How to set financial boundaries on gift-giving

Published on Dec 18, 2023

How to set financial boundaries on gift-giving

If big holidays or celebrations have you feeling nervous, you’re not alone: 56% of gift-givers say they feel stressed about gift-giving [1].

Whether it’s trying to one-up your gift from last year, giving a gift that’s as meaningful as the one you know you’ll receive from family members, or just the general rising cost of everything thanks to inflation, the act of presenting someone with a present has become more expensive — and therefore more fraught — over the years. Here are a few suggestions on how to set yourself up for success when it comes to gift-giving.

Talk about an overall budget. Take stock of the people you usually swap presents with for certain celebrations — like Christmas, for example, or for birthdays — and have a chat with them about setting a budget ahead of time. When everyone knows what the parameters are heading into their shopping, there’s less stress associated with sharing gifts.

Suggest a Secret Santa. For larger groups like your family, your high school group of friends, or co-workers, consider instituting a Secret Santa tradition. Throw everyone’s name in a hat, and the name that everyone picks is the only person they have to buy for. This way, everyone gets the thrill of buying a gift for a special someone while at the same time knowing that you can spend a little bit more on one gift rather than a bunch of cheaper items for 10 different people. If you’re going this route, it’s always a good idea to set a group budget, as well, so everyone is getting a gift that’s similar in expense.

Shop online marketplaces. Online sites like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, and Nextdoor are easy ways to score like-new items for cheaper than you’d get for similar, brand-new items in-store. If you’re shopping this way, consider sticking with things that look even cooler when they’re used — like vintage mirrors or lamps — or things that you can make even more special with a little extra TLC — like painting an old planter for your garden-loving friend, or patching up kids’ clothes with fun decals for your nieces and nephews.

Host a swap. For a slightly different take on shopping vintage, host a swap with friends who have similar hobbies to you for a fun event where everyone walks away with something “new.” Good ideas for things to swap include jewelry, books, specific types of clothing (like sweaters), or holiday décor. Throw everything in a pile, pick numbers out of a hat, and make it a White Elephant situation — where each successive person can take any of the gifts that have already been picked before them — to add to the fun.

Make your gifts. If you’re crafty, a homemade item can mean the world to a loved one. Crocheted sweaters or scarves are sure to become fan favorites, or a piece of your artwork in a nice frame can really go the distance in a kid’s room or office. Ask the person who’s receiving your gift if there’s anything in particular they need based on your skills to ensure they get the most use out of it. 

Plan an event where everyone’s responsible for one thing. Gift your group an experience this year over a physical object by planning an event where everyone is responsible for contributing one thing. For example, one person might host, four people might contribute appetizers, two drinks, and two entertainment. Stick with one theme, or let people bring whatever they’d like for a more eclectic event. Play up to people’s specific strengths when doling out responsibilities, though, and everyone walks away feeling like their talents were showcased.

Remember that in almost every instance, the person you’ll be swapping gifts with would prefer your time and companionship rather than your money in the form of a gift. Keep the above ideas in mind when any festive event rolls around. Outside of that, practice maintaining a better overall budget during the year —wherever possible — so that a little extra spending throughout the year doesn’t throw your entire savings out of whack.

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