We asked etiquette expert Dana Schultze how to properly stuff a stocking, avoid gift-buying blunders and please even the pickiest person on your holiday gift list.
Have you ever balked at buying a gift for your in-laws? Felt pressure to pick the perfect present? The holidays are stressful enough—that’s why WE asked trend editor and etiquette expert Dana Schultze from gifts.com to fill us in on giving in good taste.
Wine Enthusiast: It seems like stockings are a great way to go for holiday gift giving. Can you tell us how to properly stuff a stocking?
Dana Schultze: It depends on the age of the stocking receiver, but here are some general guidelines. Mix it up so that it's fun for everyone to dig through. Throw something useful in the stocking like razors or shaving gel. It always catches your gift-ee off guard, but they'll appreciate it next time they don't have to run out for more! Mini bottles of upscale lotions, shampoos, perfumes and alcohol (for those 21 and over, or course) are a great addition. Keep the spirit alive by adding something 100% holiday themed. Sure, it's a little cheesy, but it'll get a laugh. It doesn’t have to be expensive, either; your holiday item could be a little snow globe from the drugstore or a pair of candy cane socks. Keep it light by also adding a gag. We have found some really amazing gag gifts that make perfect stocking stuffers, like bacon Band-Aids. If you have a big enough budget, aim to include one splurge gift in each stocking. If you can’t come up with a personalized splurge gift, opt for a gift card from a store that the gift-ee will go to.
WE: Can you give us examples of what you might fill a stocking with based on the person receiving the gift?
DS: For babies: Fill your little one's stocking with playtime basics that'll be fun all year long. Keep the stocking soft and in neutral tones. Make sure the stocking is one the parents will want to keep—baby’s first Christmas is significant!
- For kids: Kids love miniature stuff, so skip the sugary treats and fill their stockings with the latest tiny toys instead. At major toy stores, you can buy a variety of mini games that are useful for long car rides, so mix and match when distributing.
- For teens: Look for accessories to accompany their favorite gadgets (like cell phones, video games and iPods), new little beauty sets and goodies from the stores they shop at most. Fill up extra space with magazines or books geared toward their hobbies or interests, or take a peek at the latest Seventeen or Teen Vogue to get a realistic idea of what’s in style for this age group.
- For men: Shop for little gifts that'll make their lives easier and their hobbies more enjoyable. Go for a masculine stocking in deep reds and greens or a striking plaid pattern. Add in some gourmet snacks he loves but might not pick up for himself, and mini bottles of his favorite Scotch, Tequila or whisky. If you feel like splurging, engraving a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue is another option, check Web site for details. Alternatively, restoring an heirloom or family treasure like a pocket watch or flask personalizes the stocking.
- For women: Shop for little gifts she wouldn't buy for herself, anything that will make her feel a little spoiled or help her relax. Purse-sized lip glosses or perfumes (especially rollerballs), fuzzy socks and scarves make for great filler. If you know of a book or author she is interested in reading, add that in, too, along with a scented candle. If she’s a wine lover, try mini bottles of Martini & Rossi’s Asti or Prosecco four-packs or a mini-bottle of Pommery POP rosé-intended to be consumed directly from the bottle via a colorful straw.
- For pets: Let Fluffy and Fido in on the stocking tradition with their favorite treats, chew toys and accessories, like a new leash or bandanna.
WE: What are some ways to personalize gift giving?
DS: Consider the person's lifestyle, personality and taste. It is helpful to keep a notepad and jot down the activities and interests of your friends and family members as they come to mind. Are they sporty? Do they like food and wine? Are they into arts and culture? What do they do for fun? What industry do they work in? Any long lost hopes or wishes? If you're stumped, you can always take our personality quiz, and then see gifts to match. The answers may surprise you! www.gifts.com/finder
Gift Guide: Here are the top five Dos that prevent the Don’ts:
#1: Make a list of all your intended recipients including family, friends and colleagues. Include their interests and a budget for each gift so you'll be prepared to spot the perfect gift when it crosses your path.
#2: Buy early. Avoid last minute desperation that can lead to overspending. Buy online early to take advantage of free ground shipping offers and gift wrapping. Also, if you have popular items on your list, shopping early can help you avoid the "out-of-stock blues.” Check with stores as some sites even offer pre-orders.
#3: Know your shipping restrictions. There's nothing worse than realizing you've missed the deadline to ship Christmas gifts. December 17th is usually the cut off for standard shipping but, to be safe, try to get those gifts ordered by December 10th. Gifts.com collects the shipping information for many stores so that you know who will guarantee holiday delivery, and by which dates.
#4: Shop securely online. When asked to enter credit card information, look for "https://" at the beginning of the Web site URL. The s indicates that the information being transmitted is encrypted for privacy. Another great thing to do here is to use one credit card only for online purchases so that if your information does get hacked, you hopefully only have one number to call.
#5: Buy extra gifts: Don't be caught empty handed. Keep gifts ready for that unexpected visitor or guest who brings you something. Or, for that party you didn't plan to go to, have a few hostess gifts wrapped and ready in a pinch.
Giving wine this year? Here are some ideas for creative gift wrapping no matter what your level of expertise:
Basic: Use a patterned or brightly colored piece of tissue paper (you can use two sheets if it’s thin enough for the bottle to be seen through it). Place the tissue paper on a flat surface with the shorter end facing you; lay the bottle down on the edge of the paper. Hold the paper against the bottle, gently rolling the bottle away from you until you reach the other end of the paper. Push the excess paper at the bottom of the bottle into the punt, and at the other end wind the excess paper around the top. The tissue paper should hold on its own, but if you are worried about it unraveling you can secure the paper with a decorative sticker or ribbon.
Intermediate: To festively present wine bottles to your host, get a large cellophane bag or make your own with a roll of cellophane wrapping. Fill the bag with raffia, potpourri, flower petals or loose candy and tie around the neck with ribbon.
Advanced: Using red and white-striped wrapping paper or any fun, festive design, wrap the wine bottle length wise, leaving about 2–3 inches of paper on either end. Tie the ends with curling ribbon, leaving the ends open to resemble a giant piece of candy. And just like the real thing, there’s a delicious treat inside!