Today's column was prompted by a young man, age 10, who asked me recently, "Do I have to send a thank-you note when someone gives me a gift?"
In these high-tech times, when text messaging and email are the preferred methods of written communication, my answer, in a word, was yes. It's right; it's proper; it's good for you. We may be frugal, but we've got class.
It is neither difficult nor time-consuming to write a simple, heartfelt note of thanks in response to a gift or other act of kindness. Here are the elements of a well-written thank-you note:
Keep it simple. "Dear Aunt Mary ..." works well. Or use another salutation that would roll easily off your tongue, like "Hi," or "Greetings."
State your thanks and identify the specific gift. "Thank you so much for the video game. It's a perfect addition to my Nintendo Switch collection." Or, "Thank you for the sweater, which is the exact color I would have chosen." The only exception to the specific reference is if the gift was money. In that case do not say, "Thank you for the $100." Say simply, "Thank you for the generous gift, which is greatly appreciated." However, in the event that Aunt Mary actually took the time to create a clever presentation, it would be perfectly acceptable to say, "Your generosity is exceeded only by your clever ability to fold money into a beautiful swan." (Note: There are times when mention of the specific amount may be appropriate, as in the receipt of a donation or charitable contribution.)
A simple sentence that indicates how you will use the gift comes next. "I know I will get plenty of use from this sweater during my semester abroad in Antarctica." Or "It is my all-time favorite game so you can be sure that I will think of you often." Or "It will be spent well to update my shoe collection."
MENTION THE PAST; REFER TO THE FUTURE
Possibly the most important part of your message is a reference to how this person fits into your life. Something like, "I remember fondly snow tubing with you on the hill behind the barn, and I look forward to seeing you soon." Or, "You are in my thoughts, and I hope to see you soon."
As you close your note, state again your gratitude. "Thanks again for your gift," is an appropriate way to close your note.
Wrap things up with a gentle close and your name. "Fondly, Joe" or "Love, Laura" are excellent choices.
There. Seal it up, and get it into the mail. Even if you are the only person you know sending thank-you notes, don't let that deter you. You've demonstrated gracious living at a time when most are too busy to be bothered.
As an added bonus -- but certainly not offered as an incentive to do the right thing -- thank-you notes have been known to encourage repeat performances, as well as improve the frequency and quality of future gifts.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."