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How Much Should You Spend On Birthday Presents?

How Much Should You Spend on Birthday Presents?

Most of our family birthdays happen from January to March. I could and used to literally go broke trying to buy everyone a present. I think if you’ve always given gifts, people develop the expectation that you’ll continue to do so. As we started to get out of debt, that pretty much cut out gift giving, especially for adults. Now that our finances are in better shape, we could go back to our old ways, but that seems a bit counter productive. Regardless of your financial situation, how much should you spend on birthday presents?

Kid Birthday Gifts

Our daughter will be turning 8 at the end of this month. We have always given her gifts for her birthday, although none of them have ever been that expensive. I hope she never reads this, but we’ve actually kept back things other relatives sent for Christmas and gave them to her for her birthday.

Our kid is funny. I credit part of it to not having regular TV. She never sees commercials and has no idea about many of the popular toys out right now. She asks for art supplies, a kite, ear muffs, some very odd things. This year, she wants (surprise, surprise) an Elsa doll that Santa couldn’t find at Christmas. At least we own stock in Walt Disney!

I’m also a little ashamed to admit that we are considering giving her a tablet or computer. I am not one for kids having all kinds of gadgets, but she is to the point where there are some legitimate school programs that would be cool to access on a home computer.

One of my biggest regrets from my youth is that I never learned a foreign language. We’ve talked about taking Spanish lessons online, and she seems excited. I wouldn’t make it a chore, but if she’s interested in learning and we can find the right program, I think it would be worth the investment. I’ve never spent that much on a kid birthday present, but it might be time.

We also make sure to send gifts to our nieces and nephews, which cost around $25 each.

Total Kid Gifts= $100 per year on nieces/nephews with another niece arriving in August. This year maybe $200 for our daughter or $30 if we only go with the Elsa doll.

Family Birthday Presents

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think adults need gifts just because it’s a holiday. For my birthday this year, I asked for and received nothing. Getting nothing means more money for our spring and summer trips, and that is exactly what I wanted.

We don’t buy gifts for most of our family. We generally give our in-laws gift cards. I give my parents homemade cards from our daughter because they don’t need or want anything other than knowing we remembered them. This year, my sister and I did buy Mom some new bar stools. She will buy a new car every 4 years, but apparently can only do furniture every 20 years or so. We thought we’d help her out because her current seats are way off balance and are becoming a danger with the small grandchildren.

Jim’s birthday gift this year was a pair of shoes he purchased himself, so see, I’m not opposed to gifts in general. I just don’t believe in giving a gift for the sake of giving a gift.

Total Adult Family Gifts=$300, high this year because of the bar stools

How Much Should You Spend on Birthday Gifts?

Friend Gifts

I don’t buy birthday gifts for friends. I might give them a bottle of wine or bake cookies. Sometimes I do take a friend out for a birthday lunch if the timing works out. My close friends appreciate that I’m frugal and they don’t expect to exchange gifts.

Total Friend Gifts= Maybe $20

How Much I Spend On Birthday Gifts In a Year

It’s only March, but I pretty much know our annual birthday gift spending will be between $450-$620. It seems like a lot of money, especially if we go with the more expensive gift for our daughter, but I’m not sure how to lower the total unless we leave out a niece or nephew. Which one do we like the least? Just kidding!

How much do you spend on birthday gifts in a year? Is an 8 year old ready to have a computer?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    We were pressured by the school to provide iPads for the kids. We ended up upgrading our own and giving them our outdated ones. We don’t give free reign on them, but we noticed when they are on them they are like zombies AND they get attitudy!! So we have cut them out during the week and they have to hit certain behaviors to be allowed to use them on the weekends. They have to “earn” the time.
    They can be excellent learning tools and I have found its very helpful getting my oldest child engaged with some of her learning. We use a basic drawing app to give her practice spelling tests (she has adhd and it seems anything language related is a struggle…not because she’s not smart enough, but because the concentration needed is almost painful for her). She thinks it’s an awesome game and it has helped a lot. We also had to cut out YouTube for awhile bc the videos that were on the sides seemed to be inappropriate matches to what we were allowing them to watch. However, they just released a kids version that seems to keep the content clean.
    It’s a fine line between loving and spoiling them!!

  2. I splurge on my boyfriend and my parents. I have four siblings and about seven best friends. I’ll either do a card or something under $20.

  3. My daughter just turned eight last month and I gave her an Elsa doll and a cooking set. Actually, she didn’t ask for an expensive gift, she even told me that it’s okay if I don’t have any gift for her. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. We budget for our birthday gifts throughout the year to help us stay on track. We have $125 per kid, but we easily end up putting at least 1/2 to 1/3 of that in their 529 accounts as they usually end up getting so much from our parents. We’ve also done the holding back and giving to them for another holiday – if it means that they won’t be overwhelmed with new stuff then I say go for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. We have been dramatically cutting back on our birthday spending over the last few years. We spend the most on our son, but he now gets a budget and has to pick gifts within that budget. My hubby and I may spend as much as $20 and it’s usually one bottle of “nice” wine for him and my favorite Anthropologie candle for me. We spend about $20 or so on our nieces and then we have my son’s friend’s parties which we try to regift as much as possible. The parents and grandparents now all get a homemade card from my son. It not only saves money on the cards, but is also a thoughtful gift they love to get.

  6. My wife and I generally don’t do birthday presents for just about anybody. A nice card showing that we are thinking of the person and that we are glad they are part of our lives is — in our opinion — the right thing to do. Even for each other. We will make an exception for a young child, because a child understands things differently. But that’s it.

  7. Our kids each have iPads and laptops. They use their iPads the most. Once they reached middle school, they were able to access textbooks online instead of carrying them around in the already too heavy backpacks. They also check teachers’ websites for homework. One year, we bought our son a laptop instead of throwing a Birthday party. He uses it for gaming and writing papers. I’d say it’s a good get!

    We generally spend $20 on gifts for extended family. When the kids go to parties, they use their allowance money and the hubs and I use our own allowance for each other. The kids are a little choosy about which parties they go to. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not…

  8. I think your prices are pretty reasonable. We spend about the same on nieces and nephews under 18, and about $100 on the kids for their birthdays. We are also getting our son a tablet this year (well, part of a tablet – the one we got is $150, and we paid for half, and the other half will come from grandparents,etc.). He turns 9 next week. I think 8 or 9 is a fine age to start introducing them into the world of electronics. We will make sure to limit his time on it though and monitor what he’s using it for.

  9. It depends on the person and how personal the gift should be. But, I sometimes don’t give gifts depending on the situation. I do give one to my family like to my parents. It feels like it’s a must.

  10. Interesting topic. We give gifts to our close family and honestly it’s Christmas that really hurts. Birthdays are at least spread out enough where it doesn’t hurt too much. I think it’s okay that your kid has a computer, but I would negotiate with her before the purchase is made. DEFINITELY make learning a second language part of it (i.e. you can get one but you need to spend x minutes each week learning Spanish on it) as well as specific time limits on it. Adults are probably the worst offenders, but it’s SO easy to use up all your free time on your computer.

  11. Last year for my daughters 16th honestly we spent about 23,000.00 for her car a small 2015 Scion tC and about 2700.00 in clothes make up and other small items. We had her party catered at home for around 1200.00 but she is an only child. Works hard and well behaved. 17 th birthday soon spending around3000.00 Mac book pro, close, make up, shoes and a Mk hand bag she asked for plus we are renting a plantation so she can have friends stay over. I do go a little over board but she’s my one and only.

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