From a financial perspective, the rapidly approaching holidays may be more stressful than joyful this year. So draw up that list of expenses and start trimming it back. This is not the season to start racking up debt.
Here’s how to simplify your holiday shopping and cut out unnecessary gifting, without hurting feelings or breaking any rules of office etiquette.
Take a deep breath, and brace yourself – you’re going to have to sit down with your family and talk about holiday spending this year. The sooner you have this conversation the better. Cynthia Townley Ewer, editor of www.OrganizedChristmas.com sees this year’s economic stress as an opportunity to change longstanding holiday expectations. “We’re talking about relationships here,” she counsels. “Avoid presenting it as doing less.”
Shifting the focus from gifts to experiences is a positive change overall, says Ewer. “This year the negotiations will be much easier, so strike while the iron is hot.” Begin by cutting back on the presents you give to other adults in your family. Strategies include drawing names with extended family so that each person buys just one present, or agreeing not to exchange gifts at all. She also suggests agreeing on useful gifts in advance. “You want to give and receive things that can be eaten, used, experienced or worn out,” Ewer says. “Stay closer to needs and further away from bling.”
Keeping the Cubicle Copasetic
Jacqueline Whitmore, the author of Business Class, Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work recommends chatting with co-workers well in advance of the season of joy, and resetting the expectations. As far as the office gift exchange goes, “Make sure that everyone knows this is optional,” she says. “And be very clear about spending limits, make it affordable.”
If you still feel obligated to get your boss a present, join forces with your co-workers and give a group gift. Whitmore strongly urges useful gifts, or something that your boss can enjoy with her family. She warns away from trinkets, figurines and other flotsam. “Time and attention matter much more than a coffee mug,” says Whitmore.
Bosses who want to make their employees feel appreciated should follow the same guidelines. Host an activity - Whitmore suggests cocktails and hors d’oeuvres instead of a big catered affair and gift swap - or give practical gifts. Gift cards to the local grocery store, Target (STOCK QUOTE: TGT) or Wal-Mart (STOCK QUOTE: WMT) are more appreciated in a tight year.
Finally, if that one co-worker insists on giving gifts you can’t keep up with, Whitmore excuses you from having to reply in kind. “No, you don’t have to reciprocate,” she says firmly. “A hand-written thank-you card is the perfect response.”
Although some etiquette experts shy away from the practice, Whitmore says, “If you’re going to regift, just make sure the other person will like and use the item.”
Her guidelines for regifting with class:
• Make sure the gift doesn’t bear any evidence that someone gave it to you first. Remove all tags and cards that might give it away.
• Keep it in its original packaging with all the wrapping and labels. You want it to look like it just came off the store shelf.
• Don’t use the gift and then re-wrap. If you’ve lit the candle, it’s yours.
Whatever you give this holiday season, it’s the sentiment, not the price tag that should make an impression.