The Price of a Gift

I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m a terrible gift giver. Well, not terrible at picking out gifts, but terrible in that there are very few people I actually give gifts to.

I’m not the type of person who buys gifts for semi-close acquaintances on their birthday. In fact, rarely do I even buy my closest friends anything more than a meal for their birthday. In my group of friends that has just been the status quo. We just don’t do gifts.

However, when it comes to a significant other or with family, I’m known to go all out. My ex and I (T.O. for those of you who also read my relationship blog) didn’t believe in just a little gift, we believed in purchasing experiences for each other. Some representative gifts  include me purchasing him flying lessons, me purchasing him scuba gear and diving classes, me purchasing him a weekend get-a-way to wine country plus staying at a bed and breakfast for the weekend. (He reciprocated with just as elaborate and expensive experiences in return, in case you were concerned this might be one-sided.)

All of these purchases, of course, brought to you by the debt building power of Visa.

This weekend was Mr Hive’s birthday. And that purchasing desire I feel when I want to buy something nice for someone I care about came out of me once again. I ended up purchasing him two gifts that we can enjoy together (one a board game we can play together and another a role playing game book for an RPG that we play). Total damage of the gifts? $95. Then my nice, quiet, romantic dinner with the two of us got turned into a dinner for 6. So my previous hope of getting out of dinner around $40 turned into over $80 once appetizers got thrown in for the party and my sister came so I had to buy her meal as well. I didn’t mind, the food was excellent and the company enjoyable. I just didn’t really imagine that I would be spending $175 on my boyfriend’s birthday.

I really should have set myself a lower limit on the gift. I know he would have been happier with one or the other of the two gifts and wouldn’t have cared what I spent. The dinner I probably should have been a little more forceful about the appetizers, though when the dishes are $15 a pop it is hard to make it out with tip for a reasonable price – good thing this isn’t something we’ll be doing regularly.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I should probably start saving monthly for a gift fund. I’ve been lucky the past few years that I’ve only have to buy birthday gifts for my sister and my dad. They both have birthdays around Christmas so usually I just use my Christmas funds to buy them birthday presents.

This year I also bought my good friend who recently had a baby a $75 stroller for her shower. I have another friend who is getting married in June that I plan on buying a gift for (he also is one of only two friends IRL that reads this blog). And these aren’t just run of the mill friends. These are good friends. Friends I would go into debt for. You know, the kind of friend where if they needed me I would be on a plane tomorrow and charge it to my credit card and not think twice about it kind of friends. There are some people I would simply go to Target and buy something around $20 from their registry – these aren’t those friends. These are $75-100 friends.

Wow – did I really just rank my friends by how much I would spend on a gift for them? Yes I did…

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I used to believe that because of how my life was set up that I didn’t need a gift fund. This year is proving me wrong. And typically these expenses have (at least for the stroller and the excess of Mr Hive’s gift) come out of my Miscellaneous fund. Here are the two options that I see for how to save towards a gift fund on my already strapped budget:

  1. Change my Christmas fund to a Gift fund. Increase monthly contribution by $10-20. While Christmas does mainly pay for gifts, it also pays for other things like Christmas dinner and decorations. Saving as a gift/Christmas fund would mean that in a year where I have lots of gifts outside of Christmas my Christmas pot would be lower, but in years where I have few gifts it would be higher. Not sure it makes a lot of difference in the end. I’ll have to spend what I have to spend come December.
  2. Start a separate fund for Gifts. Start monthly contribution of $10-20. I like this idea because it is dedicated to gifts. But even at $20 per month I’m only saving $240, which I would have ALREADY spent this year on the baby shower + Mr Hive’s birthday.
  3. Ignore this as an aberrant year and get on with my life. I could always just keep things status quo and not change my savings towards gifts. But as my GOOD friends are getting to the point in their lives where they are getting married, having babies, and more are likely to come in the next few years – this seems inadvisable.
  4. Set up a savings account for gifts with a target money amount. This would essentially work like my E-fund does. Maybe I save to it monthly until I get $150 in it. Then I stop saving until I have to use it. Then once I use it I save up again. That way I’m only putting money in it when I use it – not when I don’t. This would mean in lean gift giving years it make never be touched, but in high gift giving years it is constantly in use. This would account for feast or famine years, but would require me to redo the budget every time I have to buy a gift to restock the gift fund. That itself is kind of annoying.

So this is where I need you, dear readers. What do you do about gifts? Do you have a gift fund or do they normally come out of your regular spending money? How do you budget for a gift fund when year to year they can be so variable? Or do you simply save for each once you know that it is going to happen (I mean, I have at least 6 month notices on most marriages and babies)? I’d like to know how others handle gifts before I make a decision on what to do myself. Please, speak up. =D

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14 Responses to The Price of a Gift

  1. We’re at a different point in our income/debt/spending. We have one general slush fund for all unexpected and irregular expenses that is equivalent to one month’s regular spending. I guess even when we had less money we did that because that’s all we could afford to have… we were never really at a point when we had enough money to make choices over things to buy other than basics but not enough money that we couldn’t have slush. (We went straight from graduate school in an expensive city to employment in an inexpensive small town.)

  2. I have a Christmas fund. My goal this year is to make it to $800. That will give room for gifts, extra transportation, extra baking needs, etc. However on the day-to-day basis of birthdays etc I just find it somewhere in the monthly budget.

    • SS4BC says:

      That’s exactly what I have now, but seeing as I’ve blown through like $300 in the past 3 months on gifts I’m thinking it may be time to re-approach gifts.

  3. When I managed a budget on my own, I kept a strict gift fund and contributed towards it all year and only bought gifts with the money in it. Now that I share a budget with Peanut we’re a little looser about it — we monitor all of our spending on a monthly basis so we can see where we are for the year at any time. It’s been working so far.

    For what it’s worth, though, we don’t exchange gifts with each other – these gifts are for our friends and family.

  4. eemusings says:

    I’m exactly the same!! Will spend tons on T but don’t really do presents for many others.

    I often manage to get present for girlfriends through mystery shops. The guys, we tend to bring alcohol to parties, pay for their meals, or some other small gift (around $20).Not a big deal, I don’t even budget for them. But then, I’m not much of a rigid budgeter.

  5. I have a bad habit of overspending on gifts. I’ll find something and think to myself ‘this is perfect for ____’ and buy it, and then find another thing and buy it too. I really enjoying giving gifts which is part of the problem because I tell myself ‘money is no option’. Thankfully, I don’t buy gifts for many people outside my immediate family and my closest friends. I have started budgeting for gifts on a monthly basis and it’s helping me keep my gift spending in check. I’ve also started to make gifts. My favourite home-made gift is a tie-blanket – easy, cheap and fun to make!

  6. Still thinking through the logistics of this, but what if you were to do something like Option 4/ Target Amount and then once you reached the amount, continue to contribute monthly on a smaller scale, like $5 or $10 each month instead of $20. Then your budgeted amount would stay the same each month, you wouldn’t have to frantically play catch up in case your favorite people had weddings and birthdays in a short time period, etc.

  7. I get caught up in gift-giving, but fortunately many of my friends and I don’t exchange gifts.

  8. Two Degrees says:

    My gifts are often experiential too!

    I’ve snagged a lot of great coupons off Groupon, WagJag, etc. and used them as Christmas gifts. My sister and her boyfriend got a trapeze class, my mom and my aunt got pottery classes and one of my besties got a pole-dancing class.

    No, I don’t have a gift fund but that’s a good idea.

  9. TWG says:

    I’m a big spender on gifts for the BF. I don’t spend too much on everyone else though but it wasn’t always like that. My gift spending got way out of control and just a couple of years ago, my family decided as a group to tone it down. So now I spend around $30 on my sisters for their birthdays and around $50 for my mom’s birthday. We have stopped buying each other gifts for Christmas and instead, now we get together and go to a Christmas concert or out to dinner or some other activity. However, the BF and I still exchange expensive gifts. I have a gift fund that I’m supposed to contribute to on a monthly basis but I usually ignore it until about June and then I start saving for Christmas.

  10. Revanche says:

    I had a gift/travel fund – I was either allowed to give gifts OR travel as they came out of the same bucket so woe betide me if I wanted to travel much and give pricey gifts. I always had to be pretty creative about my gifting anyway since the fund wasn’t exactly robust to begin with. But yes, I am now building our new budget out with its own Gift Fund. We have to have one.

  11. Christa says:

    I am similar in that I hardly ever buy gifts. Christmas is the only big gift-giving event, other than births and children’s birthday gifts, so I have a Christmas Club account and buy the $10 to $20 gifts as they come up. No budget for surprise gifts — I just cut back on dinners out that month (once rather than twice). It all evens out in the end 🙂

  12. I hate gifts. I never know what to get people. I’m notoriously hard to shop for. And then there’s the whole mess of reciprocation. Yuck.

  13. Katie says:

    I have a gifts category in my budget. I try to plan out my budget for the year looking at when gifting events (birthdays, Mothers Day, weddings, Christmas) will fall and how much I anticipate spending on each. And then of course round up because there will always be extra events I hadn’t planned for.

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