How Much Do You Have To Spend On Gifts To Not Be Cheap?
Financial Management

How Much Do You Have To Spend On Gifts To Not Be Cheap?

Just recently one of my friend was talking about how he had to buy a gift for someone and that it was such a daunting task as he felt that he had to buy something that was at least a $30 value as he didn’t want to be perceived as being cheap. A few weeks later, a different friend told me that he attended a wedding and that since he couldn’t think of anything that he had to give at least about $200. This just all got me thinking on how if it really is that necessary to establish a dollar value to the gifts that you give to others.

For myself, the main factor when choosing a gift is based on how much the person wants or needs something. While in general for myself I guess the average that I spend is about $50 a gift, I know in most cases that I could definitely find a gift that is just as good for the person which costs less and they would be equally happy with it. For special occasions like a wedding I usually go bigger not so much because I feel that I have to get something of a certain dollar value but rather the items I want to get are obviously more expensive. For example, the last wedding gift I bought was a very good digital camera as the couple never owned one before and I thought they would use it a lot from that day forward.

Maybe I am just a bit too sentimental, but I think it should be the old saying on how it’s the thought that counts. The only real type of situation where I guess I would classify someone as being cheap when it comes to a gift is if they bought something just for the sake of saying that they bought something at the lowest price possible. I don’t think if you say placed a lot of thought or effort into something which ended up only costing say $20 that it somehow makes you like a stingy or cheap person.

How does that line go again when it comes to buying gifts for your friends and family members….think with your heart and not with your wallet.


  • joewatch 5/5/2007

    This is a good topic to think about. Usually, this is what I do:

    Friends / family / colleagues for minor event like a birthday – $20-$40

    For a big event like having a baby – $50-$75

    Wedding – $200-$250 (depends on how fancy the wedding is)

    In all cases except for minor events, I will give cash, a gift certificate or a gift on their registry. For birthdays, it’s usually a gift certificate or something that I’ve picked out at a store or online.

    I used to be like you and try to put a lot of thought into the gift. But at the stage of life that most of my friends/family are at, they have everything they need/want, and if they don’t, they have enough money to buy the one they really want. So putting a lot of energy into picking out a gift is usually a waste of time, IMHO. If I buy a gift, it will be something relatively generic that I know somebody will use, like a t-shirt, a bottle of wine, fancy coffee, etc.

  • Stewart Marshall 5/5/2007

    It is an interesting topic and one many people find uncomfortable talking about. In our case (it’s almost always a joint effort) we have developed an approach over the last 15 years or so.

    Parts of this approach came out of necessity, i.e. not actually having much money for instance, but a large part of it comes out a distaste for the overt commercialism arounds events such as Christmas and the fabricated events such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s day.

    There are a few general rules. Generally adults don’t get presents. There are a few exceptions from time to time of course, but christmas is a good case. The kids in the family always got something, but as they’ve got older there was the odd voucher for a computer game store or magazine subscription. The kids are adults now … so that will probably stop now.

    Special occasions such as weddings, it’s usually something off a list depending on who it is and where they are in life. The last wedding we actually created a present, a piece of ‘art’ which was fun – a much more personal present.

    Generally what I find is people value time as much as anything, so I try and spend time with my friends – in many cases a simple email or just letting them know you remembered is enough.

    Times are changing for us at least, now when we get a present which is more than $20 it kind of feels a bit embarassing and excessive. On the flip side if during the course of a year I see something which I know a family/friend would get a kick out of – I try and cease the moment and get it. If giving presents is an expression that we care about/love someone – why wait?

    The whole subject of present giving could make a good phd thesus for someone 😉

  • Stewart Marshall 5/5/2007

    apologies for the the use of ‘arounds’ and ‘cease’ instead of ‘seize’ — its early!

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