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Gift Giving Protocol At The Office

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Dear Christine,
This holiday season, I'm trying to cut back financially and I'm wondering if I'm expected to buy a gift for my boss? What about my coworkers? With the economy as bad as it is, is it sort of an "excuse" not to have to buy gifts? And if I don't, what should I do instead? I work in a competitive environment and I'm afraid that some co-workers will buy gifts and I'll feel like a schmuck.
-Frugal for the Holidays, 27, Chicago

Dear Frugal for the Holidays,

Yes, the economic downtown has curbed a lot of the "jolly" holiday spending that usually comes with mistletoe and Menorahs. Your boss, coworkers, and even friends and family should understand that this isn't the best year for big spending. And you'd be amazed how small gifts and gestures can mean just as much. We all just have to be a little more creative.

One way to get around the issue of who is buying what for whom in your office is to suggest a Secret Santa gift exchange. If it has never been done before, now is a great time to start the tradition. That way you only have to buy one gift and you can also implement a spending cap so everyone's on equal gift-giving ground.

Other options are to just give holiday cards with a hand-written, personalized note to each person. Acknowledging someone personally with words is more thoughtful than a generic gift anyway. You can also always just bring in a box of baked goods for your office kitchen so everyone can partake at his/her leisure. If you are not a baker, consider spending 20 to 40 bucks on some kind of premade holiday platter or even less on an assortment of candy. If you want to stand out, be the one person in your office to supply everyone with healthy snacks like fruit or veggies. When it comes to the holidays, you can't go wrong with feeding people!

As for your boss, a gift isn't a requirement; it's more of a good gesture. And don't fret that you may not find the perfect gift in your price range because your boss makes much more money than you and should not be expecting you to rack up your credit card bill on a gift. Again, be creative. Maybe purchase a book you know he/she will love and write a personal inscription or make a donation on his/her behalf to a favorite charity.

There are countless ways to still give and save money. It's tempting to play a one-upmanship game with your colleagues around the holidays, but your checkbook come January will be happier with you if you stay level headed now. Focus on what the holidays are really about: spreading joy, promoting peace, and being grateful.


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