Ultimate Gift Budget

Ultimate Gift Budget Guide: How Much to Spend on Gifts

With so many opportunities to bless our loved ones with gifts each year, it can be easy to begin feeling budget-conscious. How much should we really budget to spend on a gift for your nephew’s birthday? A cousin’s wedding? Mother’s Day?

You want to make sure that you don’t overdo it – or under-do it! So we’ve put together a gift budget guide for you. Read this and you’ll know how much to spend on every occasion.

First, let’s acknowledge there are plenty of factors involved in any budget. That’s why this is a guide – we want to help you get in the general ballpark, guiding you towards an appropriate budget for specific occasions and also for your overall spending.

But if you have a killer gift idea and you want to knock it out of the park, well… don’t let us hold you back from being the Babe Ruth of gift-giving.

And if you have circumstances in your life that keep you from reaching our recommendations, do not feel compelled to over-extend yourself. Don’t worry about what anyone might think. Remember, you are giving a gift of your own free will and hard-earned money. If you can’t afford a high-end or mid-range item, then be sure to make it a thoughtful gift.

That’s what makes all the difference. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated no matter what!

With that in mind, let’s check out The Ultimate Gift Budget guide:

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The Ultimate Gift Budget

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Annual Gift Budget

For anyone careful enough with their finances to plan out a yearly budget (as we all should, right?), consider designating a safe percentage of your income for anticipated gifts.

Doing this can help avoid unexpected expenses for unforeseen occasions. And you can give a gift without reaching into other budget categories.

For an annual budget, consider setting aside 3%-5% of your yearly income.

If your income is on the higher end, you may want to budget less, from 1-3%. But we’d recommend no more than 5%, no matter your income.

Birthdays

As simple as birthdays can seem, there are many things to consider. Relationships, immediate vs extended family, whether you know someone well or not, milestones (for instance, Sweet Sixteen or a 50th birthday).

So we have a few birthday situations listed to help you narrow your budget down. Please consider the category that is closest to your situation, and adjust as your intuition guides you.

Immediate Family

For your own kids, siblings, and parents, you will see a lot of birthdays over the years. If you mess one up, you will be getting a lot more chances. So, no pressure.

For a single gift to your close & immediate family, consider a budget of about $20-$40.

This is flexible, and for big milestones (Mom’s 50th, kids 18th, quinceañeras) you may have reason to spend more.

For multiple gifts, perhaps for your own kids’ birthdays, consider pushing the total budget up to the $50 range.

Extended Family

For extended family, including nieces and nephews, stick to around $20. This can be less if they are younger and still in grade school, and more for big milestone birthdays.

Friends

Often our closest friends are not around us – they come and go, they move and relocate for family and work. It is not necessary, or expected, to send birthday gifts to friends who are now far away. (Thought you certainly can!)

But when they are close enough that we get the chance to celebrate their lives with them, it is acceptable to spend a little more.

For this reason, it is appropriate to extend your budget to the $25-$40 range for close friends’ birthdays.

Your closest friends are an intimate group. You may have a deeper knowledge of what gifts they’d like than even their own family. Spending a little more for them on occasion is perfectly acceptable.

Your Kids’ Friends

Part of our kids’ growing up is going to school, joining clubs and groups, and making new friends. Some of these friendships may even become lifelong. With new friends comes birthday invitations, and it is up to mom and dad to pay for the gift on behalf of their kids.

Of course, kids in grade school will have lots of friends and lots of birthday invitations each year.

For this reason, it is acceptable to spend $10-$15 on birthday gifts for friends of your children.

And it can be a lot of fun for your kid to help pick out the gift!

Coworkers

Work and office etiquette can seem a little tricky sometimes. You never want to send the wrong signals (“does he think we are more than co-workers?”).

We will assume that a coworker is someone who you do not see or spend time with outside of work. If you do see them outside of the office a lot, then you have a friend!

With that in mind, the appropriate amount to spend on a coworker should be $5-$10.

Our recommendation – don’t spend more than you would on a 6-pack of beer, or a box of cookies.

Christmas

This Christmas, you will have a few different categories of folks to buy gifts for. Much like birthdays, there can be slightly different social rules and expectations, depending on the situation and person.

For the big picture, let’s consider a couple budget rules:

  1. Contribute to your Christmas savings all year round. If you wait until December and use your paycheck for Christmas, it can be hard to stay within budget and not overextend yourself. Set a little aside each of the other 11 months and keep your Christmas budget stress-free
  2. As a percentage of your annual income, 1% of your total income is an acceptable max for your Xmas budget. This means if you set aside just 1% of each month’s pay, you will have enough to budget your Christmas shopping!
  3. Not a rule per se, but consider spreading your shopping throughout the whole year. Who says all the gifts need to be purchased in December?

Budget Tip: If you wait until December to save money, you will likely spend 12% or more of your paycheck on gifts. That may not sound like a lot, but after your housing, food, and other bills, your belt might be a little tighter than you expected. Save yourself the belt notches (you’ll need them for Christmas cookies anyways) and put something aside the other 11 months.

Let’s take a look at a few predictable situations and categories of people, and you can see which is most appropriate for your Christmas gift budget this year.

Christmas Gift Spending for Close Friends

The people closest to you also present the most variability in determining Christmas gift budgeting. Your Christmas budget will depend on past experience and any spoken rules or understandings between you and your partner or friends.

Some friends groups verbally decide not to give gifts, but just to meet and celebrate together with food, drinks and games. Others meet up for a White Elephant-style gift giving, or something similar. This prevents the cost of getting everyone something nice and expensive.

For White Elephant and other group gift traditions, there is usually an agreed upon budget of $20-$30.

Perhaps your friend group is closer than that, and you have only 2 or 3 close friends to buy for. If you are buying for an individual very close to you, you can be safe keeping your budget between $30 and $50.

Christmas Gift Spending for Significant Others

Like close friends, you probably have a tradition or spoken agreement about how much money, and how many gifts, you and your partner or spouse will give for each other. This is to prevent any awkward one-sided accidents, and to alleviate any pressure about financial expectations.

We recommend you keep your budget to around $100 to $150 for your significant other. This could be much lower or higher depending on your present circumstances and history. Are you ramen-eating college students? Go with $20 and some creative DIY-ing. Did you get her a diamond necklace for last year’s Xmas? Well, you’d better not skimp this year!

We also recommend that you have a conversation about what is acceptable. If you come from different backgrounds, this may need some negotiating. Being honest and open ahead of time can save a lot of confusion.

Christmas Gift Spending for Immediate Family

It is also common for family to have a tradition of expectations or a gift-giving game like Secret Santa. Some families are big and the Holidays would be impossible otherwise. Some families are small enough that you can get a gift for your sibling, mom, and dad without spending too much.

For family gift exchange parties and traditions such as Secret Santa, Pakkeleg, or White Elephant, we recommend a gift budget of $25-$40.

For individual family members gifts, we recommend that you keep your spending down to $25 max per person.

Christmas Spending for Office Party/Coworkers

Similar to birthdays, coworkers usually do not expect big Christmas gifts, and anything more expensive than a box of cookies or 6-pack might seem to be saying something more than “Merry Christmas.”

For coworkers and gifts for office parties, stick to the $5-$10 budget range.

Christmas Budget for Other Friends and Loose Social Circle

Maybe your friends can’t all get together for a gift sharing game to help keep costs down. Or you want to get everyone something personally meaningful or kind.

Friends don’t expect the world when they know you are buying for lots of people. And a big gift creates expectations of something in return, even if you say otherwise.

For your broader social circle and other friends, we recommend spending between $10-$15 per person.

Having a ton of gifts to buy can be stressful, but don’t let it be! Having that many friends to think of is a blessing in the holiday season.

Christmas Spending for Extended Family

As with your broader social circle, buying gifts for your extended family shouldn’t overextend your Christmas budget. (One easy way to do this is to get everyone together for a gift exchange, where you only need to contribute a single gift.)

If you are buying for several individuals in your extended family, consider keeping your budget down to $10 per person.

This may be adjusted if you have special circumstances. Perhaps you have a very small immediate family, and a small but close extended family. In this case, consider broadening your budget, or look to our section on Immediate Family above.

Christmas Gift Spending for Pets

We love our pets! And who doesn’t love giving there doggie a big bone, or their kitty some catnip?

We recommend keeping the budget for pets in the $10-$15 dollar range.

Your pet may not know what Christmas is, but they will know its a very special day for them!

Weddings

Weddings are a special opportunity for gift giving. There are many ways to help out a new couple as they begin to put their new lives together, and gifts are an important part of that.

Plus, weddings are a great opportunity for the happy couple to let everyone in their wedding party know how much they are loved and appreciated.

Weddings are also big-budget events. There may be some confusion about what is expected. To help make this wedding season a little easier, consider these wedding gift spending suggestions.

How Much to Spend on Bridal Shower Gifts

Are you new to bridal showers? Don’t stress. Gift giving for a bridal shower is not much different than giving for a birthday.

Consider how close you are to the bride. Closest friends and family may feel inclined to spend a little more, while more distant friends and family may keep their expectations a little lower.

For a bridal shower, we recommend spending $30-50.

This can be a little more if you are family or very close friends. Maybe you have something special in mind that you know she’ll love.

How Much to Spend on Wedding Gifts

As a guest, it is a privilege to be a witness to the new couple’s marriage and give a gift to help them kickstart their lives together. Depending on how close to the family you are may determine how much you will spend or give (cash gifts will likely be welcome).

For wedding gifts to the bride and groom, we recommend spending around $75. This can be a little less ($50) if you are more distant acquaintance, or a little more ($100+) if you are very close.

You might have the benefit of the bride and groom supplying a Gift Registry. If this is the case, simply check out their wishlist and find something that fits your budget. Easy!

How Much to Spend on Wedding Party Gifts

For those getting married (congrats!) the expenses definitely add up. But knowing that your closest friends and family are there for you and supporting you on your big day means the world.

One of the more fun parts of planning your wedding can be figuring out what gifts will let them know what their presence in your life means to you.

But weddings require budgets to keep expenses under control. Total wedding budgets vary greatly. Whatever your total money budget is for you wedding, we recommend setting aside 2%-5% for gifts.

Let’s take a look at gift budget recommendations for members of the wedding party.

Maid of Honor & Best Man

The elite. The crème de la crème. The Maid of Honor and Best Man have done their fair share to see you to this point in your life. Now you have a great opportunity to say “Thank you!”

For your Maid of Honor and Best Man gifts, we recommend a budget of $75-$100.

If you have a large wedding crew, this number could be smaller. If you are having a big and lavish wedding with no expense spared, this number could be bigger.

Also, you will typically spend more on the Maid of Honor and Best Man than the other party members, as we see in our next section.

Bridesmaids & Groomsmen Gifts

This is your A-team. The ones who will keep you in good company and good spirits on your big day. They will be celebrating you, so make sure you take a moment to celebrate them!

For your party of bridesmaids and groomsmen, we recommend spending about $40-$75 per person.

Again, if you have an extra large party, this number could be lower. And for a wedding where you are spending a lot on extras, it is probably better to spend more on your closest companions.

Close Family & Helpers

It is also nice and sometimes expected to give a gift to wedding helpers and close family, especially the parents and grandparents of the bride and groom.

For close family and helpers, we recommend a budget of $15-$30.

Parents and grandparents may receive a personalized gift, such as a framed photo or a bottle of their favorite wine. Extended family and helpers may receive something less personal and expensive, such as jewelry or a book. These are thoughtful gestures that go a long way to show your appreciation.

Wedding Favors for Other Attendees

Sometimes the extended family and other attendees may receive a parting gift to remember the occasion by. This can be a simple souvenir, such as a candles, customized bottle openers, or bath bombs.

For wedding favor gifts to the attendees of your wedding, consider a small budget of around $5 or less.

A small gesture to say “thank you for coming” is a nice bonus for those who took time out of their schedules to celebrate your union with you.

How Much to Spend on Baby Shower Gifts

Baby showers are tons of fun. You get the family together for food and games, see a bunch of cute outfits, and let the mommy know how welcome her baby is in this world!

How much you want to spend on a baby shower gift (and how many gifts you give) will depend a couple things: How close are you to the mom, and how much will you be involved in the baby’s life?

For baby shower gifts we recommend spending $35-$50. This may be a bit less, or generously more, depending on how close you are to the mom and dad.

If you are the grandparent-to-be, you may be able to give more freely to make sure baby has everything he needs. Plus, you have the experience to know that Baby doesn’t need 20 pairs of newborn-sized fashion pants.

Extended family and more distant friends may spend less and give fewer items.

Hopefully, Mom and Dad have put together some baby gift registries for you to browse. That way, you can find the perfect item or items to fit your budget.

How Much to Spend on Graduation Gifts

When graduation season roles around each spring, you can hopefully expect some ceremony invites. 12 years (and at least 4 more for college) of work for a certificate is nothing to squint at, and we should take the time and resources to properly congratulate the graduates in our lives.

Even if you can’t attend the ceremony, sending a gift to the graduate is a kind gesture. If you send cash, that start-up money will certainly be appreciated!

High School Graduation

Graduates are going through one of the few initiation ceremonies we have for young people entering into society. Your gift is a way to say “You belong” and help them take their first steps.

For Grads whose ceremonies you cannot (or would rather not) attend, we recommend a gift of $25-$50.

If you are close to the graduate, such as immediate family, we suggest you increase your gift to $50-$100.

College Graduation

Typically, gift budgets for grads go up as degrees become more advanced.

There are usually fewer people giving gifts, and the accomplishment is bigger. But the graduate’s living expenses and debt obligations are bigger too.

For college grads, we recommend a gift of $50-$100. You may wish to give more for advanced degrees, or less if you are not closely associated with the graduate.

While these recommendations are “typical,” you may rest assured that any graduate will be grateful for any gift you freely give.

Gift Budgeting for Other Occasions

Hopefully, we have clarified and demystified your gift budget worries and woes so far. It’s always good to know that you are able to give a gift that is both within your budget and somewhere near other’s expectations.

We also hope that you were able to receive some general gift-giving and budgeting principles from us. Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves: giving gifts comes out of your own free will and good intentions.

There is never a need to overextend yourself beyond your financial ability. And helping friends out with an above-and-beyond gift can sometimes be an incredible blessing.

Now, let’s take a quick look at some other occasions for gift-giving. From the holidays that recur every year to those rare events when you need to make it count, here are some suggestions for spending.

How Much to Spend on Anniversary Gifts

For anniversaries of your own marriage, it is important to discuss expectations with your spouse early on. If you have already set some expectations with previous years’ gifts, a sudden change without any warning might bring confusion.

For your own wedding anniversary, we recommend a gift budget of around $100. For giving to others on their anniversaries, such as your parents milestone anniversaries, we recommend a gift of $25-$50.

Related: Anniversary Gifts By Year: Your Guide to the Perfect Gift, Every Year

How Much to Spend on Valentine’s Day

Are you a man who is confused as to why your wife was upset last February 15th? No worries, we’re here to help!

Valentine’s Day gift-giving will always vary depending on your income and how serious the relationship currently is. Typically, for Valentine’s Day gifts we recommend a budget of around $25-$50. We consider this a good starting point, unless otherwise decided by you and your partner.

Your cost may be as simple as giving a small potted succulent. Or as opulent as a full night out, plus a gift. Whatever you do, definitely don’t do nothing!

Check out: 10 Best Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts

How Much to Spend on Mother’s Day Gifts

For the moms we’re lucky to have, a token of appreciation every now and then is the least we can do.

For Mother’s Day, consider a budget of $20-$40. And that gift will go nicely with some quality family time.

Find it: 21 Best Mother’s Day Gifts

How Much to Spend on Father’s Day Gifts

Similarly, Father’s day is a great occasion to get the family together for a good time. For Father’s Day gifts, we recommend a gift budget of $20-$40.

We also recommend a backyard barbecue with Dad manning the grill. Or one of these great Father’s Day gift ideas.

How Much to Spend on Retirement Gifts

Retirements come only once, maybe twice in a lifetime. For this reason, the special occasion merits a gift. Especially if you are close to the retiree.

For a retirement gift, we recommend spending $50-$100, depending on your means and how close you are to the retiree.

If you and your coworkers are pulling together funds for a retirement gift, it is expected to give $5-$20 per person.

Related: 50 Perfect Retirement Gifts That Retirees Actually Love

How Much to Spend on Sympathy Gifts

When someone you know enters into a difficult time in their lives, you have the opportunity to bless them. If possible, you may have a share in lightening their load just a bit.

With sympathy gifts, it is important to remember that it is the thought and gesture that counts the most.

With that in mind, for sympathy gifts it is recommended that you budget around $50-$75. This is especially true for events such as funerals, where floral arrangement gifts are traditional.

Other situations may allow for smaller budgets.

Find the perfect gift: Heartwarming Sympathy Gifts for a Grieving Friend

How Much to Spend on Housewarming Gifts

Moving to a new place can be a big milestone event in life. Especially for a first-time real estate purchase.

Housewarming gifts help create a sense of welcome and acceptance in a new place. It takes a lot to make a house a home. Your gift will go along way to nurturing that feeling of ease.

For a housewarming gift, we recommend spending $25-$50. We would tailor this down a bit if your friends are frequent-movers, or already have most of what they need from their past residences.

More: 21 Best Housewarming Gifts (That They Will Actually Use)

Finding Your Perfect Gift Budget

Now you have a good idea about how much to spend on gifts. Our gift budget guide is intended to set some basic perimeters for the curious and confused. We hope you found our recommendations helpful!

If you find your intuition steers you a little outside our recommendations, then follow that instinct. We know everyone’s circumstances are different, and only you know your situation.

And lastly, remember that you are here because you want to give a gift to the people you care about. Embrace that spirit of generosity and personal kindness, and your gift will go far.

Happy gifting!

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Ultimate Gift Budget

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