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The complete guide to holiday gifting among adults

Christine Chapweske owns The Etiquette Professionals in Fargo and offers etiquette training dinners. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 3
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Sharon Schweitzer travels the world as cross-cultural business consultant and international etiquette expert. Special to Forum News Service 3 / 3

FARGO — As we age, the hastily homemade or purchased item becomes the unpopular and inappropriate gift. Instead, gift-giving requires thoughtful consideration and hours spent in search of suitable presents, strolling through endless big-box stores.

Etiquette experts say these guidelines and communication techniques will help others to master the art of giving as an adult.

"Let thoughtfulness drive your gift-giving. You do not want your gift-buying to be driven by pressure," says Sharon Schweitzer, a cross-cultural business consultant and international etiquette expert.

Christine Chapweske, an etiquette and business consultant and owner of Fargo-based business The Etiquette Professionals, agrees.

"Look at closeness of the relationship and what the relationship is like when deciding who should receive a gift from you," she says.

To start, Schweitzer suggests research.

"It's all about the culture. Organizations have their own culture and families have their own, too," she says. "So gift-giving depends upon the audience and the relationships."

Although each person and relationship is different, Chapweske and Schweitzer both say there are certain guidelines people can follow when considering if the type of relationship merits a gift.

Siblings

Often a tradition started later in life, gift-giving among siblings is not always practiced.

"Different family members will develop habits of exchanging gifts together or not exchanging gifts," Schweitzer says.

Schweitzer says most often siblings will ask each other if they want to exchange gifts to one another, but this will not always be explicitly communicated.

"Sometimes within families, just the sisters or brothers will exchange gifts," she says.

If it's a sibling that lives far away, but is still close with you, Chapweske recommends sending a gift via Amazon. Chapweske says a budget of $20 or more is appropriate for siblings, but drawing names between siblings works well when all are limiting their overall gift budget.

Siblings' significant others

A gift is not always necessary when a sister or brother brings home a partner, according to Chapweske and Schweitzer.

"If they've been together a number of years and you socialize with them, then you might want to consider giving a gift to each person," Chapweske says. "But if they are in a relationship and you don't socialize with them often, then you don't need to be concerned with getting a gift."

Chapweske says if a sibling has recently become engaged then a present for the couple would be suitable.

Brothers and sisters-in-law

Chapweske advises separate gifts instead of a gift for the couple once siblings have been married.

"If they are married and you have a really close relationship with both of them, then give each a gift," she says.

A couple's gift could be appropriate if you don't socialize with them on a regular basis.

Father-in-law and mother-in-law

Both Chapweske and Schweitzer say in-laws should get a gift.

"It depends on how close you are for what kind of the gift you give," Chapweske says.

She suggests gifts like an ornament or holiday poinsettia if you don't have an intimate relationship. When you enjoy a close relationship with your parents or in-laws, then Chapweske suggests a present price point of $25 or more.

"If you enjoy a close relationship with the in-laws, consult with your spouse about what you want to give them," she says.

Significant other's parents

Both Chapweske and Schweitzer say when in doubt, wait to give a gift to your boyfriend's or girlfriend's parents.

"Wait until they invite you over for Christmas dinner and just bring a token of your friendship," Chapweske says.

Nieces and nephews

Schweitzer says it's important to be consistent with nieces and nephews.

"Try to get the same thing for everyone," she says. "I have 11 nieces and nephews and I gift them cricket jerseys bought during my travels abroad."

Schweitzer says parents should be consulted when purchasing gifts for children.

"Some parents will not want their children to receive cash, instead purchase a gift card to the child's favorite store," Schweitzer says. She also reminds others to never gift pets, like a fish, cat or dog.

Close friends

Both Chapweske and Schweitzer say gift exchanges vary among friends — some chose to give individual gifts while others opt for a creative present exchange theme.

"A good rule of thumb for close friends is to spend the same amount on their gift as you would for a night out on town," Chapweske says. "If you usually spend $50 for dinner and drinks with girlfriends, then a gift card of that same amount would be appropriate."

Schweitzer says groups of friends can draw names and set price limit to keep the cost low. Popular gift exchanges themes like non-fiction books, wine, wine glasses, movies or even Christmas cookies are a great and inexpensive way to show appreciation.

Children of friends

Chapweske says buying gifts for friends' children is usually not expected.

"But if I have a friend who has a child that plays with my child frequently, than I may purchase a gift for that girl or boy," Chapweske says.

Boss

Schweitzer points out that some offices may have written policies related to gift-giving.

"If we receive a gift then we usually share it with everyone in the office," she says.

Before purchasing a gift, find out your office's specific policy. Schweitzer says a good rule of thumb is to not purchase an individual gift for your boss.

"Pull your money together with coworkers to buy a group gift, like a gift certificate or a donation to charity," she says.

In general, Chapweske says supervisors should discuss gift giving in the workplace beforehand.

"It all depends on the culture of the workplace, but if you're going to be exchanging gifts than I wouldn't spend more than $15," she says.

Co-workers

If gift-giving policies are not set in stone, then unwritten policies are likely to dictate the sentiment and tone.

"Go to a seasoned executive or trusted friend to ask about what's acceptable," Schweitzer says. Schweitzer strongly urges to never purchase gag gifts.

"You don't want to be the story of the person who brought in the fart cushion and the boss sat on it," she says.

Gifts that belittle culture, race or religion should never be tolerated, Schweitzer says.

"Be sure to not give gifts with amy sexual innuendos during this year of Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore," Schweitzer says.

She also advises if you do decide to give a gift to a coworker, then complete the exchange in private.

Service workers

If you see the person often, a small gift is appropriate.

"Plan to spend double whatever your usual tip is for service providers," Chapweske says. "So a $10 to $15 gift card could be appropriate for your barista or paper delivery person."

Homemade gifts like baked goods or a small craft are also acceptable for a hairstylist or any person who performs a service for you on a regular basis.

3 questions for gift-giving

Before attending a holiday event, Chapweske and Schweitzer say it's important to ask questions to find out what parameters have been set for presents.

1. Are we planning to do a gift exchange?

Many times friends or large families will decide to draw names instead of purchasing a gift for every single person. Sometimes families will decide to forego gifts altogether.

"If there is a large number of children, then some families will have each child draw a name as well so they can purchase one gift for an individual cousin," Chapweske says.

2. Who will be attendance?

Discuss with your significant other or family member what relatives will join the festive gathering. Discuss the family gift-exchange history, list the family members that will be present and those family members who will be absent.

"This really provides valuable insight to decide how to get gifts," Schweitzer says.

3. Is there a gift-giving budget?

Schweitzer says it depends on the family, but budgets can range from $10 to $100 per gift.

"You will want to stay within whatever the budget is and never give a gift that will make people uncomfortable," Schweitzer says.

When shopping for gifts, Schweitzer uses the acronym CARA. She asks herself if the gift is "Caring, Appropriate, Reasonable and Affordable."

April Knutson

April Knutson is lifestyle-focused journalist producing stories for the Forum News Service about people, health, community issues, and services. She earned her degree in both English Literature and Mass Communications. After working as a digital marketing specialist and web design consultant for a few years, she joined Forum Communications in 2015. She grew up on a farm near Volga, S.D. Follow her on Twitter @april_knutson.

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