smart spending

Gift-giving etiquette tips for the holidays

Some gifts may not be welcomed
Some gifts may not be welcome

When it comes to government service providers, gift-giving around the holidays can be a little trickier. In the past, giving holiday gifts of all sorts to the mail carrier was almost a tradition. But Thomas says these days, federal workers cannot accept gifts of any kind worth more than $20. "It's pretty strict," Thomas says. Many companies have policies on what their employees can receive on the holidays. Don't be shy. "The best thing to do is ask."

Another practice to avoid is leaving any alcoholic beverages for providers. This is especially popular in saying thank you to the crew that picks up your garbage.

"You have to be careful. You don't know if someone underage isn't going to come along and pick up that six-pack of beer you left," Thomas says. "I know a lot of people do this, but trash collectors do appreciate tips. You can tape an envelope on the underside of the trash can. Just make sure it's clearly marked."

Mitchell says businesses can get into trouble if their holiday gifts are perceived by clients or government officials as an effort to curry favor. It's akin to a bribe. "If that's your reason to give at holidays, then don't. That's not a reason to give a gift."

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