Money 101: Do I Really Have To Give So-And-So A Gift?

You’ve probably made your shopping list and checked it three or four times by now this holiday season. Some of the people on there are no-brainers; you know you have to buy your mom a gift. But after you put the obvious folks on there and move further down the list, you always get the point where you can’t help but think, “Do I really have to buy them something?” Even if you grudgingly accept that yes, you really need to leave that person on your “nice” list, there are ways to show them holiday love without blowing your budget. Gifting expert and New York Times best-selling author Robyn Spizman, who has partnered with Office Depot to serve as a Smart Gifting Expert, offered these tips for tackling those obligatory gifts your list with your holiday spirit – and budget – intact.

Do something kind. There are people on your list who just make your life better, but you don’t have to rack up the credit card bills to thank them. “Start a new tradition where you exchange a book, or take each other to lunch,” Spizman suggests as cheaper but thoughtful gift alternatives. “Consider homemade gifts such as a family favorite recipe for cookies, handmade ornaments or a thoughtful holiday “thank you” card expressing how you value that individual.”

Don’t treat Christmas like a popularity contest. Whether you’re trying to decide who to leave on your shopping list or how much to spend on them, remember that you don’t need to buy their love. “Holiday gifting is not a popularity contest,” Spizman cautions. Even if you’re shopping for the employees who make you look good, now’s not the time to play favorites. “Use other opportunities throughout the year to recognize the individual achievements.” Even outside the workplace, ask yourself who really makes your life better throughout the year – and we aren’t talking about the FedEx guy who makes you happy Santa can’t read your dirty little mind. “Make a list of the people that have made an impact on your life. Maybe you have a great personal trainer, landlord, or assistant. These folks should definitely be remembered during the holiday season,” says Spizman.

Don’t try to buy favor at work. Buying your boss (or her boss) a stellar gift won’t get you a promotion – it will only make both of you feel awkward and make you look like the office kiss-ass. This doesn’t mean you can’t do something nice for the guy or gal in charge of your daily to-do list, it just means you need to keep it appropriate. “Aim to cap your gift giving off at your most direct boss. Your boss is most likely someone you communicate with on a daily basis. Listen to their stories; is there a gift that can make their commute better or save them time?” I hear Amelia has a thing for J. Crew.

And if you’re the boss? Your employees will appreciate a holiday gesture, but keep it equitable for everyone who reports to you. “A gift is always nice, but it doesn’t have to come at a big expense,” says Spizman. “Think about giving them something that might make their work day better, like small speakers for their desk, or host a pizza party or bagel breakfast.”

Remember that it really is the thought that counts. Just because you feel like you need to do something for your hairdresser doesn’t mean that it has to come with a hefty gift tag. “Even the smallest and most affordable gifts can be transformed into something fabulous with a little creativity and thoughtfulness,” Spizman says. “Add your personal style and creative flair. Sometimes the littlest gifts are the biggest hits if you add something that makes a statement and shares your appreciation!”

Keep small gift cards ready to go. It never fails that you knock someone off your shopping list and then they knock on your door with a wrapped gift in hand. “Think about having some gift cards on hand. A $10 gift card is a great gift that won’t break the bank.” And with a stack of cards to the coffee shop in your desk, you can slip one into a card before the recipient ever knows you forgot about them.

Photo: iStockphoto

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