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How to survive a holiday gift exchange

At this time of year, many people (of all faiths) welcome an excuse to break out of the usual routine and have a little fun before the year ends. FYI, an ugly sweater contest is a great way to bring people together.

The gift exchange is a tradition that goes back decades, but can leave some people bewildered. What do you get for a co-worker or club member who you know in just one context?

• Know you can opt out

If your faith, budget, or stress level makes a gift exchange a problem for you, just let the organizer know you won’t be participating. It's okay, really!

• Get clear on the rules

Some give exchanges involve drawing names so you know who you’re shopping for. Other times, all the gifts are numbered, and attendees draw numbers to claim a gift. Still other exchanges allow people to “steal” gifts from fellow guests. (These are called “Dirty Santa” or “White Elephant” exchanges.)

• Stick to the budget

Depending on your group, the budget could be a modest $10 or $15 or go much higher. Whatever the target amount is, hit it. Don’t go above or below.

You might not know much about the taste of the person who sits three desks over. Or the newest member of your book club. (Or charity committee. Or Neighborhood Watch group. Or bowling team.) But you might be able to learn something about your recipient by taking a look at his or her social media profile. Even the bumperstickers on a car can clue you in.

If you’re really stuck, one easy option is a “gift card with a goodie.” Buy a Starbucks gift card and wrap it with a package of chocolate-covered espresso beans. Or get a gift card to the local movie theater and combine it with some classic candy like Milk Duds or Red Vines.

Check these articles for more on gift exchanges:

Photo: Ben White on Unsplash


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