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How to get what you want this Christmas

  • Leave magazine pictures of what you want scattered around the house
  • Say "In case you were looking for ideas, I'd really like..."
  • Don't hand a friend a wish list of specific items you'd like to get

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) -- When you're a kid, it's easy. You write a letter to Santa. You tell your mom, dad, grandparents, friends and dog what you want for Christmas.

But as an adult, it might be considered slightly rude to march up to your spouse and say, "Hey, I've been really good this year... get me this."

That said, you don't necessarily want what your husband/brother/well-meaning great aunt is planning on getting you. (A toaster -- really?)

We asked our etiquette experts if it's OK to drop gift hints as an adult or if growing up means shutting up and just accepting what Santa brings you.

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

If making a "this is all I want" list gets ignored, I prefer the subtle "leave pictures from a catalog or magazine strategically placed throughout the house" method.

You don't have to say a word, yet you certainly get your point across.

You could even fill out order forms, and include already stamped and addressed envelopes along with the pictures. (If you're really keen on a specific item, you may want to also include a method of payment with your gift pick.)

If no one mentions anything to you about it, then either the message was duly noted and you'll just have to wait and see how successful your little plan was, or they actually don't give a hoot as to what you really want -- they will get you whatever they want you to have, or what they think you really want.

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

This is a touchy subject in my house. In the past I have asked my mom or a friend to tell my husband what's on my wish list, but I'll be honest -- he hates that. He feels manipulated.

I'd rather let him know outright what I need or want and if he gets it, great. If not, oh well.

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

Some givers welcome gift suggestions -- with model numbers and stores, thank you.

Others want to surprise -- some going so far as to cross off their potential gift list anything you've hinted you want or might expect.

If you're dealing with the former, there's no need to beat around the bush. But be considerate enough to include on your list suggestions in all price ranges.

If you're dealing with the latter, your hints will need to be observable, rather than expressed (i.e., let the giver "overhear" your conversations with others or see you eyeing ads and commercials).

You might also share your preferences with friends or family members that you know the giver will turn to for suggestions.

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

A lot of it depends on who it is you're dropping hints to. If it's a spouse/mother/sister, you can make it very fun, saying something like, "In case you're looking for ideas, I'd love a ... "

Or you can drop a hint through a third party. Say, "In case Sam is looking for ideas, I would love such and such."

On the other hand, let's say it's a friend that you exchange gifts with or a co-worker -- then it's a bit tricky. You can certainly try, "I just really love/like Dan Brown's books" or say "That new book is really good," but I wouldn't just narrow it down and say, "Here's my wish list."

Overall, people do love having ideas on what to get you, so help them out!

From our readers

ms38654: My wife is excellent at giving gift hints: She sends me an e-mail with links to the exact items. My task is to pick one or two which is the surprise part. I am totally happy with this method. There's no guessing and no possibility of picking the wrong thing.

YodarCritch: One should not look at gift giving from a "personal profit" standpoint, but from a more human standpoint "Here is a person who got me something they thought I would like". Thank them graciously and after a while get rid of the bad gift if you must

xetawindsong: We often aren't explicit with each other about what we want, often we don't have a wish list. But if I can tell he's struggling to figure something out, I'll give him a couple of suggestions. It's nice when just the right gift falls in your lap, but there's enough stress in the world already without adding to it.

Got a suggestion on the best way for grownups to drop hints for presents? Post 'em below and they could end up here later today.

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