How much do you spend on gifts?

I just went to buy my BF his Christmas present. I suck at gift giving, and I don’t really do Christmas anyway, so it is always complicated to find something nice. And usually, I find most cheap presents so annoying that I overcompensate with something super expensive in the end. Or nothing.

This year, I am pretty proud of myself, I spent just over $100 on a coffee grinder and an expresso machine. He loves coffee and has been talking about how he misses a good expresso, and since I don’t drink coffee it will be a gift only for him. Oh, I do that too, you know, getting gifts for people that I would enjoy and totally forget that those people are not me.

you spend on gifts  

Anyway, I thought I’d answer three questions, with my usual Christmas spending. If you feel like it, you can reply too in the comments or a post on your blog!


How much do you spend on your other half?


I saw a few posts with cold calculations factoring the time you have been together multiplied by how much you expect him to spend on you, divided by the degree of involvement that you have in the relationship… To keep it short, it’s complicated.


I am always afraid when starting a relationship, to overdo it. I usually stick to experiences like meet and greet tickets, because the guy should have been paying for a few dates, and I can even things out. Yes, I keep tabs. And yes, a guy should be paying for the first couple of dates. Taking him to a concert or on a romantic excursion is nice for both of us. I don’t have to regret buying him stuff if we don’t last, and memories are worth the money anytime in my books.

If you have a man that doesn’t need anything, and only has expensive tech gadget on his wish list, you can try experiences too. A weekend away will set you back $300 easily. But you could prepare a nice date at home and spend less than $30.

My second favorite gift is something personal. Last year, I made a custom agenda for my BF, with pictures of our motorcycle trip through the US every 10 days. He uses the agenda every day or so, and loved it. It took me time to select the pictures and have them printed and glued, and cost around $30.

My third option is something practical. I first was annoyed when I got practical stuff from my boyfriends, but have to admit that I do use those things every day and wouldn’t like to have useless stuff around. This year’s coffee machine falls into that category.

How much do you spend on family and friends?

I have a limited list of recipients, mother, siblings, niece and BF. And I try to give them things they will remembers, which don’t have to be expensive. This year I sent my niece a letter from Santa from Finland (I asked Santa when I visited this summer to write to my niece), and a little package from Guatemala with handicrafts. My teenage brother is getting clothes and we are doing a common present with my sister for my mum, probably tickets to a musical or something. I usually come around $50 per person.

Pets most certainly don’t need gifts, so if I had one I wouldn’t spend money on it.

How much do you spend on colleagues and employees?

I hated secret Santa at the office. I ended up with stuff I didn’t need and had to spend money on people I didn’t like. I would always buy very practical gifts like these that are always handy. Unless the colleague is also a friend, I don’t do gifts, but expect a bonus from my boss, or a token of appreciation like a case of wine, or more wine.

I may give a tip to the guys who deliver our potable water. They always come super late, around 7pm, after a very long day and get my 5 gallon tank down to the house and into the kitchen.

The handyman gets an extra month salary, pro rated for the months he worked here, by law.

We may do a gathering with the contract workers, I would cook and provide soft drinks for them and their family.

That’s it! What about you?



A 30 something French girl embarking on a journey towards Financial Independence. I blog about money, travel, simple and deliberate living, freedom and choices. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Reach Financial Independence's Facebook Page

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  1. I think your boyfriend will like the coffee grinder and espresso machine. My wife absolutely loves coffee and I got her the same things a few years ago and she loved them. We budget $150 for each other on Christmas gifts. I generally spend a little bit of my own allowance as well to give her an afternoon for herself so she can go get a massage or something like that to pamper herself. I always hated buying gifts for people in the office for many of the same reasons. I always thought that a white elephant exchange was best as I only had to buy one thing and was usually only about $10.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..5 Fun and Frugal Last Minute Christmas GiftsMy Profile

    • How sweet of you to give your wife a day off for pampering! I bet that is one thing she is looking forward to every year! It reminds me of people gifting coupons for a day without kids or a day off chores, that the other spouse can redeem during the year.

  2. It varies, but generally somewhere between $20 and $40 per family member and around $20ish for manager/employer at work. As far as significant other, we usually spend quite a bit but this year cut back to $30 per person. It was actually pretty fun only spending $30 because you really have to make that money go far if you want to get a few nice things.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..5 Tips To Help You Save MoneyMy Profile

  3. For us it depends on the occasion and how close we are to the person. For example this year we had a surprise 30 bday party for a close friend which cost us some money but we don’t get her stuff every year so it evens out. We have a gift budget which helps us keep things on track. We don’t do Christmas gifts anymore as no one needs anything. Once grandkids come though I anticipate this changing.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..Healthy Habits To Keep You Living Younger LongerMy Profile

  4. I spent $100 on my wife this year, but that’s more than I spent over the last 3 Christmases (combined).

    We spend $40/couple (or individual if they’re not married) for family members. I also spent $50 on my boss.
    Jason @ WSL recently posted..How Does Life Insurance Work?My Profile

  5. We usually only buy each other a couple small gifts, like a scarf or a pair of gloves. Maybe some candy. Under $5. Instead, we will sometimes buy a “for us” present, like the year we got our digital camera.

    For everyone else, we came in at a bit under $200 for 20 people. Most of that was on the 5 “people” (couples count as one person) that are the most important to us.

    The last time I gave a coworker a gift was a secret santa exchange at an office I worked at in 2004. Nobody has exchanged gifts at work at any of the other places I’ve been at since.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..We Got Outta Debt: Book ReviewMy Profile

  6. I definitely find it strange to create a calculation on how much to spend on your significant other. I just spend however much feels right. Luckily we have been together a long time now so there’s no need to worry about how much is the right amount, it’s basically however much I want to spend is what I spend. As for family and friends, I always have a general idea of how much I want to spend overall, then break it down between people.
    Gillian @ Money After Graduation recently posted..I’m still having a minimalist ChristmasMy Profile

    • It is strange indeed, but after only a few months of dating for example, I fear to overdo it, or have a great difference between what I give and what I get, putting both in an uncomfortable situation. Communication beforehand is the key.

  7. Haha, I’m going to be an outlier here I bet. First off, I really like your idea of giving experiences, especially in the beginning of relationships! Much better, especially for those that purge all items that remind them of exes!
    Q1 – We used to have a limit of $150 for Christmas for each other. We’ve kind of abandoned that and just go with whatever now. My anniversary present was several hundred dollars this year, so I’ll probably get less for Christmas. Now it’s more like we get whatever we think of for the other one.
    Q2 – Pretty much nil on friends. Immediately family, about $100 pp. Spouse’s parents get less, by spouse’s choice.
    Q3 – Colleagues – again, pretty much nil. I’ll usually bring in baking or food one day. I gave my boss a jar of jam that I made.
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Super Creative Gift Idea – One of a Kind!My Profile

    • Yes, you can purge all the stuff but it will be harder to forget the experiences! Thank you for sharing, and by the look of your blog, I bet everyone is getting the most perfect present as usual!

  8. We spend way too much, on everyone, but they are worth it!
    Marie at Family Money Values recently posted..Hiring Domestic HelpMy Profile

  9. maria@moneyprinciple says:

    Good ones, Pauline! Here are my answers:

    1) I spent half a life time on him and have been so lucky to be given the opportunity to do so; hope to spend with him many more years. As to gifts – neither of us needs anything and I put so muh effort in mastering my wants. So, we buy things we’ll enjoy together and this year it is a coffee to cup coffee making machine (yes, we like our coffee and I never compromise on its quality)

    2) Depends whether we are seeing extended family or not. Within the nuclear family about £200 ($326).

    3) Nothing. In fact, I stopped sending Christmas cards about ten years ago and send an e-mail message. The money (and then some) I give to a charity working with young homeless people and helping them get off the streets – this somehow seems more important than buying cheap rubish my colleagues don’t need, want or like.
    maria@moneyprinciple recently posted..Five Questions to Ask Ourselves Before Taking Out a Personal LoanMy Profile

    • lol I can imagine the Christmas card ”Hey John, I gave you half of my life, what else?”! I see we got the same coffee machine idea! I was surprised how many impersonal Christmas card I got when working in the UK, and never returned the favour, I know my colleagues thought I was rude but that probably confirmed it for them!

  10. $35 for nephews, $30-50 on parents, $??-??? on our kids! I’ll explain. My kids have no idea how much anything costs. The only thing my boys care about is if it *looks* like I spent about the same amount on each of them. 😉 I did get one big item for my oldest and another large item for my daughter, so believe it or not, we still need to get a big item for our 8yo or we will hear about it. This year, Jeff and I want nothing for each other! Please don’t get me anything, Jeff, because I definitely don’t plan on buying you anything.. :)
    Michelle recently posted..Great Part-time Jobs For Busy ParentsMy Profile

    • How do kids even know how much things cost? The only jealousy I remember as a kid was when I didn’t come up with anything cool for Christmas and my sister our cousins seemed to get something they absolutely loved, but it was my fault for not asking!

  11. We don’t really buy for each other…maybe something small. With the extended family, we only buy for kids and we spend about $20 each.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Christmas Shopping Budgeting TipsMy Profile

  12. Always spend $30 or less for family. For my children’s teachers we spend about $50 for each teacher.
    Boris recently posted..Is Money Just An Idea?My Profile

  13. My husband and I bought gifts for each other the first few years we were together but then found that we were buying stuff just for the sake of having pretty presents under the tree. I was buying him tools and sweaters and while he used the tools he rarely has a chance to wear the nice sweaters. We usually buy stuff we like throughout the year instead of waiting for Christmas.

    I’m sure your bf will love the coffee maker. I don’t drink coffee either but we have an Espresso Machine and my husband uses it everyday.
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..How Eating Dark Chocolate Improves Your Health and Well BeingMy Profile

    • I like the idea of gifting small things all year long instead of having to buy things for Christmas. Yes, the coffee machine should be of daily use, so that’s nice too. When we were traveling it was so hard to come up with presents that would fit in a minimal space and still be meaningful.

  14. Hey P, sorry I’ve been MIA on your blog…my blog reader didn’t update your posts. grrr. Anyway, I pretty much only bought for my producer (and candle and baked some cookies), and some donation items for families. The rest got cards or I cooked them dinner or some variation of that. I guess my list is kind of simple.
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..Looking Back, Looking Forward: Part 2My Profile

  15. My wife and I don’t give each other Xmas pressies anymore, but when we did we used to limit it to $100. Otherwise it can get out of hand.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..30 Tips – How to Stay Safe on the InternetMy Profile

  16. I would say most of the gifts we buy for friends and family range in the $20-$25 range. I’ve spent tons on my husband in years past, but we put it at $100 each a few years ago. This year we aren’t doing gifts for each other (we want out of debt as our gift) but gave our daughter $20 to pick something out for each of us. Should be fun to see what we got.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..It’s Fun to Stay at the YMCA-Gift Exchange RevealMy Profile

    • That is certainly going to be interesting! When my brother was 5 he thought I would absolutely love a Disney necklace, I was 22… But it is still cute that he looked and tried to please me.

  17. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    We don’t spend anything on gifts. We used to try to get something special for each other but now we just treat ourselves to something nice together. In terms of actually getting a present for one another – nothing. Mom, she gets about $40 worth of stuff.
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..Sometimes It’s Better to Pay UpMy Profile

  18. Maybe about $100 for my partner, $0 on other gifts… (not as scroogey as it sounds:
    eemusings recently posted..Friday Five: Wanderlust editionMy Profile

  19. DH gets 10x his weekly allowance or $350 to spend as he pleases as my X-mas present to him.

    We tend to spend $50/person for all of the gifts we give (DH’s family and their families, my parents and sibling), some years it’ll go up to $100, some years down to $25 if we find the perfect gift.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..I used to only have crazy friendsMy Profile

  20. What a great gift idea – very selfless too!

    Mrs Scot and I have budgeted £200 each to buy each-other gifts. We will of course ensure that the presents are relevant and not just ‘for-the-sake-of-it’ gifts! Like for example I need new jumpers and got 2 new hoodys that I know about 😉

    BTW meant to ask you… what plugin do you use to email commenters your reply?
    Savvy Scot recently posted..4 Personal Christmas TraditionsMy Profile

  21. We are a single income family, I gave her a watch worth $100+ this year. This was one of the costliest xmas ever in terms of gifts for us.

  22. For my wife, she gets my body for 6 hours.

    For my friends, they get a handshake and a cold beer.

    For my boss, not a damn thing. (I work for myself)

    For me, plenty of egg nog that I can read the newspaper through.

    Merry Christmas to you, looks beautiful where you live!
    Kyle @ Rather-Be-Shopping recently posted..Weekend Reading: Our Elf Dropped a Deuce EditionMy Profile

  23. Too much this year, but the grandparents are only in town once in a while (actually they’ve never been here to visit so this is the first time and we’re making it special). The sig other barely has any gifts under the tree. I’m a bad gf.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..My New Year’s Resolution: Spend More MoneyMy Profile

  24. I love this peek into what people spend.
    My boyfriend (of 6 years) and I set a limit of $50 for “stocking stuffers” this year. I went over and spent $65.
    I spent about $30 pp on family and friends. The kids get less, my parents get more.
    I don’t buy any gifts for anyone at work, including the boss (should I? nah…) nor do I tip anyone extra for the holidays.
    min hus recently posted..Can’t We Stop for 24 Hours?My Profile

  25. Thanks for a window into your ‘how to’ – you’ve inspired my own post! Seems marketing has worked on me, I do certainly spend a lot, but I don’t regret it, so it’s ok! Funnily enough, I seem to find it easy to be in someone else’s shoes, rather than thinking ‘what would I like’ – so that helps!

    • Thanks Sarah! When I get a nice idea of a gift for me, I write it down, as I usually forget after a while. Then it makes it easier when people ask me. My mother gave up completely and gives me cash :)

  26. It really depends on the relationship I have with the person, but I think I have to categorize them so that I can set a budget for each group.
    Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..You Owe How Much? When Shorting Goes Terribly WrongMy Profile


  1. […] we get started, no, I won’t tell you to resell your wedding gifts to make money, although I am partial to selling one’s dress, after only one use […]

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