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Anna Post’s 6 Tips on How to Buy the Perfect Gift

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I recently got some solid advice from Anna Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post (yes, she of Etiquette fame). These the tips she shared with me on how to pick the perfect present for everyone on your gift list.

1. No Gift Cards
Though she’s not entirely anti-gift card, Post cautioned against resorting to gift certificates as easy solves to any gifting dilemma. Essentially, she said, gifts should partially reflect the giver’s personality. “I just wouldn’t rely too much on [gift cards] because you’re opting out of the gifting process that puts your personality into it.”

2. Show Them You Were Paying Attention
This tip comes in handy no matter what: who doesn’t want to be heard? “It’s always good to give a gift that shows you’ve been paying attention,” Post says. Post emphasized it as her advice for new relationships, in particular, when you don’t want a gift to be too expensive or overblown. For example, for their first Valentine’s Day, she bought her coffee-loving boyfriend of three months a French press and a quality bag of coffee beans.

3. Look out for the “Little Luxuries”
When you have to give a gift to someone you don’t know that well, Post suggests finding the “little luxuries” – things we see while shopping that we’d love to have, but feel strange about buying for ourselves. A sampler pack of gourmet ice-cream toppings, that set of upscale muffin mixes, photography books and so on.

4. When in Doubt, Go Classic
There are those times when you just don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s a gift for a hostess who always comes up with something genius to bring to your parties. Maybe it’s something for your significant other’s parents who you’re meeting for the first time. “If creativity is not your forte, go classic,” Post said. “Simple, well-done classics speak volumes.” Think: a set of luxe hand soaps, a designer scented candle – a nice wine and cheese pairing will go a long way.

5. Your Boss Doesn’t get a Gift
Post is not a believer in giving bosses a gift. “Unless it’s a department or team going in on something, I don’t think it’s a great idea.” If a gift seems necessary, she said to stick with business essentials, like a nice pen set or a tablet case. Post warned against any kind of clothing or jewelry – even the old standby, booze.

6. Always Get a Gift Receipt
Gift-giving’s not always easy but the one insurance policy we all have is the gift receipt. Telling someone, “I did my best, but you’re by no means obligated to keep this if you have one/don’t like it/really wanted something else” is one of the kindest gifts you can give.

Photo credit: 401(K) 2012 via flickr

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