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Don't Be Rude: Ten Holiday Shopping Guidelines to Live By

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Kim France, the former EIC of Lucky Magazine and current blogger at Girls of a Certain Age, is now sharing her shopping wisdom on Racked. Today, she tackles the delicate territory of holiday gift-giving.

Image via Shutterstock.

People often assume, based on the fact that I edited a shopping magazine for so long, that I must be a master gift-giver. But the truth is that shopping for others is tough no matter how great your lay of the land is. When it comes to finding the exact right thing, there is no magic bullet. But there are a few simple guidelines.—Kim France

1. Don't forget who you're shopping for. Now is the time to put aside your personal likes and desires, and enter the universe of the recipient. I once purchased a very expensive and quite beautiful fire opal ring for a friend, because at the time I was really big into fire opals. And it was only as she sat before me opening the box that I realized she wasn't wearing a single piece of jewelry, and in fact never wore jewelry, and that she was going to feel terribly beholden to like this very pricey gift that had nothing to do with her taste or personal style. She would have been happy with something that cost a fraction of what that ring did, and I felt awful for having put her on the spot.

2. Ask yourself before buying a gift: If I were the recipient, would I be excited by this? And be deadly honest with yourself before you answer.

3. Buy people items they would never splurge on for themselves. This is my favorite piece of gift shopping advice, and I share it all the time. Surprise a friend or family member with some completely unnecessary but absolutely wonderful thing, and you're aces.

4. Give as you live. I saw these words in the window of a store one holiday season, and the message has always stuck. If you are a person who tends to buy splurgy things for yourself, then be a person who tends to buy splurgy things for others. If you're on a tighter budget and as a rule watch what you spend, nobody's going to think less of you for going a thriftier route.

5. Always be shopping. Part of what makes holiday shopping so much more stressful than regular shopping is that you are on a very specific mission, and—as I have mentioned in the past—mission-based shopping is rarely a pleasure. A better approach is to snatch up perfect items as you encounter them over the course of the year. If you're on vacation and see a vase that screams your mother's name, by all means, buy it. Such a golden opportunity may not present itself again.

6. Shop small businesses. All retailers depend on brisk holiday sales to help their bottom line (Black Friday got its name because it was the day that traditionally brought retailers out of the red and into the black for the year, in fact) but indies need it most of all. You're also likely to find outstanding pieces by small and emerging talents, which will make you the person with the most original presents under the tree.

Image via Shutterstock.

7. …except for out of towners. Stick to bigger retailers when shopping for those in other cities. It makes returns far simpler.

8. There is no shame in a gift card. I used to view resorting to a gift card as acknowledging defeat, but now I realize some people are just happiest when allowed to choose for themselves. There are others who have returned every gift I've ever attempted to give them, and in that case, their gift card is a little gift I've decided to give myself—to spare me the stress of trying to choose something they won't return this year.

9. No passive aggression. Dropping hints with gifts is serious poor form and should only be engaged in if you're willing to lose a relationship in the bargain. I've got a very pretty friend who chooses to wear no makeup, and another friend who for years gave her lip glosses, bronzers, and eye shadow compacts; something my makeup-less friend tolerated with a great deal more grace than I fear I might have in her position. So unless your single friend has expressed an interest in improving her love life, an introductory membership to Match.com is off-limits. And if your pal who hasn't been to the gym in years hasn't mentioned that she'd like to get back in the habit again, think hard before booking her a one-on-one with a personal trainer.

10. Regifts are not gifts. They're just not. If you receive something as a gift that you think someone you know might enjoy more than you, then yes, by all means give it to that person. But as a nice thing to do, not in place of a real gift. And be 100 percent honest about its provenance.
· Girls of a Certain Age [Official Site]
· 7 Rules of Shopping, From a Seasoned Expert [Racked]
· My Eight Favorite Boutiques Anywhere, Shoppable at Home [Racked]
· Lucky Magazine Founder and Former EIC Kim France Is a New Racked Contributor [Racked]