Budgets? Regifting? An etiquette expert shares everything to know about Christmas gifting

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Parents, grandparents and child exchange Christmas gifts
These expert tips on gift-giving have you covered this Christmas. (Getty Images)

If you find your Christmas list getting longer and longer (and dare I say, more costly and stressful) every year, know that you're not alone. The pressure to give everyone a gift during the holidays can leave many people feeling overwhelmed.

For anyone who’s found themselves wound up like a ball of Christmas lights trying to figure out the ins and outs of holiday gifting, consider this is our present to you…the official guide to gifting etiquette.

Where do you draw the line on holiday gifting?

So, where exactly do you draw the line on gifting? Is a gift to your third cousin on your mother’s side expected? The key here is to make a list early on and stick to it. That way, you don’t find yourself out shopping for more people than you have committed to.

If you suddenly find yourself with more people on your list than you can handle, consider making a donation in lieu of gifts (this can always be presented in a fun and creative way) or hosting a holiday dinner or festive get-together instead.

How much is too much to spend on gifts? Or not enough?

Every person has their own budget and creative ideas. When in doubt, a well thought out homemade gift will always trump something more expensive but less thoughtful. At the end of the day, a beautiful gift is all about making the other person feel warm, special and appreciated.

Embittered woman opening just delivered item after home shopping
Is re-gifting ever an option over the holidays? (Getty Images)

Is regifting an option?

This can be a touchy subject because the general rule is that you should never regift a gift. Generally speaking, it shows very little thought, and it can cause embarrassment if the gift-giver finds out or the recipient learns that it was a "regift."

However… if you receive a gift that is really not for you but you do know someone who would truly appreciate it, that would be okay. You'll just want to make sure that the packaging is pristine, and perhaps embellish the gift with your own personal touch.

ALSO SEE: Which vitamins and supplements should you be taking during the winter? We asked an expert

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What to do if you receive an unexpected gift

When you find yourself in that awkward situation where someone hands you a gift and you don’t have something to reciprocate with, the best approach is to show sincere appreciation and not to draw attention to the fact that you are empty-handed. Many people give gifts for the pure joy of giving and don’t expect anything in return. If you are so inclined to return the favour, sending something later is completely acceptable too.

That said, I always make a point to pick up a few extra gifts when I’m shopping. Whether it’s a set of cocktail napkins to bring as a hostess gift, a bottle of bubbly for that unexpected dinner invite, or simply to have on hand should the need arise. It’s also so important to note that gifts come in all different forms and don’t necessarily need to be wrapped in ribbons and paper and bows: a nice get-together dinner at home, a coffee and scone at your local café or the gift of time can be truly welcomed.

Woman in sweater giving a wrapped Christmas gift box to child. Glowing snow bokeh, fir tree. Winter holidays.
Exchanging gifts shouldn't have to leave you feeling stressed.

Thoughtful presentations

I can’t say enough about taking the time to properly prepare and present a gift. Whether or not you’re the type of person that likes to go all out with their gift-wrapping: adding fresh greenery, lavish ribbons, homemade tags, the gift should always be neatly presented. If you have the option to add a gift receipt, do include that as well.

Thank you notes

Writing and receiving thank you notes, much like holidays cards is another warm and fuzzy part of the holiday spirit. I especially love it when children participate. You always want to match the formality of the gift/gesture to the correct reply. If someone drops off a plate of cookies, a formal handwritten card may be too much, but a thoughtful email would certainly be well-received. If you are sending out thank you cards for presents, the turnaround time should fall within a week.

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