By Sarah Skidmore, AP Business Reporter
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The holiday season can mean lots of work and spending, but new ways to share the cost of giving gifts may bring a smile to everyone's face.
Splitting a gift for any occasion from a wedding to Christmas can save time and money, and it can mean bigger and better presents for recipients.
Here are six tips on navigating etiquette, fairness, gift choice and other issues the joint giving brings up.
START EARLY: Do a quick assessment of who might be interested and willing to pitch in and leave plenty of time to iron out details, set the terms and alert people before they start their own shopping.
Robyn Spizman, a gift-giving expert and author of several books, including "The Giftionary," recommends choosing a leader to streamline the process.
BE CLEAR: It's helpful to suggest the gift and estimate the cost per person up front so people have enough information to decide whether they want to participate. On the other hand, if you know someone might not be able to contribute as much as others, you may want to leave the contribution amount open-ended. If someone isn't able to contribute the same amount of money, perhaps they can offer time — wrapping the gift, picking it up or doing another chore.
"It is very politically correct in the gift world," Spizman said. "You make everyone look like a hero in the holiday gift world."
SELECT WITH CARE: The perk of group giving is pooling your resources to give something you wouldn't otherwise be to, but that doesn't mean this works only for big-ticket items like a laptop or a trip.
Group gifts can be heavy on effort and light on cost. Consider a homemade book with words of wisdom from each family member or recipes with notes and remembrances from each contributor. A group effort creates opportunities to personalize a gift too, like loading an iPad or Kindle with photos and video of the grandchildren and favorite music or books.
Justine Angelli, the CEO and founder of shareagift.com, said her website has helped people collect funds for everything from birthday gifts to plastic surgery.
"It really helps people avoid unwanted gifts," Angelli said.
COLLECT WITH TACT: Make sure you know ahead of time how you plan to collect the promised contributions, because it's no fun to chase down your friends and family for money.
Several websites, like shareagift.com, will help you collect funds online. Retailers including as Best Buy and eBay also let shoppers contribute to a group gift. And money can be collected and used to buy one of the selected items offered still other websites such as frumus.com and fromeveryone.com.
KEEP A RECORD: You should know along the way, by keeping a close record, who contributed, how much and when they gave so you can avoid hurt feelings or conflict.
If someone does fail to contribute, Spizman suggests avoiding shaming them. Instead try framing it as a positive statement, such as "We've got all but two payments to go. My job is almost done! It would help me greatly if you could get your contribution to me by Friday."
REMEMBER THE DETAILS: You still should include a gift-receipt, when applicable, in case your choice isn't the hit you'd anticipated. And make sure every gift-giver is noted on the card or acknowledged in another way.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.