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.

The boss

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

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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.

Examples: Look for Lamp Berger, cut glass or crystal serving dishes, small graphite sculpture, luxury brand key chain, a jewelry box or toiletry bag.

The White Elephant party guest

Gift-giving philosophy: Think kitsch. It has the widest range of bizarre appeal for these humorous parties.