift that doesn't cost a thing, like a potluck party, holiday-themed game night, or white elephant gift exchange. When you're on a budget, simple joys — no, this isn't corny — like spending time with friends is a gift in itself.

    Read more free gift ideas.

  • Nevermind the gifts that keep on giving. Go for the gifts that give twice — with proceeds going to a worthy cause. Work to find products your recipient will enjoy but that also donate proceeds to a cause you both believe in, or exclusively buy fair-trade items. You could also search for charities — like a children's non-profit or one that helps third-world families — and make a donation in your friend's name.

    Read more about charities.

Just the Right Gift

  • To be safe, when picking presents for women, avoid something you know you're only getting because you want it yourself. Just because you love animal prints and really want to see more of the trend, doesn’t mean she does. On that note, also avoid gifts that require you to ask awkward questions — like, “What’s your dress size?” Or, “How old are you again?” You don't want your quest for the perfect gift to come at the expense of their sensitivities.

  • Buying presents for guys can be just as tricky as it is for women. But men don't want to get the same gifts every year (read: paisley tie, designer cologne, bilngy watch, and argyle socks), so picking creative or funny gifts can be a good thing. Pay attention to the hints he drops about things he's interested in. Chances are good that he's not expecting you to read his mind, so feel free to ask a few leading questions.

  • MC fashion director Nina Garcia says that when it comes to gift-giving, "It's not size, label, or even the thought that counts — it's all about style." Take into consideration current trends, and which ones your giftee is obsessing over. Maybe she's really into neon and sequins or all about being eco-friendly. Don't be afraid to be bold when it comes to picking trendy presents.

    Read more about trendy gift ideas.

  • Is your giftee a fashionista, rock obsessed, or a regular Julia Child? Ask her for style tips and music download suggestions, or peruse her blog roll and cookbooks. Make note of what they already have, what they're particularly interested in, and what they might be itching to get next. Ask their opinion about their favorite topics, which will help you get a better idea of potential gifts for them. We're sure they'll feel flattered.

  • Although we appreciate our tech gadgets (let's be honest, we don't go anywhere without our iPhones), sometimes life gets pretty hectic and it's nice to disconnect. Think about your friend's day-to-day lifestyle, and give her a gift that pulls her away from it. If she constantly Tweets and is itching for the latest Kindle, chances are she won't expect a relaxing spa treatment. Or if he is a superb amateur chef, perhaps you can swap roles and cook his favorite meal. Everyone enjoys a surprise!

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