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A Holiday How-To Guide: Gift-Giving Etiquette

You’ve got your significant other, your kids, your parents, and your siblings on your gift-giving list for sure. But what about all the other people you cross paths with every day? Sometimes it’s hard enough trying to find the perfect gift for family and friends, let alone your kids’ teachers and the dog walker! (And should you even give a gift to the dog walker?)

Today, I’m here to set the record straight on the finer points of holiday gift-giving etiquette, along with a few ideas for quick and inexpensive gifts that people will love getting from you! (Here’s a hint: it’s not fruitcake.)

First, a quick primer on the basics of holiday gifting versus tipping:

  1. Never tip salaried professionals (teachers, doctors, nurses, personal assistants, office staff, etc.).
  2. Give small, thoughtful gifts to the people with whom you interact regularly or who provide some level of personal service to you or your immediate family: day care, preschool, and elementary school teachers; live-in health care workers; nursing home workers; personal assistants; etc. Limit spending to about $25 per gift.
  3. Give cash gifts (tips) equivalent to one visit, one day’s pay, or one week’s pay (as appropriate) to other service providers: babysitter; hairstylist, manicurist, barber, massage therapist, and personal trainer; pool cleaner, landscaper, and gardener; housekeeper and cleaning staff; and pet groomer, pet sitter, and dog walker.
  4. Give a cash gift to your apartment doorman, superintendent, and/or building manager based on the level of service you’ve received through the year (generally between $25–$100).
  5. USPS regulations prohibit letter carriers from receiving cash gifts, so plan to give your letter carrier a small gift instead (homemade cookies, breads, and cakes are a good option). UPS and FedEx prefer that customers give small gifts instead of tips, but don’t specifically prohibit tipping. Limit spending to about $25.
  6. Conventional wisdom frowns upon giving gifts to your boss, as it might come across as an attempt to curry favor. Every workplace is different, though, so use your best judgment and decide for yourself. (You might talk to coworkers about pooling together to get one gift from the whole team, for example.) Consider drawing names for coworker gifts, or when giving gifts to some coworkers and not others, do so in private (to avoid hurt feelings).
  7. Keep a stash of small gifts on hand to give to neighbors, hostesses of any holiday parties you attend, and for last-minute or unexpected gift giving.
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This year, I’m making a bunch of these festive, quilted mug rugs as part of my holiday gift stash! They stitch together in a flash.

The Gift Stash

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s the immeasurable value of having a secret stash of little gifts to have on hand for neighbors and hostesses and the inevitable “Oh no! I completely forgot about…” folks. Whether you curate your little gift stash throughout the year or spend a weekend busting through a batch of them, I guarantee you that they’ll make you look way more put together and prepared than you may feel during the holidays! Some of my favorite have-on-hand staples include:

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Mini pound cakes. Maybe it’s because I’m a Southern girl, but I have literally never met anyone who didn’t appreciate a homemade pound cake. Don’t buy them from the store! Even for a self-proclaimed non-baker like myself, spending a day making batches of mini pound cakes is almost pleasurable and definitely not as hard as you think. Most (Southern) ladies have their own go-to recipe: my mom’s is a lemon pound cake that is to die for, and my grandmother always made a chocolate pound cake with chocolate frosting that I have now co-opted as “my” recipe. If you don’t have a recipe of your own, I swear by any pound cake recipe published by Southern Living magazine. (Check out the Gifts That Say Thanks Pinterest board for links to some of my favorites!) Pound cakes are freezer-friendly and therefore perfect to make ahead of time—just be sure to wrap them carefully to prevent freezer burn.

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Mason jar cookie mixes. Almost as good as a pound cake—it’s the promise of a tasty homemade treat for the recipient without the hassle of shopping for and measuring out the ingredients. These kinds of gifts are fun and easy for little ones to help “make,” so they’re a fun idea for teacher gifts. Jar mixes are also perfect for making lots of gifts at once!

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Pretty kitchen/tea/fingertip towels. These are the ideal hostess gifts, because we all know that you can’t have too many kitchen towels! I got an embroidery machine over the summer, so I’ve stocked up on some plain towels that I can quickly personalize with the hostess’s monogram or a holiday motif. Tie a pretty towel onto a bottle of wine or gourmet olive oil, a small cheese board or wooden trivet, or a scented pillar candle for a well-rounded gift.

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Ornaments. I’ve always loved getting beautiful ornaments as gifts; even if it’s not “my style,” I’ve always appreciated having something that will remind me of the person who gave it to me or make my tree décor a little less one-dimensional. Ornaments are great to stock up on at craft fairs (look for local artisans) or on your travels. Unless it’s themed to where you live or a place you’ve been, stick with more traditional-looking ornaments to appeal to anyone’s tastes.

I hope this little primer helps you round out your holiday gift-giving list. I’m always on the lookout for unique last-minute gifts, so I want to hear from you! Do you keep a gift stash for last-minute gifts, and if so, what are your favorite ideas? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

Happy gifting!


The Season of Giving

’Tis the season, and we’re ready to give, give, give! Sign up for our giveaway below to win this set of awesome products: A serving bowl, pitcher, hurricane cylinder vase and rectangular vase, all from Mikasa’s Pebblestone line.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gifts, Holiday and Parties, Seasonal
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Anna Dineen

Meet the Contributor

My home Tuesday Morning location: Hillside Village Shopping Center in Dallas, Texas

My favorite Tuesday Morning department: Do I have to choose just one? Craft section and seasonal accents.

A little about me: I’m the gal who always has a project (or two or three!) going on, whether it’s crafting for fun, DIY home decor or even a little remodeling. I do everything but cook! I’m obsessed with great design, old houses, fabulous wallpaper, sushi and hoarding craft supplies — not necessarily in that order.

What I love to write about: I love sharing my favorite craft and home décor ideas on the Tuesday Morning blog … it doesn’t matter what kind of project I’m working on, I know I can find the perfect thing for it at my home Tuesday Morning!

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  1. Reply Jan Vath

    Love to shop at Tues Morning! Always find something I like or need. Always good prices too!

  2. Reply Renee Wilson

    Thank you for the many options and opportunities you have show today. Looking forward to checkiing these out! Merry Christmas, God’s blessings to you all at such a beautiful and busy time for each of you and your families!

  3. Reply Perla Patriarca

    Tuesday Morning is such a wonderful place to brows around and enjoy the varied products that are quite unique and priced just right.
    The sales people are always cheerful and helpful and that makes my shopping experience one I look forward to.
    I am so glad they now occupy a bigger place where they can make available more exciting products, and the lower prices makes purchasing a total pleasure!

  4. Reply Maria

    We will be at the door on Sunday waiting for opening time. Can’t wait to see what Tuesday Morning has.

  5. Reply Roxie Sammons

    I love Tuesday Morning. There is always unique gifts in your store at reasonable prices. Not only for gifts but for me. A person plus myself can go there anytime and there is always new and something different in there. I would love to be the lucky winner.

  6. Reply TraciB

    I would like the Holiday Table gift basket because I really need to add some UMPH to my decor. I looked up the Mikasa Pebblestone line and it is perfect! I haven’t taken the time to shop due to my busy work schedule so winning this would really help.

  7. Reply Cathy C

    It would brighten my house for the holidays!

  8. Reply Ruthie B

    I love the idea about the kitchen towels wrapped around a bottle of wine!

  9. Reply Lu Pacolau

    Great advice for gift giving.

  10. Reply TLE

    Love your ideas . . . thanks!

  11. Reply mariapepin

    Love your store and great inexpensive gifts.

  12. Reply Jim

    As much as I love it, and think my DW would be thrilled with it, I would love to give it to my mom

  13. Reply Kimberly Flickinger

    I would love this for my holiday table as I am hosting Christmas for the first time this year.

  14. Reply Katherine McTyre

    I would love to win the gift basket. It has not felt very Christmasy this year due to health issues. It would be wonderful to win something to lighten the Holiday.

  15. Reply Janet Cobb

    I just love new things…especially when they’re free!

    • Reply Cozette Robins

      beautiful pass-along gift for sharing.

  16. Reply Candice

    I would love to bring this to my family Christmas party.

  17. Reply Callie Gerbrandt

    Love the great tips! So helpful at this time of year.

  18. Reply Catherine Griffice

    I would like the items in this basket as I don’t receive any gifts.

  19. Reply Steven Epstein

    Its gorgeous and would look awesome in my kitchen

  20. Reply camilla wilson

    I have guests coming for the holidays.

  21. Reply Galyn

    I haven’t bought anything;I will be going to Tuesday Morning for bags of pistachios,coffee and various jars of jellys and whatever else I find

  22. Reply Carol

    I shop year-round for gifts as I find items on sale or on clearance. Being a year-round bargain hunter helps me always have a supply of gifts for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, graduation, etc. I’ve saved so much money by stockpiling gifts and not having to pay full price when I receive an invitation or announcement! I also stock up on wrapping paper, gift bags and ribbons AFTER a holiday when the price is marked way down. I look for wraps and bags that could be used for more than one event. What a moneysaver this habit has turned out to be!

  23. Reply Cindy

    I love the ideas for last minute gifts! Great ideas, that I may be able to use, even this year still.

  24. Reply craftygramma

    I love the idea of making a few mug rugs for last minute gifts, teacher gifts, etc…I have an adorable pattern as well as cute fabric! Think I’ll get started! Thanks!

  25. Reply Rose

    Holiday season everywhere, it’s soooo wonderful, Happy & To all a Healthy one too.

  26. Reply Snap

    Love Mikasa anything!

  27. Reply Barbara Neuman

    Tuesday A.M. is my favorite store. Incredible finds — things I don’t see in the stores around us. First quality at incredible prices. Any food basket put together by Tuesday A.M. is going to have some amazing items in it — how ’bout a picture?

  28. Reply phyllis

    The to go place for those who need nothing.

  29. Reply Sue

    I shopped at Tuesday Morning two days ago; found unexpected gifts for family – neck pillows!

  30. Reply Dawn Benovitz

    Great tips!

  31. Reply Kristine

    It would be nice to add some new items to my holiday stash

  32. Reply jennifer

    I don’t have many really nice holiday things. This would help my decorating really stand out!

  33. Reply Michelle StJames

    I do keep a gift stash and mason jar mixes (I love the cookie/brownie recipes as well as pancake when given with a small bottle of maple syrup) are a staple on my gift shelf, as are small gift baskets I make from things I have bought throughout the year.

    I would love to win the Holiday Gift Table Basket because I am hosting a party this year and everything in that basket would make my home shine for it. Thanks for the chance!

  34. Reply Lynnette Perkins

    fun decorating ideas! Thanks!

  35. Reply debra beard

    I love the new merchandise. Enjoy shopping there tremendously. Thanks for the great store.

  36. Reply Janice D

    I love getting a basket of things because there is always something in there that is new to me.

  37. Reply EARLA


  38. Reply Ccarita

    Great for my mama this Christmas!

  39. Reply Karen Shirley

    Love Tuesday Morning and it would be great to win a free gift

  40. Reply EvaKendall

    Would luv to win this basket to share with my family on christmas.

  41. Reply Kelly

    Would love to use in my decorating. Thanks for the Tips!

  42. Reply lauren caccese

    I would love to win this to give to my wonderful mother! 🙂

  43. Reply Whitney

    Thanks for all the great tips!!

    • Reply Whitney

      I could use this holiday gift basket to help give my home a little more festive charm.

  44. Reply Sherry Rupe

    Getting a gift is always fun, but getting a gift basket from Tuesday Morning would be fabulous. Thanks for the chance.

  45. Reply Vanessa D.

    I am a teacher and would love to share a story about Tuesday morning unique gifts!

  46. Reply Melinda Wilson

    My recently married son and daughter-in-law received the basics for wedding presents and now they need to start their “entertainment type” gifts so I will be giving these items to them if I win.

  47. Reply Claudette

    TIs the season to enjoy lavishing freebees!

  48. Reply J. Franks

    I’d love to win this because my holiday table could use some updating.

  49. Reply Michelle T.

    I am usually the one handing out gifts to everyone, never getting any in return. It would be nice to have something pretty, something I could really use, and something I could gift to myself!

  50. Reply sandy

    i like to have nice things when i have company over. it makes me feel better abt entertaining people and make my home look nice.

  51. Reply barleecreations

    I would love to win this to help decorate my home for the Christmas.

  52. Reply Maureen

    would love to share with family!!

  53. Reply Tamrah Tso

    I love to host and enjoy new pieces to set my table and decorate our home.

  54. Reply Martha DeMarco

    Looking to add to my holiday collection, this would be great!

  55. Reply Cheryl Horn

    Found beautiful Christmas cards at Tuesday Morning this year!

  56. Reply Dixie Krause

    Love shopping at Tuesday Morning

  57. Reply Donna Nelson

    Tuesday morning is one of my favorite places to shop. Always enjoy my visits there.

  58. Reply Jennifer Essad

    I’d love to win and gift this to my daughter & her fiance at the wedding shower, she’s helped me all her growing years to get ready for family dinners, holidays, parties, graduations – she’s pitched right in and she’s more than capable to entertain on her own in her first home. I’m anxious to be invited to their home in the near future. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

  59. Reply Marguerite Myers

    winning is always a treat!! Fingers crossed!

  60. Reply Amy D

    It would be beautiful in my home.

  61. Reply Gina N

    I would love to win the Tuesday Morning Holiday Table gift basket to add some holiday cheer to my home decor and will proudly display each item for my guests to enjoy. I have enjoyed shopping at Tuesday Morning for many, many years and have always found and purchased the perfect find whether it be a gift or just something for myself, my home or my family. It’s like discovering a new treasure during each shopping trip there.

  62. Reply Paula Englert

    I want the basket because I never win anything. I love Tuesday Morning and shop there often. I always find something I can’t do without.

  63. Reply Dwight

    Spruce up Christmas!!!

  64. Reply Jeanie

    Tuesday Morning is my favorite place to shop.

  65. Reply Jeanie

    i love to entertain!

  66. Reply Chris

    This would be a perfect gift for my daughter. She would absolutely love it.

  67. Reply Liz N

    I’d love the contents to decorate my table this year! It would look amazing!

  68. Reply Shawna O

    This would make a wonderful gift to my sister-in-law as she is hosting dinner on Christmas eve!

  69. Reply Rachel D

    I’d love the Holiday Table Basket because I’m moving on the 22nd into the house of my dreams and would love a house warming present! TM here in South Carolina has really opened my eyes to the stores values and beautiful items…other states that I’ve lived in didn’t have many locations, so I never visited. I’ll visit from now on knowing how cute the items are 🙂

  70. Reply Jane Kandell

    I surely enjoy shopping at Tuesday Morning! This Holiday season was especially fun…the store had such a wide variety of merchandise for gift- giving and looked so festive and inviting. The staff is very helpful too 🙂

  71. Reply Jane Kandell

    I surely enjoy shopping at Tuesday Morning! This Holiday season was especially fun…the store had such a wide variety of merchandise for gift- giving and looked so festive and inviting. The staff is very helpful too 🙂

  72. Reply Erin Walsh

    I love the Mikasa Pebblestone pattern and I think that the serving bowl & pitcher especially, would be great for entertaining.

  73. Reply Megamar

    Hi There,

    I am shopping at Tuesday morning for the last 10 years and always visit with anticipation to check out the one at Garnet in Pacific Beach. Today however I was told that there is no longer a public restroom. Well, that was my last visit.

  74. Reply Sue D

    I would give this to my daughter in law for entertaining.

  75. Reply Tereaa Wise

    Love Tuesday Morning, always something different.

  76. Reply De'Anna

    Thanks for the chance…The reason I should win is backause no one loves Tuesday Morning like I do and I always tell everyone!!!! I am your biggest fan…Ask me *wink*

  77. Reply margaret

    Tuesday Morning decor would certainly dress up our dining room table! You pick the season, T.M. has beautiful items!

  78. Reply Lori

    I want to have something really nice for my table and this would be great

  79. Reply Mary W

    I would share the gift set with my sister. It would brighten everyone’s day!

  80. Reply Kelly kelso

    Love tm. Just wish I could buy weekly sales online too!

  81. Reply Donna

    Thanks for the chance.

  82. Reply ellen casper

    I’d love to win it and give it to my sister

  83. Reply Linda Spearman

    I LOVE shopping at all the near-by Tuesday Mornings. However my very favorite is the store in Hermitage. Everyone there is so friendly! I go straight to the crafts area as I love to hoard craft supplies, especially when I can get them for such a great price!!

  84. Reply Linda Spearman

    I LOVE shopping at all the near-by Tuesday Mornings. However my very favorite is the store in Hermitage. Everyone there is so friendly! I go straight to the crafts area as I love to hoard craft supplies, especially when I can get them for such a great price!! I would LOVE to win the gift basket because it is so nice!!

  85. Reply lin

    would make a good gift for someone else with addition of candies, and kitchen recipes, and fresh cookies

  86. Reply Pamela F

    I love Mikasa and am always looking for new and interesting pieces to use when I’m hosting parties.

  87. Reply Jennifer cox

    such cute stuff!

  88. Reply Susan P.

    I would give the basket to my sister for her annual Christmas party.

  89. Reply Martha Harrell

    Thank you for all the great ideas for things to have on hand for unexpected gift giving. I absolutely love going to Tuesday Morning. Any day is fine, but especially around Christmas time. So much to choose from.

  90. Reply elener mcdonough

    my motherin law has been complaining about my dining room center piece for years ike to fix up my house so everybody will be happy

  91. Reply Patricia Caradonna

    I would love to win the holiday gift basket. It is filled with wonderful items that I can use.

  92. Reply Susan Massey

    I especially love the high quality sheets at Tuesday Morning!

    • Reply Susan Massey

      I especially love the high quality sheets at Tuesday Morning! In addition to fabulous sheets, having the Mikasa items would be great to have and use when others visit.

  93. Reply Karen R

    I love the selection of excellent gift ideas!

  94. Reply Carol King

    I have been a shopper of Tuesday Morning for some time now. Two of my teenage grandchildren love going with me. Tuesday Morning is an adventure for them. They ask me if we can go to Tuesday Morning.

  95. Reply Cathy

    Your ideas are so great. This year is the first year in 30 plus years I didn’t put up a tree. I just didn’t feel like it this yr, losing my fiancee this yr. I love Christmas time its one time of the year the world cones alive with beautiful lights and decor. And it looks so so pretty. I normally put up several trees in different rooms with different themes. my favorite is the Santa tree.
    I like to add a ornament to each gift as part of the wrapping its a little added surprise that everyone enjoys. My secret is after Christmas sales. I can’t help myself to rumbel through all the sales bins to see what I can find for my stash of Christmas goodies for next year.
    Merry Christmas!! Everyone.

  96. Reply Jerry Griffith

    Even though my name is spelled like a man I’m not a man. Female who bought an older home to redo. Love to decorate with antique & new items. Always find beautiful products at Tuesday morning I can afford on my budget. Like my home to feel comfortable when someone comes to visit, a place one can relax, but, beautiful. Like to crochet & do other crafts, when time allows. Always working on something. Like to keep candles, pretty soaps, & crochet dish clothes made in case a gift is needed at the last minute. Always looking in Tuesday Mornings for any new items they may have gotten in, we never know what Tuesday Mornings is going to get in their store next. One of my favorite places to shop.