With the holidays fast approaching--and the number of shopping days quickly disappearing--it's time to start thinking about what you're going to give your staff and customers to show your appreciation for their hard work and continued business. But before you begin shopping, read this list of dos and don'ts that'll help you select just the right gift.

Do . . .

  • create a list. Write down exactly which people you need to purchase gifts for, then think about each recipient's interests and set a budget for each one.
  • get creative. Think about the personal interests of your recipients (movie buff, sports enthusiast, music fan, etc.), and buy thoughtful gifts that will show you really put some time and effort into choosing the right gift. Remember to write a personal note to let that person know the gift was chosen especially for them.
  • research your options. According to a new study by Office Depot, 46 percent of shoppers report finding the perfect gifts for family, friends and colleagues the "most challenging" aspect of the holiday season. Reduce stress and productivity by doing your research online before actually making any purchases.
  • visit unexpected locations. From the post office and the U.S. Mint to your local office supply or hardware store, there are a multitude of unexpected locations that offer interesting gift ideas.
  • combine shopping trips. Pick up great holiday gifts--from digital cameras and DVRs to MP3 players and GPS devices--at stores that you're already visiting or that are nearby other places you'll be stopping.

Don't . . .

  • reinvent the wheel. If you've given the same business gift every year, clients might look forward to the present. It's perfectly acceptable to send a consistent annual gift.
  • overspend on big ticket items just to make an impression. When purchasing technology items, make sure the products you choose are compatible with the recipient's current configuration.
  • wait too long to purchase your gifts. If you have the time, you're more likely to come up with better ideas sooner rather then being forced to "pressure" shop later.
  • feel confined to have your gift there before the holidays. If you're pressed for time or you really want your gift to be noticed, send it as a New Year's gift--it'll be a welcome surprise.
  • stress over the holidays. It's a great time to show clients, colleagues and employees just how much you appreciate them!

Hillary Mendelsohn is a shopping expert and the founder and president of thepurplebook: The Definitive Guide to Exceptional Online Shopping, an annual resource guide for online shopping.