The Ultimate Gift Budget Guide: How Much to Spend on Gifts

With so many opportunities to bless our loved ones with gifts this year, you can’t be faulted for feeling budget-conscious. But a specified annual gift budget can be easier to come up with than you might think.

Planning your gift giving expenses is a smart way to go.

How much should we budget to spend on a gift for a nephew’s birthday? How much to give for a 21st birthday? What about Mother’s Day?

Gift Budgeting & Expenses

Christmas is the main time of year that causes people concern when it comes to budgeting, so we’ll be starting with that and moving on from there.

The pressure of having to buy Christmas presents for everyone (or almost everyone) is high, and even those who are good with their money often find themselves tightening their belts once the holiday shopping is done.

According to the latest Christmas spending statistics, Americans plan to spend around $932 during an average Christmas season.

And that’s not even per family, but per individual! That’s up an astounding 14.1% just from the previous year. 

Whether it’s strictly your Christmas gift budget that you’re looking to nail down, or your overall budget for the entire year, we’re here to help.

As someone who used to work in the finance industry, I’ve witnessed firsthand the incredibly large number of people who struggle with holiday expenses.

But that doesn’t have to be the case!

With helpful and practical insights (and a little bit of financial advice), you can make even a tight budget work for you and your family. 

You want to make sure that you don’t overdo it — or under-do it! So we’ve put together an adaptable gift budget guide for you.

Once you read through this article, you’ll have a better understanding of 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, average spending. 

But if gift giving is your love language and you have a killer gift idea that would 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, don’t feel compelled to over-extend yourself.

Don’t worry about what anyone else might think.

Remember, you are giving a gift of your own free will and hard-earned money. If you can’t afford expensive gifts or mid-range items, then be sure to just 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

Jump to:

Annual Gift Budget

Christmas Gift Budget Guide - Finance

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 gift budget, consider setting aside 3%-5% of your yearly income.

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

Whatever percentage you decide on, once you have a set amount, do your best to stick to it. 

Now that doesn’t mean you stress yourself out about it and it’s the end of the world if you go a bit over or under, but a spending limit is there to help guide your spending and prevent future financial stress. 

And we’re all for preventing and eliminating stress.

Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gift Budget Guide - Christmas

At Christmas time, you will have a few different categories of folks to buy gifts for, and stressing over how much to spend on Christmas gifts per person can really get to you if you don’t have a plan.

Much like birthdays, there can be slightly different social rules and expectations, depending on the situation and gift recipients.

According to some financial studies, the average Christmas gift cost per person when buying for a group of close family and friends is $41.38.

But that is over a wide range of financial scenarios and income brackets. Rather than taking such a number at face value (literally), we recommend tailoring costs specifically to your financial situation.

For the big picture, let’s consider a couple of 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! Simple, easy to calculate, and you’ll barely notice the change in your pay. 
  3. Not a rule per se, but consider spreading your Christmas expenses throughout the whole year. Who says all the gifts need to be purchased in December?
    Deal days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday are a great way to save a lot of money on presents. Recent statistics say that over 60% of Americans prefer online shopping, so why not take advantage of the serious deals that companies make available exclusively to online shoppers?

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 begin to plan your Christmas gift budget this year.

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, family, 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.

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, a new pair of gloves might be a little lack luster then 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 or potentially hurt feelings.

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. Here is our curated list of the best Secret Santa gifts.

But how much do you spend on parents for Christmas? Your sister or brother?For individual family members gifts, we recommend that you keep your spending down to $25 max per person.

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.

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 thoughtful.

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.

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.


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!


Christmas Gift Budget Guide - Birthday

As simple as birthdays can seem, there are many things to consider. How much to spend on a birthday gift is just one of them.

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. If you wish to simply give cash instead of a gift, the average birthday money gift is (according to statistics) $25, regardless of relationship.

This is flexible, and for big milestones (like Mom’s 50th, your kid’s 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.

Homemade gifts like their favorite baked treats, hand stamped t-shirts or hats, or other fun crafting gifts are also perfectly acceptable, especially for younger kids.


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 exchange gifts with 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, and 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!


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 for how much to spend on a birthday gift for your coworker — don’t spend more than you would on a 6-pack of beer, an inexpensive coffee mug, or a box of cookies.


Christmas Gift Budget Guide - Wedding

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.

Click Here some great bridal shower party ideas!

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!

BTW, here are some great wedding gifts for when there is no registry.

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 with lovey bridesmaid gifts!

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.

Many brides enjoy giving “Will You Be My Bridesmaid” proposal boxes, which average around $25-40. Don’t forget to include those in your wedding budget!

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.

More: Baby Shower Gift Amount Etiquette

How Much to Spend on Graduation Gifts

Christmas Gift Budget Guide - Graduation

When graduation season roles around each spring, you can hopefully expect some ceremony invites.

Twelve years (and at least four 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!

For some sweet gifts, check out these 40 best gifts for your sweetheart. Running behind? Then you’ll want to look at these last-minute gifts for Valentine’s Day.

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.

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.

How to Celebrate Without Spending (Hardly Anything)

Maybe you’re a college student that is really strapped for cash. Or perhaps you’re a newly married couple without so much as two nickels to rub together after the wedding?

If this sounds like your situation — or something close — then this next section is especially for you!

There are so many ways to celebrate your friends and family at the holidays or for birthdays without going out and spending X amount of money on a gift.

If you find yourself with little to no room in the budget for gifts because of your current financial situation, then consider one of these equally great ideas.

Host a Dinner Party

Christmas Gift Budget Guide

This one is great because it’s so easy to tailor to your wallet.

Really tight? Pick up a couple packages of hot dogs, buns, chips, and baked beans and host a BBQ! Everyone loves a good BBQ.

Have a little more wiggle room in the food budget? How about a classic pot roast dinner?

Pick up a nice roast at the butcher’s and throw it in the crockpot with household staples like potatoes, carrots, peas, or whatever other veggies you have on hand.

We love this one because other than the meat, most of the ingredients are things you’d have on hand. But it smells so good, is so satisfying, and seems like a really expensive meal.

Plan a “Tea Time” or At-Home Beverage Date

You can make this idea so special and tailor it to whomever you’re celebrating.

Focus on celebrating your relationship with good conversation, some tasty snacks, and have a sweet, intimate time together over your favorite beverage.

For a “Tea Time” theme, make some simple (but delicious) finger foods like cucumber sandwiches, tea cakes, cookies or bars, and brew a pot of their favorite tea.

You can go as all-out as you want, or keep it simple.

A close friend did this for my birthday last year with a “wine and cheeses” theme, and it was my favorite gift and a memory I’ll cherish.

Some other themes to consider:

  • Coffee & Chocolate
  • Wine & Charcuterie
  • Whiskey & Nuts
  • Milkshakes & Fries
  • Hot Chocolate & Cookies
  • Margaritas & Tacos
  • Vodka & Smoked Fish

Make Them a Custom Mixtape

Christmas Gift Budget Guide - mixtape

This is perfect for close friends or significant others because you’ll be more clued in to their music tastes.

It’s a thoughtful, sweet, personalized gift, and all you need is a USB, CD, cassette (if you wanna go old-school), or you can even just create it digitally on whichever music platform they use.

Title it with something special or with an inside joke for the icing on the cake!

DIY Projects

Get down with your crafty self and make them something special! There are so many neat things you can make them at little or no cost.

A few ideas:

  • Knit them a hat or scarf (you can find yarn for as little as $2-3 per skein)
  • Make them earrings or a friendship bracelet
  • Put together a picture collage
  • Paint or draw a picture for them
  • Build something they’d love (birdhouse, charge station, lap desk, etc.)
  • String art
YouTube video

These string art creations are so neat and are relatively easy to make (speaking from experience). What you need most is just patience.

Pick a theme that suits them and their interests, and string away!

For more great DIY and money saving gift ideas check out this great article:
Homemade Gifts: Ideas & Etiquette for Used Gifts, DIY & More

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!

Read Next: Complete List of Gifting Holidays

Ultimate Gift Budget
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Lance Patterson

Lance Patterson has a wide range of diverse experiences including blogger, vet tech, pump truck operator, commercial battery delivery, barista, and data entry clerk.

As a semi-professional musician and devoted audiophile, Lance enjoys the creativity of music and writing. He...

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