Gift-giving if something that brings out mixed emotions in most of us. It can be a huge pain, racing around from store-to-store in search of the perfect gift. And not to mention, it can fuel those troublesome “keep up” urges, which can make us cast aside our budget. But then, there is nothing better than watching a loved one unwrap a gift that makes their eyes light up with joy and excitement. To keep my sanity, I follow a few rules to keep gift-giving fun, rather than burdensome, and not a budget-buster.
Additionally, I’ll share some golden principles that help form the foundation of my gift-giving policies. Giving gifts is something all of us do and it should be a joyful act and it can be again.
Golden Principle: Let Go of Gift-Giving Expectations
There is a lot of pressure to buy expensive gifts, whether the pressures comes internally or from outside influences. I see many people spend more than they can truly afford for typically two main reasons:
- They want to impress or keep up with others.
- They believe cost correlates to the amount of love they have for the recipient.
Here is some food for thought: Did you notice anything interesting about those two reasons? They both focus more about the giver than the receiver. And isn’t that in direct odds as to why we give gifts?
Societal norms typically make gift-giving a reciprocal act, including the amount we spend. We are, in particular, very uncomfortable if we aren’t able to spend the same or more in a return gift. I’ve learned to let go of that norm because not everyone earns the same salary nor do we have the same goals or priorities with our money. Most importantly, I want to be in the driver’s seat of how I use my money. It is up to me to determine how much to spend, whether it is a lot or a little.
My main objective is to give a gift that will be appreciated and fits my budget. I’m not keeping score as to who gives who the nicest or the most expensive gift. When you stop keeping track, both as a giver and recipient, it is not only a huge relief, but also returns gift-giving to its true purpose, which is something that gets lost when we turn it into a competition.
3 Rules to Gift Giving Success
A few simples rules to help you create a gift-giving strategy.
1. Determine Who Receives Gift
This may seem obvious but go beyond the obvious people you buy gifts for, such as children, spouses, parents and your best friend. We often spend more than planned because we forget about all the other people we buy gifts for throughout the year, including co-workers getting married or having babies, etc.
Now is the time to decide whom you will purchase a gift, whether an actual present or gift of money, or not. Remember, gift-giving is a choice, not a requirement. Set up some guidelines that you are comfortable with following. Here’s a hypothetical plan:
- Birthday and Christmas gifts for children, spouse, parents and close friends
- X amount for graduation (note differing amounts for close relatives and children’s friends over more casual acquaintances)
- X amount for a co-worker getting married or having a baby
- X amount for a team member getting married or having a baby
- X amount for an employee getting married or having a baby (determine whether you will give birthday and/or Christmas gifts too)
- X amount for a casual acquaintance getting married or having a baby
This is just a sample to get you started. Look back and think about the different types of invitations and gifts you’ve purchased in the past year and decide now what you will spend ongoing. Having these rules set-up in advance will help you avoid making a knee-jerk reaction, which may cause you to spend more than you should. Now you know how much to give or spend automatically.
2. Set a Gift-Giving Budget
You can do this a couple of ways. Some people determine their budget by calculating who they will buy gifts for and how much they will spend on each person to figure out the amount they need to set aside. Others prefer to set aside a predetermined amount for gifts, then determine how much to spend on individuals. Either way works fine, just be sure to do one of them. Also keep in mind the following:
Plan for the Unexpected
There are certain events you know about advance, such as your nephew graduating from high school next year. But when you’re creating your budget, you may not know how many weddings or baby showers invites you’ll receive or how close your relationship is to the happy couple or parents-to-be. I recommend that your gift-giving budget has some pad to plan for those unexpected gifts.
3. Gratitude Versus Obligation Mindset to Gift-Giving
Gift-giving can be a bit of minefield. People make assumptions based upon the gift you give, which can really take the fun out of exchanging gifts. In some cases, it has become more of an obligation than a happy choice. Instead of joyfully buying gifts for loved ones, you grumble, moan, whine and so on as you deal with crowded stores and long lines at the checkout counter. These aren’t happy emotions and gifts are meant for joyous occasions in most circumstances.
Because I follow Rule #1, I constantly remind myself that I am choosing to buy this person a gift because they are someone I love and care about. It is never an obligation. I am grateful to be in the position to buy them a gift that they love, and I’m honored to celebrate whatever the occasion is with them. Gift-giving is meant to be a symbol of love, not a burden, and keeping a gratitude mindset helps me stay focused on the real reason why I give gifts.
Golden Principle: The Best Gifts Are Given in Love
There has become a prevalent mindset that expensive gifts are more valuable because they demonstrate more love, which is a message marketers hammer us with too. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with making a mindful choice to indulge someone you love with an extravagant gift, it doesn’t mean you love them less should you also make the mindful choice to spend much less. The best presents are the ones given with love and it is that love behind the gift that makes them valuable, not the price tag. Do not feel bad or guilty if you cannot match the price tag of someone else’s gift, just know that you can match the love in which the gift is given.
Do you have a gift-giving strategy? How do you decide how to spend?