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15 Unspoken Rules of Gift Giving Everyone Should Know

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Each year, there could be dozens of occasions for gift-giving, from Mothers and Fathers Day to birthdays, from weddings to baby showers, from congratulations to condolences. Sometimes, like if you’re invited to a bridal party, presents are generally encouraged. 

But other times the rules may not seem so clear.

While we can’t offer black and white guidelines for every circumstance, at Giftster we have put together 15 unspoken gift giving rules that can help you out:

1. It’s the thought that counts

There’s a reason this one seems cliche: it’s a widely accepted rule of gift-giving. Your gift recipient is much more likely to appreciate a thoughtful but inexpensive gift than a generic, costly one.

The only real exception to this rule is weddings, where it’s generally a good idea that a gift be more than $50.

2. Money and gift cards are good gifts

Just because money or a gift card is an easy gift doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, there are many situations where gift cards or money are perfectly acceptable. For example, cash or checks are wonderful presents for a married couple.  

Gift cards are also a safe option for kids’ birthday gifts. They can pick out their own toys, and parents can avoid unnecessary clutter around the house.

3. Don’t expect a gift in return

Around the holidays, you might have some friends or coworkers you plan to purchase presents for. But remember that just because they’re on your list, doesn’t mean you’re on theirs. Give gifts because you want to, not because you expect some, too. 

To avoid awkward Christmas gift moments, consider arranging a Secret Santa. Head over to for a great tool for organizing one digitally.

4. Group gifts are a fun option

If someone has an expensive item on a wish list or registry, feel free to collect money from multiple people and purchase the gift together. It’s a great way to give someone a big-ticket item that you know they’ll appreciate.

5. Personalized gifts are thoughtful

To show someone that you were thinking about them, consider an item that is personalized, such as stationary. These gifts are useful and much less likely to add to clutter than “just one more generic wine glass.”

6. Try not to overspend

There’s no prize for spending the most on someone. In fact, it can make some people feel uncomfortable to receive lavish presents. A meaningful gift is just as good as an expensive one.

If it helps, you don’t need to spend more than $25 on a birthday gift for another child, and shower presents can be $20-$100.

7. Use gift wrap or a gift bag

There are a few benefits to wrapping a present. It helps birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and shower gifts look nicer and more festive. 

Or, sometimes, a person might want to open gifts in private. Not everyone enjoys being the center of attention while opening a present, or wants you to see their reaction. Gift wrap can go a long way to respecting the privacy of others.

8. Shop local and small businesses

If you want to avoid generic, impersonal gifts, you should look to local businesses and small businesses. You’re more likely to find unique and personalized presents. You can check out local places by searching social media, or head over to Etsy for creative ideas.

9. Include a gift receipt

We all want to believe that we have amazing gift ideas that everyone loves to receive. In reality, this might not always be the case. Especially for big events, it’s acceptable to include a gift receipt in case it needs to be returned, whether because it’s a duplicate or just not needed.

Parents are sure to appreciate birthday gift receipts as well, especially if they’re trying to minimize clutter in the toy room.

10. Gifts don’t have to be physical items

If you’re looking for a gift idea, it’s perfectly fine to think outside the box – literally. Consider giving memberships, experiences, or even a little bit of your time. For example, a new mother might appreciate some free babysitting a lot more than another stuffed animal.

11. Give a greeting card with the gift

Cards offer the perfect space for a heartfelt note. They’re also convenient for giving cash, checks, or gift cards.

But cards can serve another useful purpose, too. If someone is receiving a lot of gifts at a party or for a special occasion, they can use your card to help them remember what you gave.

12. Avoid giving presents in front of others

Unless you’re invited to a party, you shouldn’t give presents when other people are around. If it’s a Christmas gift, you can make others feel left out if you didn’t get a gift for them, too. 

Even if it’s a coworker’s birthday, a situation could still get awkward if suddenly someone else feels bad for not purchasing a birthday gift, too.

13. Purchase from wish lists and gift registries when you can

Heartfelt, thoughtful, and unique gifts are great. But if someone has a wish list or a registry, you can’t go wrong by purchasing from it. These are the items a person or couple really wants or would find useful. Anything else might just gather dust. Try for a wish list maker that will help you get gifts right, every time.

14. Don’t be afraid to ask what someone needs

Some people might think this is something to avoid. But in certain circumstances, it’s actually preferable, especially for children. If your child is invited to a birthday party, feel free to reach out to the parents to see what to get, or what to avoid.

And of course, you can always ask where to find a registry for a wedding or baby shower.

15. Always say thank you

This last unspoken rule is for the gift receiver, not the gift giver. But we think it’s actually the most important one. Whenever someone gives you a gift, make sure to say thank you, even if it’s informal. A little appreciation goes a long way.

Next time you have a gift to give, remember this helpful list of the unspoken rules for gift-giving.

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