5 Awkward Gift Giving Mistakes

Giving gifts is great, but make sure you avoid these common holiday blunders before you start buying.

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1. The Regift

Your great aunt gives you a hideous sweater and you pass it on to your cousin, even though you know he won't like it either. Even worse, you leave the original "to" and "from" card on it. "The most common complaint I get is about something that is clearly regifted," says Winnipeg-based civility expert Lew Bayer, CEO of Civility Experts Worldwide.

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2. The Self-Improvement Gift

You've decided your friend would be happier if she lost weight or jumpstarted her love life. So you buy her a pair of running shoes or a relationship-rescue book. "The gift is inappropriate if it implies the person needs help," says Ottawa-based etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau. Besides, the first improvement she'll make is to dump you as a friend.

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3. The Thoughtless Gift

You bake your famous brownies for someone with a nut allergy. It's the thought that counts, but in this case, there wasn't any. The message is, "I don't care about you enough to spend any time or energy thinking about what you might want or need," warns Bayer.

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4. The Politically Incorrect Gift

It might seem like simple fun to you, but giving a child a water pistol or a CD with explicit language that goes against a parent's values could make the parent uncomfortable, according to Blais Comeau.

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5. The Novelty/Joke Gift

You may think the square-egg maker or the whoopee cushion is perfect for your father-in-law- the "man who has everything." But he may not be amused, and the joke will be on you when he leaves you off his gift list next year.