3 Rules to Make Gift-Giving Easy and Fun

3 Rules to Make Gift-Giving Fun and Easy | www.TheHeavyPurse.comGift-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:

  1. They want to impress or keep up with others.
  2. 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:

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?


June 15, 2015  •  22 Comments  •  Budgets

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  1. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    Before I dumped my debt (50K) I had to stop gift giving all together. I remember the first Christmas I couldn't afford gifts for my family. I felt like a complete failure. But then I realized it wasn't about the gifts at all and that I could do other things to show my gratitude and appreciation to my family and friends. I can afford gifts now but I'm not a big gift giver and specifically refrain from giving gifts to most people. Instead I opt to have them over for dinner or to take them somewhere we can enjoy each others company. For example, each year I take my best friend on an outdoor adventure. We go hiking, or kayaking and then for a great lunch. We get to laugh, talk and just be with each other. It's better than any gift I could buy.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      First, congratulations again on eliminating your debt, Maureen. A huge accomplishment! It is hard to not give gifts but as you quickly discovered there are other ways to show loved appreciation and often times those things - like outdoor adventures with friends- mean more than any gift we give.
  2. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    We are fortunate that the last few years for most of the adults in the family their gift is a homemade card from my son. He actually puts a lot of thought and effort into the cards and they are worth way more to our family than something from a store. The one area that's tough for us with gifts are his friend's birthday parties. It seems as though he has one of those every other week and they can add up but we have set a budget for those gifts and come up with some great ideas within that budget.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      I bet your family love receiving their homemade card from Will. Those types of gifts are true, meaningful treasures. Kids' birthday parties can get very expensive fast but having a budget helps keep it manageable and a great lesson for the kids too.
  3. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    Great thoughts here Shannon! We do budget for our gift giving which does give a good bit of freedom and thus joy when buying the gift. Like Shannon above, we have similar challenges in the number of birthday parties our kids are invited to. If it were not for having a budget for our gift giving it would pose problems - but it gives us good opportunities to talk with our kids about money. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      Isn't it nice when buying gifts can be joyful because you have a budget, rather than stressing over the cost. With kids, all their friends' birthday parties add up quickly but like you said, it's a great teachable moment too.
  4. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    Gift giving is supposed to be about you giving something to someone -- not about getting something that that person expects / needs / wants / etc. It's a gesture of kindness, and letting go of the expectations of gift giving makes it so much more enjoyable!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      I agree, Natalie. We, unfortunately, wrap so much expectations around gift-giving as both receiver and giver and letting go expectations definitely makes it much more enjoyable.
  5. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    Gift giving is like a minefield...it can be very complicated. I'm very fortunate that I generally don't have to deal with this. My family and circle of friends are not big into gifts. I hate the idea when gift costs correlates to the amount of love they have for the recipient. Here's a line from the show The Office which captures this perfectly: "Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing you can point to and say, “hey man, I love you this many dollars worth.”"
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      LOL! That's a great line from The Office. :) I dislike how people correlate price tag and love to be the same thing too. Hopefully, we can some day move past that false assumption.
  6. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    I love giving gifts and I have hard time sticking to budget. But I try to set a gift limit before I do any gift shopping so I don't get too overboard.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      I love giving gifts too, Kayla. Setting a gift limit or budget is a smart way to help keep you on track and not go overboard.
  7. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    I have to admit I don't like it when people get me nice things because I do feel the need to reciprocate. Or if someone gets my drink in the "first round" but I only want one drink, so then I feel pressure to buy another one. I think for me I need to focus on letting that all go.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      There is so much pressure to reciprocate and I struggle with that too at times. It is okay to just enjoy the gift and to know a heartfelt thank you is okay too.
  8. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    I am not a great gift giver because I do often feel like it's out of obligation. If someone gives me a gift, I feel like I have to return the favor. I should just buy for those I want to and not worry about the rest, but it's hard when a co worker or neighbor gives us something and we hadn't planned on giving them anything.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      It is hard to not reciprocate as that it what we taught to do. We need to retrain ourselves and remember that gifts are given out of appreciation and a sincere thank you is enough too.
  9. Monday, June 15th, 2015
    This topic doesn't get enough discussion. I actually think this is a very important topic for couples to be on the same page about. Christmas is always brutal because the list of people you COULD buy gifts for gets longer and longer. You need to limit the people, or at the very most set a budget.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      Yes, the list of people you can give gifts to could go on forever. And it is something couples need to discuss and make sure they are on the same page, otherwise it can cause some frustration.
  10. Tuesday, June 16th, 2015
    I have to admit that gift giving is not that easy. My strategy to make it easier is I make it personal as much as possible. I research about the person to know her interest or what she likes. Then, I make a list of options and then I choose the best one while still considering the cost in mind.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      Personal gifts are definitely the best way to go and a great way to demonstrate how much you care by knowing what they want/need.
  11. Tuesday, June 16th, 2015
    Shannon, love what you said about our fears about gift giving making the focus on us instead of the recipient. Tons of wisdom there! We do set a limit for all of the gifts we give, and it makes things so much less stressful.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 18th, 2015
      It's unfortunate and unintentional but it is something many of us are guilty of doing at one time or another. Setting gift limits definitely helps reduce stress.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan