Gianna Kordatzky hates the thought of well-intentioned gifts gathering dust in the days and months after Christmas morning.
As the mother of four with two dogs and a 1½-story New Brighton house with limited storage space, she's honed her giving strategy when it comes to her teenagers.
Kordatzky, co-owner of the Family Fun Twin Cities website, which offers experiential ideas for parents, will give each of her kids a book she knows they'll like and one game as a group present they can do together. Her socks and underwear stocking stuffers are the annual family joke.
"It's more about the fun of the opening of the gifts and filling in what's needed for their lives rather than adding more things to their lives," she said.
For many, this is a time of year that involves thinking about presents to exchange for holidays, host gifts for parties and end-of-year festivities at work. Whether you're tightening your budget or don't plan to give gifts at all, here are some ideas for how to cope:
Paying for presents
Stick to a budget. If you're planning to make gifts or goodies, that's OK, too.
"Whatever the gift is, it should fit with your ability level, what you're capable of giving and comfortable giving," said Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute and great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, who authored "Etiquette" in 1922.
Post makes homemade candy as gifts. She has a more affluent friend who once gave her pricey snow boots for Christmas, which Post treasured.
"Her generosity was so at the heart of the gift, and she knows that my heart is at the center of my homemade gifts," she said.
Make a list, check it twice
Be sensitive to traditions that your family has set or that you have set for yourself,
"Is this someone expecting a gift because you've always exchanged gifts?" said Maralee McKee, the founder of the Etiquette School of America in Orlando, Fla. "If you want to change any of those gift-exchanging traditions, you need to let them know as soon as possible."
Know that just because you give doesn't mean that person will reciprocate. Others might be on a tight budget or from a different faith where gift-giving this time of year isn't the norm.
"It's worth recognizing that if you get something for someone," Post said, "they are not obligated to get something for you in return."
As families expand and evolve, they frequently limit purchases.
"Lots of families celebrating at home do a gift exchange where they give to one person rather than everybody," Post said.
But if you have a visitor — for example, your brother's new girlfriend who will be with you for a Christmas morning gift exchange — then make sure you have a little something wrapped up for that person as well, McKee said.
First things first, consult Human Resources. The company might have a policy regarding gifts.
If you're the boss and choose to give, be equal and give the same gift across the staff. Alternatively, offer a shared event depending on the size of the group. The big exception is if you have an executive admin or personal assistant who keeps you organized. That role deserves a larger thank you, but you may want to give the gift privately.
The standard advice is not to give a gift to a higher-up, though a staff might decide on a group present like a gift card and ask for only voluntary contributions.
"We used to say, 'You never gift up the ladder because it can look like you're trying to gain favor,'" Post said.
Some want to give presents to specific friends at work but not to everyone at the office. In that case, do the gift exchange outside the office, Post said
For grandparents looking for an idea for grandchildren, Kordatzky recommended pairing a stuffed animal or candy with a gift card membership to the Minnesota Zoo, Minnesota Children's Museum or something similar. Then, families can go multiple times.
"You don't have to feel bad about cutting something short because a kid is having a meltdown," she said.
At Patina locations in the Twin Cities, shoppers often walk in not knowing what they'll end up purchasing.
"What we've seen trending and what we've geared up for this holiday season is a lot of that cheerful, fun, little pick-me-ups as well as the experiential gifts," owner Christine Ward said, adding that included cocktail glasses, plush toys and cozy hooded blankets.
When in doubt, food and wine are often go-tos.
Lunds & Byerlys Food Expert Laurie Geisel often buys wrapped Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that doesn't need refrigeration as a stocking stuffer for her daughter.
The store also offers boxes of Abdallah chocolates and other candies. Minnesota-shaped gift baskets are a favorite of some.
"I get people who are looking for them for housewarming gifts or giving them to people who moved away from Minnesota and who loved shopping at Lunds & Byerlys," she said.
Customers buying wine or scotch for clients or to bring to parties often seek advice from Surdyk's wine manager Peter Plaehn on navigating the northeast Minneapolis store's selection and pricing.
He often helps them find wine from lesser-known but quality vineyards or whiskey from local distilleries to stay within budget.
"I would say, go somewhere where you get good advice," he said. "Ask for what they suggest."
His easy tip for selecting wine on a budget: "Once you go from $20 a bottle to $20 to $30 a bottle, the quality can dramatically improve," he said.
Regifting: naughty or nice?
Regifting has its place in the world but not if you thoughtlessly leave the original birthday wrapping on what's intended as a Christmas gift, Post said.
"There are definitely times when regifting is you just getting rid of junk," she said.
Post's four rules of regifting: The present should be in original packaging with all components; it shouldn't be something personalized to you; you should be 99% sure recipients wouldn't mind that it was a regift if they were to find out; and the item should be pleasing.
Post recalls a friend who received an octopus-shaped ceramic planter.
"There was no way she could regift that," Post said.