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Gift giving etiquette: Can I ask for cash?

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Give them presents or a gift card?
  • Peggy Post says asking for cash is OK, if you do it tactfully and carefully
  • Anna Getty believes it's OK to ask from certain people if you're close
  • Jodi Newbern disagrees, saying it's downright tacky and ungrateful

Editor's note: Every Thursday during the holidays we're asking our etiquette experts questions to help you navigate the perils of gift giving and receiving. Check back next week for another dilemma.

(CNN) -- Maybe you're strapped for money in the recession -- there are bills to pay, mouths to feed. Maybe you're sick of receiving sweaters you never wear.

Maybe you hate the million trinkets collecting dust in that room you never go in, or can't get over someone spending their hard-earned money on something that just isn't that useful to you.

Whatever the reason, it's common for people to wonder this time of year: Can I ask for cash for the holidays? Gift cards? What's the best way to do that? Our etiquette experts weigh in.

Peggy Post, great-granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post:

Gift card tips for holiday shopping

If you're just sick of random gifts, do not let on at all that you're sick of them. Yes, you may share your wish for cash or gift cards, but the best way to do so is very tactfully and carefully. Don't make it sound like an expectation, and always be as gracious as possible.

It also depends on the person -- if it's someone you're very close to -- your mom, sibling, spouse, etc. -- then they probably are wondering what you want anyway. You could say something like, "In case you're looking for ideas ... that would be a real treat."

If it's somebody that you will probably be exchanging gifts with but you're not as close to, I would wait and see if they ask you for a wish list.

Most importantly, don't make it sound like "gimme cash." And remember that some people simply don't like to give cash, so don't show your disappointment.

Anna Getty, author of 'I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas':

It truly depends on whom you are asking. From close family members, I think it's fine to ask them outright. From everyone else, welcome what they give you.

Jodi Newbern, author of 'Regifting Revival: A Guide to Reusing Gifts Graciously':

A gift is a gift is a gift, so flat-out asking for cash or gift-cards is tacky, unless you are noticeably down-on-your-luck or have just gone through a significant rough time financially.

Having used up all of your liquid assets in order to purchase a 2011 Bugatti Veyron would not qualify, and probably would not net you any gifts at all.

Alerting potential gift-givers, especially relatives, that you "seriously don't really need anything," when you know full well that they will be giving you a gift, will most likely score you cash or a gift card of some sort.

If not, then you can always add the unwanted gift to your "regift closet" inventory and graciously regift it as you deem appropriate.

And don't be so ungrateful -- you're lucky to get anything at all!

Sherri Athay, author of 'Present Perfect: Unforgettable Gifts for Every Occasion':

There really is no nice way to ask for gifts -- cash or otherwise.

The best you might hope for is a prospective benefactor who asks what you want, in which case you might, if you're comfortable, drop a hint like, "Well, you know, Grandpa, I've been saving for a trip to Rio" or "I can always find something I like at Gucci."

From our readers

You've posted some great advice in our comment section. Here are just a few of our favorites...

NewMama: My family is so large that we draw names amoung the adults for gifts. There is a 50 dollar price limit. Of course, the kids all get gifts. This way we all get a nice thoughtful gift and we avoid giving gift cards and cash.

Wordswords: Hey...ask for what you want! Just don't expect to get it. That's the motto in our family.

bdkennedy1: I have banned gift cards and cash as gifts with my family. Both are thoughtless. In today's disposable world I think people need to put more thought into what they are giving someone.

Chaoui: Asking for cash is always tacky, under any circumstance ... If you'd rather have money, have a garage sale and sell those knick-knacks and garish sweaters.

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