Gift Etiquette 101

Q&A with President/CEO of Women & Co., Linda Descano and Editor of RealSimple.com, Kathleen Harris

Toughest Gift Giving Questions Answered

While the holidays are a time of giving, the decision to give or not to give isn’t always an easy one. If you’ve ever received a gift without having one to give in return or wondered how to stick to a holiday budget with so many folks to buy for, you know just how challenging the season of giving can be.

We here at GalTime struggle with proper gift giving etiquette too, so we sat down with experts Linda Descano, President/CEO of Women & Co. and Kathleen Harris, Editor of RealSimple.com to get real answers to our toughest gift giving questions!

GalTime: How can we limit the amount of gifts we give without hurting feelings?

Women & Co.: If you get or give a gift you wish you hadn’t, you definitely aren’t alone! According to a Real Simple/ Women & Co. survey, 42 percent of women wish they could stop exchanging gifts with certain people. The best option is to prevent the unwanted gift exchange. Propose a “holiday gift swap” where co-workers or friends are responsible for one gift each. This is a great way to manage expectations among friends and co-workers, stay on budget and make everyone happy!

If the inevitable does happen and you get an unexpected gift, remember that you should never go into debt or buy things you can’t afford just to reduce your level of holiday guilt. Gifts are just that, “gifts,” and come with no obligation of reciprocity. That being said, it is always nice to show that you appreciate the gesture, even if you cannot afford to return a gift of the same caliber (or at all).

Nice low cost gifts are available if you take the time to search for them. Remember that it’s not about how much you spend, but showing that you care and put thought towards a gift.

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GalTime: We've heard of people giving gifts to everyone from their neighbors to their postal carriers and hairdressers, is that expected?

Real Simple: We have to remember – as Linda mentioned – that giving a gift is an act of generosity and thoughtfulness. It’s not something that’s expected, but something that you do for people who have supported you or been kind throughout the year. But for sure, the list can definitely get complicated between who to tip, give gifts to, or anything in between – we’ve put together a guide to help our readers navigate – Real Simple’s Holiday Tipping Checklist. We hope this helps with many of your questions (postal carriers and hairdressers included)!

GalTime: There are just too many people our families! How can we give without breaking the bank?

Women & Co.: There are plenty of great ways to give gifts without breaking the bank. For one, you could consider suggesting a holiday gift swap with the family where each person is assigned one person. This way you are only responsible for purchasing one gift but everyone still receives something.

Here are some other money-saving tips to keep in mind when shopping for gifts:

1. Shop smart online: If you're online shopping, don't leave the promo code box empty without a quick search to see if you can find any coupons or codes for a discount on your purchase. Also, look for a service that can help you save AFTER you've checked out, like the Citi® Price Rewind service available to eligible Citi cardholders. Just register your covered purchase and Citi Price Rewind will search products across hundreds of retailers' sites. If the same item is found and is at least $25 lower than what you paid within 30 calendar days of your purchase, Citi Price Rewind can refund you the difference, up to $250.*

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2. Shop with points. Before you hit the stores, check to see how many toys you can cross off your list by redeeming points that you've acquired through credit card or retailer reward programs. For example, with Citi ThankYou Rewards, members can redeem points for hundreds of different toys, games, electronics and gifts at www.Thankyou.com. And, if they have a Citi credit card that participates in ThankYou Rewards, they also have the ability to use points to complete their transactions while making purchases on Amazon.com.

3. Look for daily deals. Amazon.com's Holiday Toy List is one example of an easy-to-search guide of the season's hottest toys, and their Gold Box section highlights daily deals with low prices on top electronic products, video games, and more. For updates on new deals and limited-time offers, users can also sign up for their Deal of the Day e-mail, or follow Amazon on Facebook or Twitter.

GalTime: We feel bad when child-free folks give gifts to our kids, should we give gifts to them in exchange?

Real Simple: This is a really great question. I don't really think it's necessary since they are really trying to do something nice for your children. But be sure to have your children send thoughtful thank you notes.

GalTime: Do you suggest we keep "spare gifts" on hand just in case?

Real Simple: We always recommend having a few "spare gifts" for the season. In fact, in the December issue of Real Simple, "create an emergency-present bin" is one of our tips for making the holidays stress-free. You won't have to run to the store every time you need a hostess gift or be caught empty-handed when a friend shows up with chocolate truffles. Our tip: stash items in your own price range that have the potential to please a number of recipients. Here are some of our favorites: modern objects for the mantel or a bookcase, candles and soap, lush journals, iTunes gift cards, and containers to hold treats.

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Linda Descano is President and CEO of Women & Co., a service of Citi that is dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures. She also serves as a Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships for North America Marketing at Citi. A recognized expert on the topic of personal finance, Linda’s tips and commentary have appeared in countless publications including Huffington Post, Reuters, Fox Business, US News, American Banker and MSN Money to name a few.

Kathleen Harris is Managing Editor at RealSimple.com. In this role, she is responsible for the award-winning lifestyle brand’s digital content and product strategy, including the daily website, the brand’s several successful apps and its social media strategy. Under Harris’ leadership, RealSimple.com continues to grow and currently reaches more than 6.5 million Unique Visitors per month, according to comScore.

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