Gift-Giving Etiquette

When is re-gifting OK? How can you rein in grandparents' holiday gifts to your child? What do you do about gifts when you are unemployed?

In "The Early Show"'s "Ask it Early" series, financial contributor Vera Gibbons answered viewers' questions about holiday gift-giving etiquette.

Holiday Gift Guide

Question from Debra Griffin, Lexington, Ky.: "How do you politely, yet firmly, ask your parents and in-laws to stop spoiling your child with so many gifts? There's something wrong when each set gives them more than the parent and Santa combined!"

Gibbons' Answer: "Chances are, they've already bought the gifts for the kids this holiday season. But to prevent this from happening again, you need to talk to them early on in the season. On the phone, say, 'We appreciate the gifts you do send, always so generous,' but explain that this year, you're trying rein it in and keep things in perspective. Then, set guidelines by doing one of two things: set a limit on dollar value, or set a limit on the number of gifts. If you're worried about feelings getting hurt, put the emphasis on their seeing the child. Baby Jack has been talking about your visit all week, he can't wait to see you. Focus on the spirit."

Question from Betty Ann Cannell, Montclair, N.J.: "As far as re-gifting goes, I say it's ONLY OK to re-gift to a charity or certain people, such as those who work for you, for example, but re-gifting otherwise is unacceptable. Am I right on this?"

Gibbons' Answer: "It is OK to re-gift under certain circumstances. Re-gifting can be a practical solution, but you have to do this carefully. Re-gifting rules: never re-gift something that was handmade for you. The present has to be in the packaging it came in with personal notes and tags removed -- and it should be something you think the person you're re-gifting it to will like -- that it's something they would really enjoy.

Question from Natalie Valentine of Philadelphia: "If you can't give gifts to your family this year because you're unemployed, is it OK to send an email to explain the situation and suggest or insist they not give you anything?"

Gibbons' Answer: "A lot of us are in a similar situation: one in five of us are unemployed or underemployed and just can't swing it this year. It's perfectly acceptable to have that conversation, explain the situation, be honest. It's nothing to be ashamed of -- you don't have to go into detail about your finances, you just need to let them know that it's not about them; it's about a job loss. Say something like, "I don't have the Christmas budget, so please count me out of the gift exchange this year."
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