The babysitter, housecleaner or nanny
Gift-giving philosophy: The people who help you in your home are often as close as family. Give them gifts that remind them of your bond.
Shopping strategy: Jewelry stores, big box stores, bookstores, gift boutiques, specialty retailers like Brookstone or even local visitors centers could have the gifts you're looking for.
Examples: Try jewelry with a message -- either symbolic or engraved -- or a digital photo frame with many images loaded of your photos together or a book that mentions inside jokes. Share your last name: gift them with a family tartan or an embroidered state pillow that says something about your family identity.
The hairdresser, tailor or mechanic
Gift-giving philosophy: Don't fool yourself: They work hard for a living, you need their services and you know they would appreciate a substantial holiday tip.
Examples: Bring them money, usually the amount you spend for their services in one visit, and maybe some of the cookies you've baked
GIFTS FOR WORK
The Secret Santa gift
Gift-giving philosophy: Think impersonal but useful -- let THEM personalize it.
Shopping strategy: Bookstores, office supply stores, big box stores, luggage stores like Mori Luggage & Gifts, organizer stores like The Container Store, high-end department stores and local boutiques will likely have the kinds of gifts you're looking for.
Examples: Consider a small frame for your co-worker's desk, humorous but useful checklist notepads, keyboard and screen cleaners, an elegant pen, a business card wallet, Moleskin notebooks, designer sticky notes, or perhaps a red Swingline stapler.
Gift-giving philosophy: You want to show appreciation, but don't want to look like a kiss-up. Think current and trendy -- but high style.
Shopping strategy: Spas, boutiques, bath and body stores, department stores, big box stores, home decor stores, jewelry stores and outlet stores like T.J.Maxx and Marshalls will likely have the gifts you're looking for.
Examples: Look for a spa toiletry set, an American heritage brand sofa throw, personalized graphic mug, retro or reproduction curio tray, on-trend sculptural book ends, Chinoiserie catch-all box or bowl, money clip.
GIFTS FOR CELEBRATIONS
The inevitable surprise guest
Stay in touch!
Gift-giving philosophy: Of course you want something under the tree for everyone. Think small luxury -- the sorts of things you don't often buy, but will help make a house a home.
Shopping strategy: High-end department stores, home decor stores, outlet stores like T.J.Maxx or Marshalls, luggage stores or big box stores will likely have the gifts you want.
The White Elephant party guest
Gift-giving philosophy: Think kitsch. It has the widest range of bizarre appeal for these humorous parties.