Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday Money Tips: Gift Giving Edition

Each Thursday, Ms. Moneypenny posts 5 tips for saving money. Have a great tip you'd like me to include? Post it in the comments, and I'll save it for a later edition.

Before I get to the money tips, I thought I'd let my readers know that today I was the subject of an interview by Carrie over at Carrie is spending the next few weeks focusing on Gen X and Gen Y finance, and I was happy to be her first interviewee. Go check it out!

This week, I'd like to focus a little on gift giving. It is what is generally referred to as 'wedding season' around these parts, and between that and all the other gift-giving occasions that come up throughout the year, I thought I'd offer my guidelines on gift spending.

1. Set a budget
You can, in fact, put a price on friendship, or family. And no, it doesn't make you a bad person. My first and foremost rule of thumb is spend only what you are comfortable spending, and no more. My husband and I set a cap for niece and nephew birthdays, for holiday gifts, and for wedding presents. And I don't feel the least bit guilty about it. We give what is right for us.

2. Don't worry about what everyone else is spending
The reality is, someone is probably going to give a bigger or a better gift than you. But that's them. Just because your BFF Jane spent $250.00 on your other BFF's wedding gift does not mean you have to. Ignore the competition, as it were.

3. Don't just get a gift - get a good gift
One of the things I think people get confused on is that good gifts - the ones that are genuinely meaningful and appreciated - are not necessarily the most expensive gift you can get. Really think about who it is that you are giving a gift to, think about their likes and dislikes, their taste.
Don't give a gift that you would like - you may think modern art is the bomb, but if your friend decorates with asian antiques, you missed the boat. Buy something they would like, and whatever your budget, I promise you that you will be successful. This doesn't have to be difficult, just think about what that person likes and enjoys.

4. Registries are not the devil
Everyone, even Miss Manners, likes to berate the greed of modern-day expectant parents, brides and grooms. And while I do think there is a touch of the gimmes to society, I think pointing fingers at greed as the driver to wedding and baby registries is a tad overdone. Often times, registries are a list of things the bride and groom or new parents either need or would really enjoy using. So take it as such - especially if you aren't sure of their tastes. And don't assume the larger priced gifts are often put on there out of greed - sometimes people 'group up' on a larger gift, or the registering party wants the completion discount after the event.

There's no obligation to use a registry. But if the giftees have one, don't judge it. Oh, and if you do use a registry, get them what they asked for. Trust me, if they registered for the red plates, they don't want blue ones. Really.

5. Do not negotiate with gift terrorists
By this I mean - there is often that person who likes to 'up the ante' for gift givers. The gift terrorists just love to spend other people's money for them. Just because Mom is turning 70 does not mean you have to give up all hopes of ever owning a house to throw her a blowout bash because your cousin thinks you should foot the bill. Say no. Say "This is what we're willing to contribute. If it isn't sufficient, we'll do our own thing. Love you. Bye". Lather, rinse, repeat.

This goes for all sorts of gifts and events. Just because the maid of honor for your friend thinks you ought to go to Vegas for the bachelor party does not mean that you should abandon all hope of a nice dinner out locally instead. Be up front, tell people what you are willing to do, and offer to opt out. Do not be afraid of making someone angry. You are entitled to set limits on how your money is spent.

All too often, the price of the gift seems to get confused with the amount of love and thought that went into it. The only way to get away from this is to give gifts within your means, to the best of your ability, and with the recipient in mind. Remember that.


Anonymous said...

These are great reminders. I'm also a fan of tips like:
"you can buy gifts all year -- not just before an event that might be a high cost time" and

"buying a great gift on sale does not lessen the size of the gift" --it's okay to use coupons and stretch your money, and not feel like "well... i would have spent more on this, so now i NEED to spend more on it..."

Maybe another idea for a future Thursday Money Tip along the same lines is around charitable giving -- eveyrthing from planned annual giving to the calls from your college or the local fireman's group or even the kid down the block looking to get sponsored for miles on his hunger walk. As with other Money tips, those are all racked with guilt!

Thanks as always! KathyGee

Mandy said...

I am totally dealing with the rapidly escalating cost of a bridal shower coming up this month. I brought up the topic of budget, since no one had ever discussed it, and said that I wanted to throw the bride and groom a great party, but that I had some financial restrictions. We came to an agreement that everyone is fine with, but it was a little awkward.


Fortunately, I'm getting better at and more comfortable with resisting pressure. Also, my friends don't really try to exert a lot of pressure to begin with. All things I'm grateful for (although a number of them are *encouraging* us to look into the real estate market now, despite my repeated attempts to say that, regardless of how much prices have dropped, it's not the right time for us. I know they mean well, but it gets hard sometimes.)

Carrie said...

Thanks so much - the timing could not be more perfect. I seriously needed a swift kick in the tush about gift giving.