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Gift-giving etiquette: Do you need to give presents to people outside your circle?

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Dec 05, 2023 7:30 pm

Christmas is the season of many things—love, forgiveness, and celebration, but most of all, it’s the season of giving and expressing gratitude.

There’s nothing that could warm your heart more than seeing the people most important to you with a smile on their faces after receiving a thoughtful gift from you.

However, does the season of giving also entail you buying gifts for people outside your circle of friends and family such as your co-workers, house staff, your kids' teachers, and others?

To give or not to give?

That is the question that many are faced with, and while it may seem like a quick decision to make, it can be a tough (and awkward) one especially when you receive something from them.

Ideally, gift-giving should never have to feel like a mandatory act and should always be treated as a way of showing appreciation.

According to financial coach Edwin Suson, it can also depend on several factors.

“The decision to give Christmas gifts to people outside your friends and family, such as office staff, household staff, teachers, and others, is personal and can depend on various factors, including cultural norms, workplace policies, and individual relationships,” he told PhilSTAR L!fe.

“A token of appreciation during the holiday season as a way to express gratitude is common, but be aware of any school and office policies regarding gift giving,” he added.

In the workplace, one thing that you should keep in mind is that it’s not necessary to buy gifts for everyone in the office. You can simply gift those who you’ve formed a close bond with or those who frequently rush to your aid in times of need.

If you’re the head of your staff, a rule of thumb is that you’re encouraged to give gifts to your employees, but avoid expecting them to give one back as workplace gift-giving should flow down the organizational chart, not upward. This is to avoid making employees feel pressured to buy presents for their superiors.

When it comes to the teachers of your kids, it’s always a nice gesture to show them how much you appreciate all their hard work in ensuring your kids get the preparation they need for their future. 

Of course, it’s not practical to give every teacher of your child a gift. You may want to narrow them down by asking your child who their favorite teacher is or which teacher has helped them the most.

Giving a holiday gift to your house staff is also recommended, especially if they’ve been helping around your house for a long time now and are basically treated as a part of the family. The same goes for your personal assistants who you can trust to be at your beck and call in desperate times.

How to save money on gift-giving

Choosing what to give is perhaps even harder than deciding which people should be on your holiday shopping list. After all, you wouldn’t want to waste your hard-earned money on something that wouldn’t even be appreciated by the person.

But the question is now: Is it better to buy them personal store-bought gifts or should you just give them huge tips and let them decide how they want to spend them?

In general, money is a good gift idea, but as Suson pointed out, “When engaging in gift-giving, it's crucial to recognize that the sentiment behind the gesture holds greater significance than the monetary value of the gift itself.”

If you’re going down the traditional route, one thing to remember is that you should always prioritize your budget and ensure that you won’t spend more than your financial comfort level. 

Some things you can do are to identify the number of gifts needed, categorize recipients based on your relationship with them, and assign appropriate amounts for each gift.

Suson also advised you to plan and save for the holiday season by incorporating a monthly allocation in your budget.

“For instance, if you intend to spend P36,000 on Christmas, start saving P3,000 per month starting from January 2024 to ensure that your Yuletide expenses are manageable,” he said.

He added, “Optimize your spending by purchasing items before Christmas during end-of-season sales. This strategy can significantly reduce costs by more than 50 percent.”

And remember, as much as the 13th month pay has traditionally been earmarked for celebrating Christmas, it is not made for gift-giving. 

“It is one of your jumpstart factors to bring your financial goals to reality,” Suson underscored.

Deciding what to give

Food is usually something that’s appreciated in most situations, especially those that satiate the sweet tooth, but you must still take into consideration any dietary restrictions or food allergies of the person.

In the workspace, it’s ideal if you can give them items that they can use for their office duties. These can be fancy pens, stylish laptop bags, insulated water bottles, and more. 

Similarly, classroom materials are always a welcome present for the teachers of your kids, like personalized pens, decorative notebooks, and other school essentials.

You can also opt for a much simpler and less expensive gift by writing them a holiday greeting card with words from the heart, such as a compliment about their work ethic and some well wishes for the coming year.

“Explore your creative side by incorporating do-it-yourself gifts into your holiday celebrations. Homemade presents such as cooked food, desserts, cookies, Christmas candles, ornaments, or other personalized items can add a unique and heartfelt touch to the joy of the season,” Suson suggested.

Hand-me-down gifts are also a great option. This can help you share items you no longer need while bringing joy to someone else. Or if it makes it easier, ask them what they would want to receive this Christmas.

Ultimately, gift-giving should neither be treated as a responsibility nor a necessity come Christmas. It’s a heartwarming act that will have you appreciating the people in your life more than ever before.