How Much I Spend on Gifts and How I Do It

A recent gift I bought myself to celebrate not having been fired – a giant chocolate Costco cake meant to feed about 27 people that mostly fed only one…

Happy Monday, everyone! Here is the latest post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, you can check it out here. I’ve been going into detail on one category each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $1200 on gifts. Of course, the bare minimum spending in this category would be nothing at all and a reasonable minimum would be maybe $200. But this is one of those areas that I’ve let get out of hand on purpose because I believe it gives me a very good happiness return on my dollar. Some of what I do in this area is pretty traditional and some of it is a little different.

I do give out birthday gifts to the people I’m close to. But those usually aren’t anything crazy – maybe $50 or so. And I’ve actually moved in the direction of taking people out to their favorite restaurants, activities, etc, more than giving out gifts for those occasions now. The other routine time I give out gifts is at Christmas – also pretty typical. But I’d say I spend no more than a total of $500 a year on those two types of gifts. And sure, every now and again I get invited to a wedding. My standard gift is $100 and while I do not bring dates to these things because it tends to give them the wrong idea about how seriously I’m taking things, if I did, my gift would be $200 instead. And if it were someone really close to me, it would be significantly more. But I don’t get invited to all that many weddings. And no, I’m not complaining about that.

Where do I spend the rest? Sometimes I like to surprise people with random things out of the blue. A girl I was dating for a while had a car with steel wheels and those horrible plastic hub caps and at some point, she lost one of them. So one day, I made a replacement appear. One of my favorite coworkers says a certain phrase in a hilarious way all the time so one day I bought her a coffee mug with that printed on it and had it sent to her. I find that these types of gifts, while not very expensive, tend to really brighten the recipient’s day. It’s nice to know someone was thinking of you even though it wasn’t a special occasion.

My favorite types of gifts to give out are also spontaneous, but often more expensive. Every now and again, something crappy happens to someone I care about. Maybe someone with a family to feed winds up in the hospital and I’m able to pay a few bills for him since he hasn’t been able to work and money will probably be tight for a while. Or maybe some asshole hits a friend’s parked car without doing the right thing, causing damage that falls right into that sweet spot the insurance industry has calculated so carefully – you know, expensive enough that a claim could be filed (likely resulting in a hefty premium increase), but barely above the deductible so that very little would actually be paid out. Most people are savvy enough to not make a claim in that situation by now, particularly with insurance premiums being as ridiculous as they are. But a lot of people also don’t have a grand or so laying around to replace a bumper, which means the damage goes unfixed. But I do. And if I can right that wrong for someone, it can go a long way to restoring a little faith in humanity – even if I have precious little of that myself.

The key with this kind of gift, however, is creativity. You see, I only do these kinds of things for people who would never let me if I asked. So often, this involves getting others close to these people involved. But if it’s possible to do these things totally anonymously, those are my favorite gift giving opportunities of all. Because the most important element of any gift isn’t being thanked for it; it’s making someone else’s life just a little bit better. And that tends to be infectious. And that’s why I don’t police this spending category too much.

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