You’re gathered with family and friends at a holiday celebration and gifts are flying everywhere! It’s so easy to lose track of where all of those beautifully wrapped boxes are going as they change hands. So do you need to send a thank-you note to everyone who showed up with a gift for you? Hmmm.

Woman Writing a Thank You Card

Or, your boss has given everyone on the team identical coffee mugs as a way to help kick off the new year on a positive note. It’s a nice coffee mug, but the gift isn’t exactly personal, and all of your colleagues got one too. Is a thank-you note necessary in that case? Another good question.

Or, your neighbor dropped off a plate of cookies. She tells you that they were left over from a bigger batch she was making. They’re really delicious, but again, is it time to break out the stationery and write a card?

You’re not the only one who has asked yourself these questions. While it’s conventional wisdom that thank-you notes are pretty much always a good choice, it’s not always clear whether they’re “required” in certain situations. More specifically, should a gift-giver expect a thank-you note from you on an occasion when lots of people have received the same or similar present? Or when they seem to pass something off to you as a friendly gesture, rather than an official gift? Dicey, right?

According to international etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer, there’s really only one situation in which a thank-you card isn’t necessary — and that’s when someone has given you something that was, in itself, a sign of gratitude.

“Typically, there isn’t a need to send a thank-you note for small thank-you gifts, or else the cycle would go on in perpetuity!” Schweitzer tells us. “Out of an abundance of kindness, some recipients may send a quick text acknowledging the gift, but it isn’t necessary.”

Otherwise, though, you should pretty much be prepared to send a thank-you note any time someone gives you a gift, regardless of the occasion or whether or not others received the same thing.

“Your note reflects your manners [and] demonstrates that you value the gift or gesture, even if it wasn’t solely directed to just you,” Schweitzer says. “You can never go wrong sending a thank-you card. All etiquette experts agree on one thing — handwritten thank-you notes are brilliant, elegant, and absolutely necessary.”

If this hasn’t been a consistent habit of yours thus far, don’t worry! It’s never too late to get started, and writing a thank-you note doesn’t have to be complicated. Schweitzer recommends specifically mentioning the gift you received, mentioning how it made you feel or how it will impact you, sharing your future plans for the gift, and repeating your appreciation for it at the end. Short and sweet is just right — so get ready and get thanking!

Are you good at sending consistent thank-you notes? Tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)