Etiquette Experts Advise How to Survive the Holidays Without Losing Friends and Going Broke

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Dec. 15, 2005--As the 2005 holiday season kicks into full gear, two etiquette experts offer welcome insights into how to survive the season with friends and finances intact.

Research conducted by IPSOS, and commissioned by PayPal, unveils consumer sentiments toward gift preferences, holiday charitable giving and group gifting during the holiday season. From gift giving to entertaining, the holidays -- more than any other time of the year -- create pressures to overspend.

Noted etiquette experts Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh -- co-authors of The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Decorum and The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Grace Under Pressure -- use these findings to provide helpful how-to tips for consumers to enjoy the season without breaking the bank.

#1: Money is a welcome, not tacky gift

Even though conventional wisdom suggests that money may be an impersonal or uncreative gift, the survey finds money is the number-one gift people prefer to give and receive. Money topped the list of tangible gifts Americans most want to receive, followed by clothing and books, according to the survey. It is also the most popular gift to give, followed by gift certificates and clothing.

Izzo and Marsh offer a number of ways to make cash a tasteful holiday gift. Enclose the money in a greeting card or with special stationery and include suggestions on how to splurge (e.g. "Treat yourself to a pedicure!"). Investing in a savings bond, giving gift cards from a favorite retailer or sending money online with holiday e-cards are all ways to show you care. If a family member is saving up for a trip or a car, send money she can put toward a bigger purchase.

"With money, there's never the need to worry about finding the perfect size or color. Your friend or loved one won't have the hassle and awkwardness of returning an unwanted gift," said Izzo. "For some occasions and relationships, though, cash just won't do it. Stick with a classic gift for Valentine's Day or anniversaries!"

#2: The holidays are the time for charitable giving, but it's okay to have limits

With an abundance of opportunities to give to non-profits -- from the workplace to busy storefronts -- there can be a lot of pressure during the holidays to donate to charities. According to the IPSOS survey, more than 55 percent of Americans said they avoid non-profit solicitors because they don't have cash on hand.

The experts advise to politely decline by saying, "I've already given all I can this year," or "I give during the course of the year." Select a few charities that are important to you, and determine how much you want to give, offering your donations by check or online to avoid any guilt over not having cash at hand for everyone who asks.

Use the same tactics at work, said Izzo and Marsh, where 64% of people say raising money for charities is a common office practice.

"It is your choice whether or not to participate," said Izzo. "The best way to give is to make donations during the year when your wallet is less strained."

#3: Plan ahead to avoid paying more than your share for a group gift

A group gift is a great way to spoil a friend or family member while sharing the expense. However, Izzo and Marsh advise that collecting cash from everyone often can be difficult and uncomfortable for the individuals coordinating efforts, potentially resulting in broken relationships. Half of Americans have seen friends and relatives avoid each other because of money owed, and 57 percent have witnessed a relationship end because one person owed the other person money.

"If you find yourself in charge, first ask the intended participants individually if they want to contribute and how much they can afford," said Marsh. "Give the group the option of paying their portions through an online payment service like PayPal, which can send an electronic reminder to pay," said Marsh. "This is a much better option than nagging the group and potentially causing someone to avoid you."

Circulate the card for the gift only after all the money has been collected, which nicely gives the message that people can't take credit for a gift if they haven't chipped in.

Editor's Note: To receive the full survey data or to schedule interviews with Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh, please contact Jamie Patricio or Jennifer Radivoj (details below).


The phone-based IPSOS survey was conducted among a sample of 807 Americans aged 18 to 64. The respondents were polled from October 7-12, 2005.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is one of the fastest growing market research companies in the U.S., market leader in Canada, and among the most trusted research brands in North America. With more than 1,300 professionals and support staff in the U.S. and Canada, Ipsos offers a suite of survey-based services -- guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies -- in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, and public affairs research, as well as forecasting, modeling, and consulting. Ipsos companies offer a complete line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services.

In 2004, Ipsos generated EUR 605.6 million (US$752.8 million) in total revenues, of which 35% came from its North American operations. The Paris-based company was founded in 1975 and has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999.

Visit to learn more about Ipsos offerings and capabilities.

About PayPal

Founded in 1998, PayPal, an eBay (Nasdaq:EBAY) company, enables any individual or business with an email address to send and receive payments online securely, easily and quickly. PayPal's service builds on the existing financial infrastructure of bank accounts and credit cards and uses one of the world's most advanced proprietary fraud prevention systems to create a safe, global, real-time payment solution. PayPal has more than 86 million accounts and is available to users in 55 markets around the world. More information about the company can be found at

(Newsroom Ad tile) The Modern Enterprise
(Newsroom Ad tile) Small Business Spotlight
Stay up to date.

Sign up to receive the latest news to your email.