Birthdays, and Weddings, and Gifts, OH MY!

November 7, 2010 · 40 comments

polygamy ninja

Not only did I commit my life to Girl Ninja on August 8th, but I apparently committed it to about 20 of her best friends too. I seriously can’t believe how many parties we have on our calendar. It seems like every week there is a birthday, wedding, or other random function to attend.

To help ease my “party overload anxiety” I made, what I thought was, a reasonable proposal. I ever so politely asked Girl Ninja to reduce the number of friends she has. I thought we could make this reduction process fun by inviting all of her friends over to the Ninja house and host some type of NFL style friend draft. Just imagine, “…and in the first round of this years NFL (Ninja’s Friends List) Draft, Mr and Mrs. Ninja would like to befriend…enter dramatic pause here… Brandon and Lauren!”

I think it is a stellar idea, unfortunately, I couldn’t get Girl Ninja to go for it. This means we will probably be attending 436 different functions over the next year.

Being that I like to make things as simple as possible, I’ve thrown out the idea of a a “one size fits most” (yes, I stole the idea from my fruit of the loom underwear) gift giving policy.

Essentially we would operate on a cash only gift system for all parties we attend. We’d give something like $30 for birthdays, $40 for graduation, and $58.37 for weddings. It would seriously make life so much easier.

That said, it could definitely come across as lame as there is not much thought behind a $50 bill. But who doesn’t love getting cash? I can’t speak for Girl Ninja, but my favorite wedding gifts weren’t the kitchen gadgets, it was the cards with green pieces of paper inside them ;)

spatula gift

Now obviously if we have a specific gift in mind for someone, we would get it for them. The cash option simply takes the burden off our shoulders when no one present seems any better than another.

Something tells me Girl Ninja will be resistant to this system as she is all about the sentiment and creativity when giving a gift, and let’s face it, cash isn’t creative. We’ll see if I can force her convince her to come to my side.

Do any of you operate under a similar system? Do you have a set dollar amount you give for friends’ weddings, birthdays, etc? For weddings, do you typically get things off the registry or stick to cash/gift cards?

1 Angela

I was an avid cash and gift card giver, but realized that everyone thought I was just doing it because I had to and there really was no thought! I now homemake all my gifts, whether it be a gift basket full of a persons favorite food or drink items or anything. I know it makes them feel good to know that I know that much about them.

2 StackingCash

You would think that cash would be my answer, but it really depends on the situation. Sometimes a particular gift will resonate with the receiver and will actually remind them of who gave that gift (so make sure you give a great gift!). I do think that cash is a great gift too, but it seems to be easily forgotten who gave how much unless you keep a list, which is kinda tacky.

In regards to friends and family, those will be forces that tend to cause stress in a marriage. As long as the both of you know who comes first in importance, that will make things easier. By that I mean Husband and Wife :)

3 Sue

Cash is an acceptable gift, but it’s also cold and impersonal and quite frankly, if you are only spending $50 on someone’s wedding gift, cheap. And there’s no disguising it. Cash to me says “you weren’t important enough for me to spend the time to look for a real gift for you. Oh and did I mention, I’m cheap.”

4 Ninja

$50 on a wedding gift is cheap? Please point me in the direction of “Standard Wedding Cash Gifts” because I didn’t know there was a such standard. When it comes to friends and distant relatives I think $50 is more than generous. After all, the majority of things on our registry were under $50 anyways (bowls, plates, stemware, etc all under $50). Since when did attending a wedding have to become a financial burden? And anyone that thinks a couple is “cheap” regardless of how much they give is pretty lame IMO. Girl Ninja and I got a $10 gift card to Target from one person that attended our wedding. We were thankful for it, not bitter :)

5 Amy

I agree with this. I was happy to receive anything at my wedding, even these butt ugly amusement park souvenir mugs. At least the present giver thought/cared about us to make any bit of effort.

For friends’ gift-giving events, I have a general budget depending how close I am to the person. For things with registries, I go straight off that unless, for some reason, I hate everything they registered for. Then I’ll get them a gift card. If there is no registry, and I really don’t know this person’s likes and dislikes (like my in-laws’ gajillion cousins and nieces and nephews), gift card. We’re considering giving cash this year, instead, because you really can’t go wrong with cash. Whereas, if someone gave me a Walmart gift card, he effed up because I HATE Walmart with every molecule of my being.

6 First Gen American

I prefer cash myself for weddings, but if they are super close friends, my husband likes a personal and thoughtful gift instead. The problem is that it took him 5 years to get the last one to his friend which was a little embarrassing, but his friend didn’t seem to mind.

We don’t give people birthday presents. Maybe we’ll take them out to dinner or have dinner at our house, but no gifts. My husband and I didn’t even buy gifts for each other this year.

You’re at the age where a lot of people are getting married…then having babies, so there will be a lot of those events for the next few years my friend. IT does eventually die down quite a bit once you hit your mid 30’s.

My husband and I have a policy that the other person is not obliged to go to a party if they don’t want to go. Neither of us want to be dragged somewhere we don’t want to be and then it makes it miserable for the other person too because spouse 1 is sulking and can’t wait to leave, so you feel pressured to leave early. Our way, there is no pressure. It takes a certain kind of couple to be cool with that policy though but it works for us.

7 Michelle

cash is crass for anything EXCEPT a wedding, IMHO – gift cards for a business the giftee likes is OK. That being said, we honor our BFF’s birthdays with a physical gift but Christmas is a craft – baked goods or nice photo of the fam.

8 Nicole

Cash is perfect for weddings. We generally give $50 for non-family and $100 for family.
Housewarming, we usually give a mid-priced bottle of wine. Babies it will range on how well we know the person– fancy slings for people I know and care about, something cute and under $15 for obligatory office baby showers.

9 Mel

where do you live that $50 is an okay wedding gift?

10 Ninja

Why is $50 an unacceptable wedding gift? After all, the majority of things on our registry were under $50 anyways (bowls, plates, stemware, vases, etc…. all under $50). No one would say “Oh it’s tacky that you got us this $40 glass salad bowl we wanted and registered for.” So why does it suddenly become tacky to give a $50 gift card or cash gift?

Girl Ninja and I got a $10 gift card to Target from one person that attended our wedding. We were thankful for it, not bitter. We weren’t greedy and had some preconceived idea that people had to spend at least XXX dollars on us. We were grateful for everything we got.

Who do you hang with that $50 is laughable, that’s the real question.

11 atishaya

Ninja,

I agree that $50 should be a respectable amount for a wedding gift. However, I got married in March, and almost everything I read during wedding planning said that you should give more than that, especially if the wedding is more formal as it often costs the bride and groom $35 to $45 per plate for food, plus wedding cake, service fees, etc. The thought is that guests should give at least enough to cover the costs the food they will be eating at the reception and have some left over for the newlywed couple to begin their life together. I guess it depends on how close you are to the couple, what your financial situation is, etc. Ultimately, it’s what feels comfortable to the gift giver. And, I imagine most people just want to have friends and family with them on their special day and won’t think less of them for giving only $50.

12 Kathryn

After seeking out the answer to this on etiquette columns a while back, it seems that, depending on your financial situation and status (e.g., student versus professional), one should give $75 to a couple getting married; more if you are rich, less if you are strapped for cash. And that is PER PERSON attending the wedding, so really it’s more like $150 for someone in a healthy financial situation. If you are strapped for cash, I think it is acceptable to give less, but I said strapped for cash, not just frugal. IF you can afford it, I think a couple should give between $100 and $150 at a wedding. $50 for two guests really seems to be on the low end, and I think that’s acceptable for students or people who are really in a tight financial situation. This is from the perspective of a gift-giver who doesn’t want to be perceived as rude and/or ungrateful for being invited to a wedding, not as a gift recipient. In my opinion, if you are a gift recipient, you shouldn’t judge your gift givers, but if you are a gift giver, maybe you should be judging yourself more.

13 Tim @ Faith and Finance

I try to keep wedding gifts for friends around $20. (call me cheap) My wife will try to get something off the registry first, but we’ve also given gift cards too.

14 Mo D.

IMO, cash if just fine for a wedding, though depending on the recipient couple & how close we are to them, I wouldn’t discount getting them something off their registry (family gets cash, end of story). We don’t typically exchange birthday, anniversary or Chrsitmas gifts with our friends; I might hook up for a coffee/gab session with mine, and Hubby hooks up with his buddies for beer and wings. We both come from small families (1 sibling each), so we can splurge a little more for b-days, but we NEVER go overboard (not like we used to, anyway; we try to keep it between $50-$75). For a very close friend’s birthday, I might get them a gift card to their favourite shopping store/mall, or buy them a small gift (about $30). Hubby and I exchange token gifts for our birthdays, but we generally save the $ for our annual wedding anniversary holiday every October. We don’t exchange Christmas gifts with our extended families, either; we donate food/toys to my Dad’s church instead. Hubby and I set a reasonable limit (approx $150 each) for our Christmas gift exchange.

I gotta admit, like The Ninja’s, as much as I loved getting gifts from our wedding registry, we did enjoy opening all the envelopes… the $ went into an account with no debit card access, and it helped out BIG TIME when we bought our condo a year later; we didn’t have to worry about moving costs, land transfer taxes, laywer’s fees, etc.

15 Sarah W.

We don’t give birthday gifts to our friends…..too many friends to make that a viable option. Generally we celebrate birthdays as a group at soembody’s house or the occassionaly jaunt out to dinner, but sometimes we decline those dinner invites if we’re trying to save money.

We generally only give wedding gifts (I like to do something off the registry, but when forced, I will do cash) I keep it to $50 for distant cousins or friends/people I’m not close with. If its somebody/family that we’re extremely close to we’ll do $75-100 or a really nice china something off their registry.

We only buy for the FAMILY for Christmas/Hanukkah. Generally this includes a $10-20 gift for each of the 3 nieces/nephews, something for sister in law/hubby and sisterinlaw/boyfriend, and something small for each set of parents. Don’t really spend much more than $200 for the holidays :-)

16 TwinsMama

I (I mean we) have a similar system. We determine amounts for gifts and then we do what seems most logical at the time. For example if we know a friend’s child wants something in particular we will pick it up if it falls within that price range. The same for if the child wants $$$. However if we are attending a wedding and both the bride and groom have lived on their own, we tend to find either the registry or a gift card more practical. Again, within the budget of course.

Our #1 rule is to try not to spend more than we allotted and to use cash only. We even do this for holidays. We sit down and set a budget for how much we plan to spend on our kids, siblings, nieces/nephews, parents, etc. This works great and often if we buy in bulk (think candles, coffee/tea sets, etc.) we can save and come in under budget.

17 Red

Ha, is it sad that this post made me HAPPY that Mr. Red and I are such loners? ;)

I have one girl friend who I’ve kept in regular contact with. Mr. Red has three or four friends that he keeps in contact with. Two are already married. One is getting married in March. We agreed that $100 was a good wedding gift for the soon-to-be and not-yet married friends. It’s what most of them gave us. And, yes, my favorite wedding gifts were cash. We didn’t even register because we didn’t need anything, but we still got a ton of towels and photo frames. Blah. I’m just saying… I’d rather get cash and buy something useful than get towels, which we already had plenty of.

For birthdays, Mr. Red is in charge of his friends’ gifts. We don’t separate it on purpose, but I’m not spending money on a Transformer. No way. And I wouldn’t really feel comfortable asking him to chip in for my girl friend’s gift. I mean, it’s not like they hang out ever. Anyway, for birthdays, I prefer doing something. Last year, I took her out for dinner. She does the same for me. Going out together is a lot more fun for us than giving gifts, so unless there’s something specific I know she wants, we don’t exchange gifts. :)

18 undercoverkitty

Was just talking about this with colleagues at work. Some balked when I said I’d appreciate cash gifts for my wedding (if it happens someday haha) than actual Stuff, coz cash will help a lot since I will be moving continents after I get married.

Some colleagues said they’d rather have gifts than cash, but I really don’t want anymore Stuff, ebcause I think it’s kinda pointless to get 2, 3 of the same/similar stuff. Like ppl always gv glasswares etc and I really don’t need a whole lot, so I’d rather go with cash. Plus, money is easy to move around/more practical than Stuff :)

I don’t do birthdays. I usually treat my siblings whenever I go home/see them and when they get good results for exams. Sometimes I’d see nice things and I’d buy them for my family. I only get gifts for my parents and all my brothers and sisters chip in for a big gift for our parents on their birthdays and anniversary.

Bf and I don’t really buy gifts for each other. Since he does spend quite a bit on me when I come visit, I really don’t feel right asking for stuff (but I still do stimes hehe). Stimes I’d buy him sthg nice, but usually we keep it less than a 100, since flight tix alone is at least 1500usd return!

19 Amber, Blonde and Balanced

I was just about to post about this same topic! We have been to so many weddings lately, so we were talking about how much cash we would give when we’re married.

We’re actually the opposite. My fiance has TONS and TONS of friends. He was in a frat in college and I wasn’t in a sorority, so he has like a bajillion frat brothers that we have to call friends. Since we started dating, I’ve worked with him to balance out all of his parties with mine and it’s now a lot more even. It took a lot of work too because in our first months of dating, we had a different party every Friday and Saturday night with different friends of his. So many parties! Ahhh.

Good luck with the draft! LOL

20 leslie

I haven’t given a friend a birthday gift in I can’t remember when. It’s not necessary anymore; we are all grown ups and can buy things on our own. With everyone’s busy schedules, I am just pleased when my friends can find time to celebrate my birthday with me – that is good enough for me!

21 FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com

I’m with leslie — no birthday gifts in .. since forever it seems. I just like to hang with my friends, talk to them and be with them. Not to get stuff..

As for the rule in my household, it’s

If it is my friend, I pay.
If it is his friend, he pays.

That includes the gifts, so I give $100/head (me and BF) at least for a wedding, and BF does the same for his.
Flights to get there and food, hotel etc are extra. and we split that 50/50

Baby showers and all other events that are all my friends, I pay for and for him to come along too if it’s a meal out with my friend or something, and vice versa.

22 Mauricio

I have a large family, six siblings and some with their respective husbands, wives and children so it gets to be expensive. I decided that I’m giving hugs and smiles for x-mas and holidays. It’s tough right now, if I continued to work two jobs I wouldn’t mind but it’s excess expenses that don’t need to happen, how often do we really use those extra things anyways?

23 leslie

Coming from a large family as well, we just do a name-draw. Much easier to handle.

24 Mauricio

I think we might do that this year, def. easier to handle. ;)

25 Sara

You could do what my man and I do – if it’s my friend, I do the gift picking. If it’s his friend, he gets to do the gift picking. That way if he wants to give his friend $100 for his wedding, that’s his choice, and if I want to painstakingly search for the most perfect present ever, for my best friend, I can do that too! ;)

26 MyMoneyMess

My wife and I use a similar system to what you’re thinking of but we give gift cards.

Whether you give cash, gift cards, crafted gifts or purchased goods, the key here is the budget amounts you laid out. Seriously if Girl Ninja wants to go to the mall and spend $40 on a toaster for a wedding gift, does it matter as long as she stays on budget? When you agree on the budget framework, you can tell her you prefer to do cash for everyone but if she really wants to buy a gift – go for it. Now, if she insists on dragging you to the mall with her, that’s another story entirely.

Along the gift giving line – Get holiday/gender neutral gift wrap at a big box store or something so you don’t end up spending an arm and a leg on that.

27 Jenna

I make most of my gifts, but when I do want to give money or a gift card, I give a Kiva gift certificate. That way the person receiving it can do some good before getting the money back (if they invest wisely)!

28 Monica

Ninja, I personally think $50 cash is an acceptable wedding gift and not cheap. Cash was my favourite wedding gift by far. We went to a friend’s wedding this summer (who really is more of an acquaintance) and gave $50. My father-in-law just got re-married and we gave him $50 as well (although I would have liked to give him less…but that’s another long story). My husband and 2 girls were in the actual wedding and we had to pay for all wedding attire (including myself and son). I felt a $50 gift was generous considering we spent close to $500 out of our own pocket on clothes, etc. and weren’t even thanked for all our help. If it were a family member getting married which we had no wedding party involvement I would give $100.

29 Ann

If they are mostly her friends, and she wants to spend time shopping for something meaningful, she should. That doesn’t mean YOU have to go shopping. You aren’t attached at the hip, just married. Set a gift budget, let her do the shopping, while she’s shopping (alone) just do something that you’d rather do instead.

30 Kim

Agreed to all of the above except the $50 nonsense. For Christmas we only give to kids, and we (as spouses) don’t trade gifts b/c it just adds to the money suck. Have you ever noticed that the educational or craft toys tend to be cheaper? Honestly I can go to one of the museums & pick something up great for $10. For handmade stuff – it took me 6 hours and only $3.62 (5 items at Michaels – they have crazy prices now!) to hand make a growth chart for *good* friend’s baby. I likely could’ve done it in 2 hours if I spent a bit more for pre-cut items. Michaels also has cheap crafts for kids – a tie dye kit is $10. They also have 3-D puzzles for around $7. No I don’t work at Michaels!

31 Scott Neumyer @ Mad At Debt

What happens when you don’t set a limit? You empty your wallet. LOL

32 Trina

Wedding-something off the registry.
Birthdays/Christmas-haven’t bought a gift in years. Usually more of a dinner out or weekend trip (at least that is what this most recent round of 30th birthdays was all about). Like Leslie mentioned-everyone is busy and spending the time together is the best gift anyway.
Kids’ birthdays-checks. I used to go with cash or gift cards, but then I realized just how many people misplace these and we went to a check system. The only draw back is when someone waits 2 months to deposit it;(
Speaking of weddings-we were invited to a wedding August 13th but couldn’t go since we were out of town. My friend just posted their pics on FB and it was the same venue as you! Crazy!
And…speaking of kids birthdays…we had our sweet baby girl on Halloween morning. I thought you would be thrilled to know of another Cougar fan coming into the world;)
Trina

33 Ninja

If your youngest knows what’s good for her (and if you want her to have a bright future) she’ll go purple and yellow :)

34 Wesley Wise

My friends and I employ a wishlist posting every time our birthday is right around the corner. It helps you get the gift that you want, and quite honestly I’ve actually have asked for gift cards/certificates more than anything, it’s the best thing!hee

35 livetochew

In my culture, cash is king! Plus, it helped me pay for my wedding… which is funny coz I just post a bit about that on my blog. I swear I’m not trying to self promote…

“No, Ninja… NOT the shuriken….Ahhhhh….”

36 D*Rockafeller

My wife and i argue about this all the time! She was raised to be EXTREMELY generous with gifts, like I’m talking $50 for a birthday gift of someone we don’t even know. I was raised thinking that a $20 gift was pretty good.

We haven’t worked out a system yet, but I’m thinking that we should adapt yours to save us a few arguments.

37 LP

You can get sticker kits to decorate the presidents on the money as pirates and women or whatever. I think it’s called “Stick it Right on the Money”. They’re a little childish and cute, but coming from Ninja I think they would be funny. ;)

38 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

Birthdays and Christmas gifts are usually $25 and weddings are usually $50. We either give cash, a gift they asked for, or a gift card we also know they wanted. It keeps things way simpler to also have friends and family that rather hang out than exchange presents!

39 Iris

I am a big supporter of a $25 budget for christmas/birthday gifts, perhaps $50 for specific family members. But, I dont’ give cash I actually go out and find some crazy sale stuff that is super appropriate for the giftee so it seems a little less frugal. With weddings I was always taught that you pay per plate so, if you are eating at a fab joint where it is $100+ dollars a plate you’d better poiny up the dough… now the glass bowl/kitchen gadget isn’t looking so bad.

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