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Do you give your employer a gift?

When it comes to giving gifts to families you work for, here's what nannies, babysitters, caregivers, housekeepers and pet sitters can keep in mind.

One of the best things about the gift-giving is how it feels when we give someone a present we know they will love. When it comes to gifts for the people who sign our paychecks, however, gift-giving rules can get a little sticky. It’s hard to know what to get, how much to spend or if a gift should be given at all. This can be particularly perplexing for employees who are caregivers, from nannies, babysitters and senior caregivers to housekeepers and pet sitters.

Here are tips for navigating whether or not to get a gift for an employer.

1. Don’t worry about cost 

When it comes to gifting your employer, it really is the thought that counts, not the price tag. “Giving a gift to your boss is not mandatory and should be seen as an inexpensive and friendly gesture,” says Richie Frieman, author of the etiquette column Modern Manners Guy.

Frieman and other experts agree that gift cards are a definite no-no for employers. “There is no reason to advertise how much you spent or didn’t spend,” says Constance Hoffman, owner of Social and Business Graces, Inc., who maintains that giving less can often be more.

2. Be thoughtful but not too intimate

“Don’t buy a gift that is too personal,” cautions Hoffman. “Skip the perfume and clothing and consider choosing a gift the whole family can enjoy, like homemade cookies or cake served on a lovely plate. Keep it simple and from the heart.

Frieman suggests choosing a gift that will appeal to your employer’s tastes, special interests or hobbies. “If your boss is a big coffee drinker, buy them a unique flavor of fresh coffee, maybe from a rare place online that isn’t sold locally or a seasonal flavor of their favorite brand.”

3. Involve the kids and pets

Not all gifts need to come ready-made. Consider creating something special with the children and presenting it to their parents as a gift from all of you, such as special decorations for the tree, popsicle-stick picture frames with photos of yourself and the children in them or cookies you all baked together and goofily decorated.

According to California-based nanny, Ashlyn Kindberg, rather than get her employer and the kids she cares for a holiday gift, “I have decided to do something extra with a holiday theme that is fun with the kids, beyond my current responsibilities.” For example, spend an afternoon making yummy Christmas cookies. “And, if I go that route, I’ll just write the mom a nice card,” she adds.

If you care for a pet regularly, think about getting your employer a framed photo of their pet or the pet’s paw print. If you care for client who is a grandparent, give them a framed picture of their grandkids.

4. Say it with flowers

“Not all gifts have to be long lasting,” shares Frieman. “Flowers say volumes and are universal for making someone smile,” he adds. Bouquets also don’t need to be expensive or lavish or come from the best florist in town.

If you prefer to go for something longer lasting, consider a potted plant such as a simple succulent, geranium or poinsettia, particularly if your boss is a nature lover. You can also decorate the flower pot to make the gift extra special and unique.

Tie the job back to the service you provide. If you’re a nanny, offer the parents free babysitting services so they can go on a date night. If you’re a housekeeper, give your employer a voucher for a free closet organization. If cash is tight, these jobs are a great way to say “happy holidays!”

In this age of commercialism, gift-giving can get out of control, sapping your paycheck in minutes flat. Touching, simple gifts or gestures can say so much more and also let your employer know how much you enjoy your job and the family you work for.

But what about the kids you care for? Do you give them presents