Gifting Etiquette: How Much Should You Spend On Gifts?


The act of giving a gift is a traditional way to communicate without words. For centuries, people have used gifts to show loyalty, love, and gratitude. The act of giving is said to offer benefits to one’s physical and mental health and even ties into the psychology of love languages.

One of the challenges people face when giving gifts is determining how much to spend. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a gift for those on your list.

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Consider the Occasion

There’s no one-size-fits-all when giving gifts; there are different expectations for varying situations and occasions. So the first thing to consider is why you’re giving this gift. Is it to say thank you to someone who helped you or a wedding gift for a happy couple?

Wedding gifts, for example, typically necessitate a higher investment than a birthday gift for the same person. A wedding gift should cover the cost of your attendance at the event, often ranging from $75-200, while a birthday gift could be a $20 bottle of wine. Meanwhile, thank you gifts tend to be more affordable and simplistic, like a gift card or a bouquet of beautiful flowers for under $50

Consider Your Relationship

Another consideration to keep in mind when determining how much to spend on your gift is your relationship with the recipient. It’s appropriate to spend more on someone you’re close with, like a sibling or spouse, than an acquaintance, like a coworker.

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Spending too much on someone you aren’t close with could be viewed as inappropriate or strange and make the person feel awkward. So, while you might spend up to $100 on a baby shower gift for your cousin, $25 is a more appropriate amount for a work friend.

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Consider Your Budget

Giving gifts is supposed to be about sharing joy and celebrating occasions. As such, no one should go into debt or feel financial distress to give someone a gift. While mindsets are changing around asking for gifts for kids’ birthdays or expecting holiday gifts from struggling members, there are still those with misplaced priorities

Protect your boundaries as a gift-giver and stick within the limitations of your budget. If you have the money to spend a significant amount on a gift, do so. If you’re having a hard time, get creative with a low-cost DIY gift, an act of service, or a simple gesture like buying a coffee. The people who know you and appreciate you will understand and welcome the gesture. 


Consider Meaning and Value

The price of an item isn’t synonymous with the value or meaning behind it. Consider a loving note from a child or spouse; receiving something simple can mean so much more than an expensive gift. 

Consider the value of what you’re buying. If you know something less expensive would bring the recipient joy, it’s worth choosing that over something elaborate or costly. These simplistic gestures could include references to an inside joke or shared experience or one of the recipient’s favorite things.

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Consider Cultural Etiquette

Finally, there are some situations in which it’s appropriate to consider the cultural etiquette of gift-giving. For example, starting a business transaction with a gift exchange is a part of the protocol in Japanese culture. Similarly, giving a gift that isn’t aligned with the recipient’s beliefs is inappropriate; remember that this isn’t about you and your beliefs.

Symbolism also plays a role when considering what gifts to present to someone. White flowers may represent love and purity in the Western hemisphere but are the primary mourning color in China

Regardless of your budget or the price tag on a gift, it’s all about intention. Your gift should have thought and meaning and be appropriate for your budget, the occasion, and your relationship with the individual.

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